DENVER — Goalie Martin Jones gave the Sharks every opportunity Thursday to take command of their second round series and set up a chance to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche at home this weekend.
His teammates didn’t quite play with the same level of urgency, and now their series with the Avalanche is a best-of-three.
Jones made 25 saves but the Sharks couldn’t solve Philipp Grubauer at the other end in a 3-0 loss at Pepsi Center in Game 4, as the Avalanche tied the series 2-2 with Game 5 on Saturday in San Jose. Game 6 will be in Denver on Monday at a time to be determined.
Grubauer made 32 saves, Nathan MacKinnon scored in the second period and Colin Wilson provided an insurance goal early in the third, as the two teams have now alternated wins through four games.
The Sharks won 4-2 on Tuesday, setting up a chance Thursday to go back home with a 3-1 series lead.
It didn’t happen, although Jones kept his team in it through the first two periods. Even on MacKinnon’s goal, he made the first save.
A Cale Makar shot from the point was redirected on net by Mikko Rantanan. The puck hit Jones in the chest, but the rebound went to his right. MacKinnon was behind Brent Burns and batted the puck in to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead at the 10:34 mark of the second. MacKinnon now has a point in eight straight playoff games, in which he’s had six goals and seven assists.
Late in the second period, though, after the puck caromed off the back boards to the left of the net, Jones stuck his left pad out and stopped a shot from MacKinnon, one of seven he had in the first 40 minutes.
Jones made 10 saves in the first period and 12 more in the second.
The Sharks didn’t get their first shot of the second period until there was 12:08 left, but the MacKinnon goal seemed to finally wake them out of their offensive funk.
The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 9-3 over the last seven-plus minutes of the second period, but couldn’t get anything by Grubauer, who had 23 saves after 40 minutes.
The second period was also problematic for San Jose in Game 2, when the Sharks were outscored by two goals and later lost 4-3.
The Sharks came into Thursday in an ideal situation — to go up 3-1 in the series with a chance to close out the Avalanche in Game 5 back in San Jose on Saturday. Instead, the series is now a best-of-3, with no team being able to carry momentum from one game to the next.
“These, for me, are the crossroad-type games where you can really take control of a series if you can come up and not take your foot off the gas,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said Wednesday. “And that’s got to be on us.”