By Ivan Makarov
SAN JOSE, CA — Some things are hard to understand about this year’s San Jose Sharks.
Consider this one… Prior to this game, the Sharks record against 1st place teams was 7-0-2, but it was 5-6-1 against bottom six teams.
It is hard to understand why Sharks play so poorly against poor competition, and they did not do enough to reverse that strange trend just yet, falling 5-4 to another bottom dweller, Edmonton Oilers, even despite a big and spirited come back in the third period. That happened after they beat the current Stanley Cup champion and the top two teams in the league in the past three games. When asked why this keeps happening, Logan Couture said he couldn’t explain it and that they’d fixed it if they knew why.
Joe Pavelski scored a quick power play goal half way through the first period to open the scoring in the game. Joe Thornton just won the face-off, giving the puck to Patrick Marleau who skated with it and threw it towards the net. Pavelski was right there with a timely tip-in.
With a couple of minutes remaining in the first, the Oilers tied the game on a goal by Jordan Eberle who picked up the pick near the face-off circle, dangled past Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns and put it into the net. It was a nice goal by a young skillful player with great hands.
Sharks appeared to have scored another goal with 39 second remaining in the period when Tomas Hertl put it into the net, but it was quickly waived off as referees ruled an interference on the Oilers goaltender at the moment of the goal.
Eberle scored again at the start of the second period. Justin Shultz had the puck as Oilers skated into the Sharks zone, and he fired it on target. It wasn’t the most dangerous of shots, but Antti Niemi gave up a bad rebound off the pad, straight into Eberle who had no trouble converting it into a goal.
Derek Roy gave the Oilers two goal lead when he scored from the close range on a great feed from Nail Yakupov who skated from behind the Sharks net, unchallenged, and quickly delivered it to Roy. It was the play the Sharks defense wanted to forget quickly and this they did.
Sharks came within one goal when their top line produced another goal to start the first period. A surprising character – Scott Hannan – who is known as a stay-at-home defenseman, joined an attack in a rare move for him, and was crashing the next with Joe Thornton holding the puck. Sharks center threw it into the crease and it was Hannan who pushed it into the net, scoring his first goal of the season, and his first since November of 2013.
Matt Tennyson followed it up with another goal two minutes later scoring on a blast from the blue line, tying the game at 3-3 for the Sharks. That was a timely goal that woke up the fans in the stands and seemed to have finally woke up the Sharks offense which was skating as of half asleep up to that point in the game, losing battles along the boards, struggling to enter the zone or hold it for very long.
All of a sudden, things started to click. Joe Pavelski put the Sharks ahead at 9:28 mark in the third period. Brent Burns had the puck at Oilers blue line and could have shot it from there, but he spotted Pavelski just to the left of Viktor Fasth. The pass surprised the Oilers defense and Pavelski had a time to stop the puck with his skate and shoot it into the net from that angle, with very little opposition against him. Joe Thornton was credited with the secondary assist on the play, which was his third assist on the night and 600th as a Shark.
One would think this would have been a good point to build on the goal and score another one, but the Oilers took the puck back and tied the game with 2:37 remaining, when Justin Shutlz put one into the net from mid-range.
Joe Pavelski came within inches of scoring another one with less than two seconds of remaining in the game in a mad scramble inside the Oilers crease, but his puck never reached the net and flew wide.
Overtime resulted in no goals, but the Oilers won the game in 13-round long shootout.
Sharks finished the home stand with 10 out of of the 14 points earned and are next facing Calgary Flames.