SAN JOSE, CA — San Jose Sharks rested and trained without playing for four days following their outdoor game against LA Kings on Saturday. But it was their opponent Detroit Red Wings who looked like the more rested team on Thursday, despite playing three games in four days. And it was Detroit who came away with a victory, defeating the Sharks 3-2 at home, having have to come back twice in that game.
It all started well for the Sharks, as they came out strong, like they would like at home. Detroit Red Wings did not get a single shot on goal in the first six minutes of the game, and were even forced to take an early time out to regroup after one of the long shifts. Sharks dominance translated on the scoreboard, and they took the lead seven minutes into the first period. Matt Irwin scored on a blast of a shot from the blue line – his signature whenever he scores. Joe Thornton had the primary assist on that goal as he dropped the puck to Irwin from around the face-off circle. Irwin paused and launched a missile, which made its way into the net.
Teemu Pulkkinen tied the game in the second period, 3:53 into it, when he scored on a power play. But Patrick Marleau helped the Sharks to get the lead back three minutes later, scoring a quick power play goal. They won the face-off, and swarmed the net, with Marleau scoring on the rebound in the crease.
But that’s when the Red Wings took over the puck and Sharks allowed the game to slip away from them. Sharks were playing slopping in the neutral zone, turning the puck over, and did not generate much of any scoring chances from then on. Antti Niemi worked hard to keep the game close, making great saves during the second period to keep the Sharks in it. But his armor eventually gave in, allowing Pavel Datsyuk to score on him on a backyard shot and between the pads, at 13:32 mark in the third period, tying the game for Detroit.
Sharks battled and tried to impose a physical game on Detroit, but that didn’t work in their favor and they managed just two shots in all of the third period. When Luke Glendening scored for Detroit with 75 seconds left in the game, San Jose crowd did not seem surprised that their team was letting another game slip away in the third period (just like they did against the Kings on Saturday). Last minute push with an empty net was just as unsuccessful as anything the Sharks tried in the the second half of the game, and Sharks finished it empty handed, with 0 points for the standings.
“They took it up a notch and we fell back into a real defensive mode, trying to protect, and you can’t do that,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, assessing the game. “You can’t spend that amount of time in your zone and not make mistakes. It’s impossible. We made enough that they were able to come back. 1st period we were aggressive. We stopped the forecheck, we were aggressive in the offensive zone, and got pucks back. In the 2nd period, on our heels started right off the bat. We were warned that it was going to go up a notch. And we didn’t respond. So that was disappointing.”
Matt Irwin did not sugar coat the loss either, saying it was “as frustrating as it gets. We’re really happy with our first. And then the tables turned. They started doing what made us successful in the 1st period–getting on the d-man, getting on the forecheck, adding all the pieces up. They started doing that to us and we didn’t have a push back.”
With Minnesota Wild winning their game the same night, the Sharks are now three points behind the wildcard slot for playoffs. Since the beginning of February, the Sharks only won three games out of the 12 played, all of them on the road, losing 7 straight at home. From looking like a playoff contender, the Sharks now look like a team that deserves their spot in the standings – outside the top eight in the West.
With the recent string of bad results and trade deadline next Monday, is this the time the Sharks should give up on the season, and trade away the assets for draft picks? Only a few days left to find out.