Sharks Lose 5-3 to Stars Despite Special Teams Improvements

By Mary Walsh

AP photo of Antoine Roussel scoring third period goal on Sat

The San Jose Sharks lost on the road to the Dallas Stars 5-3 on Saturday. Special teams overshadowed even strength play: power plays and penalty kills were central to scoring, though not always in the usual fashion. A wide array of power play and penalty kill results were on display from both teams. Sharks goals were scored by Joe Pavelski, Matt Nieto and Joel Ward. Alex Stalock made 20 saves on 24 shots. Dallas goals were scored by Vernon Fiddler, Patrick Sharp, Jason Demers, Antoine Roussel and Tyler Seguin. Antti Niemi made 26 saves on 29 shots for the win.

It was a good challenge for the Sharks, as the Stars were 8-2-0 before Saturday’s win. The Sharks’ only win in the last five games came against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes. The Sharks had their chances on Saturday but were disappointed again, for the fourth time in five games. After the game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said:

We were right there, we had our chances, power plays right at the end. It definitely was better, gave us that chance. Special teams too. It was there for us, but it’s been there for us, the last few games, throughout this little bit of losing streak we’ve had, games have been there. We’ve got to get a little bit more, out of each and every guy. We’ve got to win these games or… It’s what the league is. You play so many one goal games and you’re in tight spots and teams are good. You gotta find yourself on the right side.

The Sharks faced two former teammates, goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Jason Demers. Sharks’ defenseman Brenden Dillon was also facing former teammates, as he came to the Sharks in a trade from Dallas for Jason Demers. The game was also a chance for Sharks goalie Alex Stalock to face Antti Niemi.

The first period began with an early goal from Stars forward Patrick Sharp. Stalock stopped an intial shot from Jason Demers, but he could not cover the puck before Sharp got a stick on it and put it over Stalock’s outstretched pad. Tyler Seguin was part of the four on three that set up the goal, and his pass found Demers right in the slot. Assists went to Demers and Seguin.

The first penalty of the game went to the Sharks, for too many men on the ice. This pitted San Jose’s 16th ranked penalty kill against Dallas’ 2nd ranked power play. Several short-handed chances for the Sharks turned those rankings on their heads. The Sharks penalty killers were successful in that first try and the next, when Joonas Donskoi went to the box for interference late in the period. The Sharks finished the period down by a goal but not by a power play goal. The Sharks also looked pretty good on the shot clock, trailing Dallas just 10-9, despite the power plays.

The second period expanded on those special team numbers. The Sharks’ first power play of the game came early in the second, when Jordie Benn went to the box for holding Tommy Wingels. Where the Sharks penalty kill had over-achieved, their power play did not look ready to do the same. They could not get organized to begin, and only managed one shot on goal during the man advantage. The Sharks got another chance a couple of minutes later when Alex Goligoski went to the box for interference on Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The second power play started even less well, with an odd man rush against and a short-handed goal by Stars defenseman, ex-Shark Jason Demers. Assists went to Antoine Roussel and Vernon Fiddler. It was Demers’ first NHL short-handed goal.

The power play was not yet over, and not done behaving unpredictably. The Sharks finally got on the board with a goal from Joe Pavelksi. Brent Burns took a couple of shots from the point and on his second try he hit Pavelski’s moving stick just perfectly for a deflection. Antii Niemi did not see it coming because Patrick Marleau was right in his eyes.

The next penalty went to Justin Braun not long after that goal, for closing his hand on the puck. The Sharks did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone against the Stars attackers, and made some space for a short-handed attack by Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto. Wingels stripped the puck from Jason Spezza and only John Klingberg was able to get back to defend. Wingels made a slick pass under Klingberg’s stick to Nieto. Niemi could not get across in time and Nieto shot it into the far corner of the net. It was Nieto’s second goal of the season. An assist went to Wingels.

The Sharks killed off the rest of the penalty. The score was tied 2-2, and so were the shots at 15 apiece.

With five minutes left in the period, Vernon Fiddler gave the Stars another lead. Brent Burns fell with some help from Roussel and slid behind the net. Fiddler escaped ahead of the wreck with the puck and Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon was trapped behind Burns, unable to pursue Fiddler as he went around the net and roofed it for his first goal of the year. A well-deserved assist went to Roussel.

The Sharks answered a couple of minutes later with a power play goal. After several seconds to warm their power play up during a delayed call, the Sharks tied the game again. A Thornton pass from the side boards was sent to the net by Patrick Marleau. Joel Ward’s stick stopped the puck in front of Niemi, then pulled it to him and popped it into place. Assists went to Marleau and Thornton.

Tomas Hertl drew another penalty for the Sharks. On what could have been called a breakaway, Hertl was hooked by Stars defenseman Jyrki Jokipaka. The Sharks only had 45 seconds of the second period left.

The Sharks did not score on that power play, in either the second or third periods. Where the second period had been littered with whistles, the third period did not see a penalty called for the first 15 minutes. It did see the Stars take back the lead, again, when three Stars crashed the net. Antoine Roussel got the goal, with assists to Klingberg and Fiddler.

The Sharks opted to challenge the goal using the offside option. It looked very close but the call on the ice stood up and the Stars had a 4-3 lead with 6:27 left in the game.

The first penalty of the period went against the Sharks with just 1:49 left. The penalty was against Brent Burns for interference. DeBoer pulled Stalock to even it up. A long shot from Tyler Seguin missed the net but seconds later, he tried again from the blue line. His shot went between Vlasic’s legs and in to give the Stars a 5-3 lead.

To make matters worse, Chris Tierney was called for holding before the Burns penalty was up.

The Sharks next play in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday at 11:30 PT.

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