Sharks Rock Kings on the Metallica night

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA —After poor performance against New Jersey Devils on Monday when they  gave up five goals in a losing effort, San Jose Sharks tightened their defense and it paid off, big time. Playing the division rival Los Angeles Kings on the special Metallica night, Sharks came away with 4-2 victory and a solid performance on both sides of the ice.

Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scored the key goals for the Sharks while Antti Niemi made 23 saves earning his 19th victory of the season.

It was the night when Sharks hosted Metallica rock band in the house, making them special guests and the feature for the night. It all started with the lead singer James Hatfield announcing the starting lineup, which electrified the home crowd and the players. Logan Couture said in his post game comments that it was one of the best and most memorable experiences of his career to have them make that introduction.

And perhaps this was the jolt the Sharks needed to help them play hard and focused for 60 minutes long – something they couldn’t do in the past few games, and especially at home.

The matchup was physical right from the very start, with Sharks trying to match the usual toughness of the Kings. It wasn’t until the half way of the first period when first scoring chances began to appear. This is also when the first goal in the game happened. Picking up some speed along the board, Logan Couture had the puck and he blew past Kings defense, shooting the puck into the top corner from sharp angle. There was not much Jonathan Quick could do to save it – it seemed like Couture was as fast as a lighting on that play.

Sharks continued to hold the advantage in play, getting three 2-on-1 chances and dictating the pace of the game, but it was the Kings who scored next, half way through the second period. Dustin Brown scored a wrap-around goal on Antti Niemi, who found himself out of position and on his knees in the crease trying to make a save on Brown moments earlier.

But Sharks did not panic and regained their lead towards the end of the second period. This time it happened on a power play goal – with Patrick Marleau redirecting Logan Couture’s shot from above the face-off circle.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks two-goal lead later in the third period when he scored off the rebound from Patrick Marleau’s shot when Sharks were on a power play again. It was Pavelski’s 24th goal of the season, and it turned out to be the Sharks’ goal number 5000 in the history of franchise (regular season only).

From then on, Sharks went into all-defence mode, continuing the physical play and staying close to the puck. That did not give the Kings the space they needed to create offensively on even strength, but the Kings did get a lengthy play with extra skaters out as game was winding down.

LA came in closer, scoring a goal with 22 seconds left in the game and a goaltender pulled out for an extra skater (having that advantage for almost three minutes, including 30 seconds of 5-on-3 play), but that wasn’t enough and Sharks held on to victory. Logan Couture was credited with the fourth goal in the game when he had the puck and was taken down by the Kings’ player as he was about to put it into an empty net.

“The win, the score – everything we’re happy with,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “But what is the most satisfying is the competitiveness we showed and came up with. We shouldn’t have to talk about it. But now that it was there thorough the 20 players, it shouldn’t go unrecognized. We have to capture that, and prepare to bring it to the rink every night after the [All-star game] break, because it’s shaping up to be a very tight Conference.”

Sharks are now on a break until Thursday, January 29, when they take on Anaheim Ducks at home.

Sharks dominated at home by Devils

By Ivan Makarov
SAN JOSE, CA — Much like last year, this season San Jose Sharks are known as a team that plays down to the level of their competition. The worse their opponent, the worse they tend to play. Such was the case once again on Monday night when they were facing one of the league’s worst team in New Jersey Devils – a team that only won 16 times in 46 games they played before playing in San Jose.
But it was the Devils who looked better during most stretches of the game, playing better offense, defense and dominating on special teams. They were the hungrier and the faster team, taking the leads each time Sharks tied the game, and looking fresher and sharper in the third period.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said that it was all 60 minutes of the game in that loss that frustrated him the most, saying “there wasn’t a lot of good in our game. This may sound strange but our power play was the best part of our game and we have up a short handed goal…so that is how the night went for us.”
Unlike in their previous game against Calgary Flames, when Sharks had a terrible first period, San Jose did start the game with the goal, when Joe Pavelski gave Sharks a 1-0 lead. Sharks capitalized on the Devils turnover inside their own zone when Scott Gomez lost the puck to Joe Thornton. Pavelski was an open man on the play and as he got the puck, he shot it quickly over the Schnedier’s glove.
But following the goal, the Sharks lost the momentum and it was the Devils who played with more energy.
“The first five minutes was the start we want,” said Joe Pavekski. “We get the goal right on them. We get out five shots that we had in that period in the first five minutes. Then it goes the other way. They never really felt dangerous on their part, but they get a couple goals in our own net that we can’t let happen. We didn’t have enough pressure after that.”
Devils tied the game towards the end of the period on a goal by Jordan Tootoo. It was a series of won rebounds in front of Alex Stalock – four of them and the fourth went into the net. New Jersey didn’t stop there and scored on the very next shift. It was former Shark Steve Bernier scoring on a rebound from the shot taken by as Brandon Dillon turned over the puck behind the net.
Matt Nieto made things even for the Sharks when he scored at the start of the second period. Brent Burns brought the puck into the Devils zone with some speed, passed it to Hertl on the left wing who found Nieto collapsing on the net. Nieto put quite the one timer on the net from close range and it flew into the top corner, making it 2-2.
Devils took another lead in the game with 5 minutes remaining in the second period. They took advantage of a power play opportunity with Brent Burns in the box for illegal hit to the head, with Mike Cammaleri scoring.
Sharks had a lot of chances to tie the game in the third period – none of them were better than came during 4-minute long power play that included 12 second playing 5-on-3. But they didn’t create enough chances at that point, and instead, let the Devils take the two goal lead when Travis Zajac was the first on a rebound from a shot taken by his teammate all the way from the Sharks blue line. Scott Hannan was too far away in his coverage of Zajac, and didn’t do enough to stop his stick from reaching  and putting the rebound into an open net, with Stalock stretched out on the ice.
Jacob Josephson sealed the game for the Devils when he scored a goal with 5 minutes remaining in the game to make it 5-2. Sharks were on a power play, but Tomas Hertl turned over the puck along the boards, giving up 2-on-1 going the other way. Sharks were too late on the coverage, and Josephson was scoring on the pass through the crease and into an open net.
With the loss, Sharks dropped to 1-1-1 during the first half of the seven game home stand – a key stretch in their season. And they haven’t looked particularly good in any of those three games.
“I’m concerned about our drive right now,” said McLellan. “Our life that we bring to the games. I don’t know if you want to call it passion, but the internal drive per person isn’t where it needs to be.”

Sharks long home stand starts with a victory

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA — Entering a crucial stage in their regular season, with seven games long home stand, San Jose Sharks started it in a strong fashion, defeating the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1.

Most of the important action in that game happened in the first 11 minutes, when three of the four goals were scored.

Sharks scored the first goal when Tyler Kennedy was all alone in front of the Leafs net. He was setup with a great pass across the offensive zone by Brandon Dillon who faked the shot. Kennedy stopped the puck, paused, waiting for goaltender James Reimer to commit and then fired the puck on the empty net once Reimer went down. With the skillful move Kennedy scored his fourth goal of the season.

Sharks doubled their lead on the very next shift, and only seven seconds later. Having won the face-off, Sharks entered the zone and stormed the net. This time it was Patrick Marleau with the goal as he pushed the puck into the net with multiple Sharks crashing it at the same time after the shot by Matt Nieto. With the goal, Marleau broke 16-game long scoreless streak – a nice relief for the Sharks forward who’s been playing well during some stretches of that streak but haven’t been finding the net. The goal turned out to be a game winning in the end.

“It was probably one of our keys,” said Joe Thornton after the game. “We wanted to get off to a quick start and we did that. We scored 2 within the first ten minutes. That won us the game.”

Leafs cut the Sharks lead to just one on a goal by Roman Polak when he scored from a tough angle. He found the puck off a rebound from the boards behind Antti Niemi on a shot by Mike Santorelli.

Polak nearly scored again on the next shift when the puck bounced off to him during a scramble in front of Sharks’ net with Niemi out and few Sharks players laying on the ice to protect the goal. He fired a powerful slap shot, but it was blocked on its way to the net.

From then on, it was time for goaltenders to shine, as both teams played an open game and created multiple scoring chances. San Jose outshot Toronto in the end 41-25, but the chances were going both ways.

With the game winding down, Leafs pulled Reimer for an extra skater, but Sharks did not let them come back, and instead scored an empty net goal the other way when James Shepperd stole the puck, passed it to The McGinn who found Tommy Wingels with another pass and an empty net in front of him.

“I thought they had a tremendous game tonight,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan.

“Everyone found a way to contribute. Your energy level stays up a lot more when you’re able to get that kind of contribution.”

Sharks return to action on Saturday when they face division opponent Calgary Flames.

Sharks lose third in a row

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA — A series of mistakes by the San Jose Sharks three minutes into the game lead to Vancouver Canucks scoring the first goal and taking the game from there on.

First it was Sharks defenseman Brandon Dillon who made a poor breakout pass from his zone. His teammate Justin Braun failed to intercept a pass inside his zone, fanning on the chance. Lastly it was Dillon again who was late on the rebound and allowed Vancouver’s Bo Horbat to shoot on what was an open net at that point.

Joe Pavelski had a great chance to tie the game few minutes later as he got a breakaway chance. Alex Elder found no other option to stop him but with a trip from behind, which earned a penalty shot. Pavelski picked up some good speed on his attempt, but couldn’t put the puck into the net, hitting the post instead.

Canucks took the two goal lead in the game in the early minutes of the second period when Jannik Hansen scored his ninth goal of the season. It was not the one Sharks would want to remember — as Hansen just left the penalty box moments before and got behind the defense on a breakaway. Stalock didn’t seem to be ready and was out too far, giving Hansen open top corner, where he sent the puck with a laser of a wrister.

Just a minute later, just like after the first goal, Sharks got another penalty shot awarded to them, when Joe Thornton was tripper by Tyler Tanner on his breakaway chance. Unlike Pavelski, Thornton didn’t miss, sending the puck high and right next to the goal post. His wrist shot was so powerful that Miller did not have time to react and turned around after the puck went in, looking both ways, not sure where it went in. Thornton doesn’t often appear in shootouts, but he’s now a perfect 2-for-2 in his penalty shot attempts during his NHL career.

Radim Vbrata returned the Cunucks to two goal advantage in game when he scored from around the face-off circle on a nice pass by Henrick Sedin. The puck bounced into the net off Stalock’s glove.

Whatever energy Sharks needed to get back in the game they did not get, and 3-1 was how the score remained despite Sharks’ power play chances and advantage in shots on the net.

“I didn’t think we were particularly good, and the score indicated that,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan after the game. “For me there’s a price that the team has to pay to win, and right now we’re not reaching deep enough.”

This was Sharks’ third loss in a row, all against divisional opponents. They can right their ways the very next day when they travel to Anaheim to face the divisional leader the Ducks.

Sharks shine in their win against Wild

AP Photo/Ben Margot
By Ivan Makarov
SAN JOSE, CA — Fast and physical. Strong forecheck. Speedy transitions. Stingy defense. Young yet powerful. Playing well for 60 minutes.
This is the team San Jose Sharks inspire to be this season. And this is the team they were on Thursday night against Minnesota Wild.
It proved to be a gritty win, but Sharks grabbed another two points in the standings. These were the two points they deserved, as they outbattled the Wild 2-1 in a close contest. Sharks did it despite missing several key players who went out with injuries recently, but it was the strong team play that helped.
“It was a good night for our team – I felt like everybody felt into their place,” said happy Sharks’ head coach Todd McLellan after the game. “The so-called score was produced on the power play. We made great plays and finished. We got really good minutes from [Jason Sheppard’s] line and Tierney’s line. Everybody played to their strength, and it was a good team win. A really good team win.”
Sharks played well from the beginning, creating chances early on, and not letting too many happen for Minnesota. They dominated the puck and the shot count, but it took them almost 35 minutes to score the first goal. Brent Burns’ shot on the power play reached the net all the way from the blue line. Burns got the puck from Joe Thornton and saw an opportunity to shoot. His slap shot was a good one and helped him score his ninth goal of the season.
The Wild tied the game at the start of the third period when Christian Folin scored on a similar blast from the blue line. Sharks had the puck just seconds before, tried to get it out of the zone, but lost it and one pass lead to another and a big heavy shot by Folin was not the one Alex Stalock saved.
But San Jose came right back in on the next shift and took the lead again. Joe Thornton was in one of his favorite spots on the ice – in one of the corners – and spotted Joe Pavelski who was skating into the zone with some speed. The pass was straight to Pavelski’s stick and Little Joe put some power into it, watching the puck go into the net for his 15th goal of the season.
Sharks were under pressure from the Wild in the final minutes of the game, but solid defense and great goaltending from Stalock (who started his third NHL game in a row – a first of his career) kept the Sharks with the two points on the night.
The Sharks now won 6 of their last 7 and their team play and confidence is on the rise. Their next opponent is Nashville Predators who they play back at the SAP Center on Saturday.

Sharks beat the Oilers second time around

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA — San Jose Sharks have been inconsistent all season against the bottom NHL teams, having lost to the likes of Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Edmonton Oilers just on Sunday.

They had their chance for payback on Tuesday night back at the SAP Center when they began their five-game home stand against the Oilers, and they took an advantage of it, earning 5-2 victory in what was not a glamorous, but an effective performance.

Joe Pavelski scored twice, with Logan Couture, Barclay Goodrow and Brent Burns also scoring for the Sharks while Alex Stalock had a solid night in goal and made 25 saves in the victory.

Sharks got the start they wanted in the game with two quick goals.  First goal was the creation of Joe Thornton who was inside the Oilers zone along the boards. Sharks playmaker spotted Joe Pavelski who was standing in front of the net with his back facing Oiler’s goaltender Ben Scrivens. He passed him the puck, and Pavelski shot it backhanded, and high. It was a beautiful execution and one of the best goals Pavelski scored all season.

Sharks’ rookie Barclay Goodrow followed it up with another goal on the very next shift, as he was the first on the rebound on a shot from Melker Karlsson – who was playing in his NHL debut, making it 2-0 for the Sharks at 5:29 mark. This was Goodrow’s first NHL goal.

Jordan Eberle cut the Sharks lead to just one when he scored his sixth goal of the season after getting a quick pass from when he was in front of the net. Holding unto the puck, Eberle got away from Joe Pavelski who was trying to cover him and put the puck past Alex Stalock who did not follow Eberle’s movement with the puck.

Brandon Dillon made a costly giveaway towards the end of the first period. Passing the puck in his own zone, he let Teddy Purcell steal it from him, who quickly passed it to David Perron who scored an easy goal and tied the game at 2-2.

“We played two [different] first periods, the first ten minutes and the second ten minutes, “ said Todd McLellan summarizing that stretch in the game. “In the first ten, we did what we wanted to do. In the second ten, we started to bring pucks back, we started to pass through the opposition instead of around them or by them, so that ends up in your net. The positive thing is, the guys accepted those facts between periods and we went back to playing the way we need to play.”

Sharks took the lead back when Logan Couture scored on a redirect from a shot made by Scott Hannan when Oilers gave away the puck inside their zone trying to clear it and Hannan shot it towards the net. It was a quick reaction by Couture that caught Scrivens by surprise.

Sharks doubled their lead shortly thereafter when Joe Pavelski scored again, this time on a power play, only seven seconds into it. Patrick Marleau won the face-off, Sharks held to the puck, and passed it around the perimeter, moved well, finding open Pavelski right in front of the net who one timed it above Scrivens’ glove, making it 4-2 for the Sharks towards the middle mark of the game.

While the home team gave away the initiative from that point on, and Alex Stalock had to be great to keep them in it, San Jose did score the key goal at 14:31 mark in the third period when Brent Burns’ slap shot from the blue line was so fast that Scrivens had virtually no chance to save it – even from that distance. The goal made it 5-2 and put it out of the Oilers reach.

Sharks gained some valuable points in the standings, with their divisional opponents LA Kings, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks all losing games the same day. They continue their home stands on Thursday when they host Minnesota Wild.

Sharks win a wild one against Bruins

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA — On some nights in the NHL, the teams play a tight checking game and excel on defense, producing only a few goals. Such was the case on Tuesday when Sharks beat the Flyers in the close contest and this is what they expected to be the case on Thursday against the Bruins, given the recent offensive struggles for both teams.

On Thursday, this was a complete opposite, with both clubs playing open hockey, and producing 11 goals. Sharks were on the winning side of it all, scoring season-high 7 goals and winning 7-4 after trailing multiple times in the game.

“I hoped we wouldn’t give up four, but I wasn’t hoping we would score seven,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “At least we came out on the positive side of it all.”

Tyler Kennedy, Tommy Wingels and Joe Pavelski scored two goals each for the Sharks, with Tomas Hertl contributing another one, while Antti Niemi made 20 saves in the net.

The game did not get off to a good start for the Sharks, with Bruins scoring twice early and holding that lead in all of the first period.

Sharks struggled to establish their game in the first 20 minutes, and it wasn’t until the second period when things started to click. Tommy Wingels scored 27 seconds into the second period when he redirected a puck from Vlasic who was shooting all the way from the blue line.

Sharks went on another power play just seconds later, didn’t score but carried the momentum into the shift right after their player advantage expired. Tyler Kennedy tied the game on a fluke of a goal when his backhand pass towards the net changed direction and bounced inside.

“It took us a little bit to get going,” said Sharks forward Joe Pavelski about that stretch in the game. “But once we got going, it was hard to stop us.”

Another penalty by the Bruins was followed by another goal by the Sharks – this time by Tommy Wingels again who was in front of the net and redirected a long range shot by Matt Irwin. The goal gave Sharks 3-2 lead in the game.

The lead was short lived, however, as Bruins came right back, with Reilly Smith scoring his second goal in the game right in front of Antti Niemi after a counter attack.

Bruins went on to take 4-3 lead after Torey Krug scored from above the face-off circle with four players crowding Niemi’s vision of the puck, but Sharks tied the game on their own power play few minutes later, with Joe Pavelski getting on the board as he pushed the puck in from inside the crease when Patrick Marleau got him a puck, making it 4-4 at 14:31 mark in the second period.

Tyler Kennedy gave the Sharks 5-4 lead at the start of the third period when he scored on a puck redirect on a shot from Matt Irwin.

Joe Pavelski doubled the lead for the Sharks half way through the third when teams were playing 4-on-4 and there was more ice to skate on. Pavelski took full advantage of that, picking up speed, flying right past Dougie Hamilton and squeezing the puck between Tuuka Rask pads, making the score 6-4.

With the way game went thus far, two goal lead didn’t seem to be safe until Tomas Hertl made it a three goal lead with 4:16 left to go in the game when he picked up a rebound behind the net, skated towards the crease and put it top shelf above Tuuka Rask with his backhand. With all the goals, this was no doubt the prettiest one.

Sharks finished their home stands with three wins in a row, and are going back on the road as they travel to Alberta to play the Flames and the Oilers before returning to face five game home stand.

Matt Nieto a last minute hero once again for the Sharks

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA — Sharks forward Matt Nieto must be a one patient player. Having scored a goal in the very game of the season, he had to wait two months to start scoring again. He worked and played hard during that dry stretch, and the coaches never lost their faith in him. All this is paying off, as he scored the most important goal for the Sharks in the second game in a row.

Much like in the last game against Anaheim Ducks, Nieto’s moment of the night against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers came at the very end of the game.

With the score tied 1-1 and only 12 second left to play before the end of the regulation, Sharks forward Patrick Marleau took away the puck at the Flyers blue line and brought it all the way near the net. He shot the puck on target, but Steve Mason made the safe. Tommy Wingels attempted to grab a rebound, but missed while taking out a defender with him. Mason was laying on the ice at that point and Nieto jumped first to the puck, putting it on what was almost an empty net.

“He made a tremendous read in the neutral zone, created a turnover and, it wasn’t the first follow up by Wingels, it was the second one,” noted Sharks head coach Todd McLellan in his post game comments. “So give him credit for sticking with it. I thought that was the way the night went.”

Nieto was likewise positive and grateful for how his play is turning out.

“Last game I got an empty-netter, and even though it didn’t seem like much, it was a huge confidence builder. [The goals] come in bunches, so I’ve been patient all year and just tried to stick to my game. [I’m] glad to see that it’s paying off the last two games.”

And Sharks did have to patient in this game, because they started out weak and did not look all that good for a while.

Flyers got an early lead in the game when their young forward Sean Couturier scored on the first power play of the game when Jason Sheppard was in the box. Couturier shot the puck high from just above the face off circle and it was a shot that proved to be too much for Antti Niemi.

Sharks had just six shots on the net in that period versus 16 for the Flyers.

They fixed some of the weaknesses in their game in the second period by playing a better transition game and being more physical, but it wasn’t until the the end of the second period that they finally tied the game on a goal by Marc-Edouard Vlasic who jumped into the attack when he got a great feed from Tommy Wingels, and put the puck top shelf from close range.

“I joined the rush, Wingels made a nice play and I put it in the back of the net,” recapped Vlasic. “I knew Giroux was behind me, so I knew I could jump up and beat him. And I did that.”

Sharks continued their physical play in the third period, but had to wait until the very end to turn the tables and earn the two points, despite having other scoring chances in that period, with none better than a breakaway attempt by Andrew Desjardins where he beat Mason but missed the net.

“We weren’t very good in the first period, I think that was obvious,” said McLellan. “But we stuck with it and got a little better as the night went on. Good to see those results.”

Sharks will finish the six game home stand on Thursday when they face off against the visiting Boston Bruins.

NOTES

– Logan Couture left the game early in the third period and did not return after an accidental collision with one of the Flyers players and what appears to be a hit to the head
– Sharks outhit the Flyers 38 to 27

Sharks drop third in a row at home

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA — It’s been a rough season for San Jose Sharks so far. Facing a tough schedule in the first couple of months and spending a long time on the road, they have been inconstant and have yet to show that they are a powerhouse they used to be known as in the last several years. Going into the home matchup against Calgary Flames on Wednesday, they have lost three in a row, including the last two at home.

The season did not get any easier for them, as their slid continued with Flames earning the two points in 2-0 victory and Sharks dropping to a dismal 2-4-2 record at home, and putting themselves five points behind the third place in the Pacific division.

The game got off to a bad start from the get go, with Calgary Flames dictating the play and getting two great scoring chances on the very first shift. Antti Niemi was sharp and weathered the initial storm. As the game progressed, Sharks recovered and the game because even, with Sharks holding the puck more and holding a shot advantage.

The first goal in the game came towards the end of the second period when Flames forward Jiri Hudler broke through the middle of the Sharks zone on a well timed centering feed from TJ Brodie and put the puck above Sharks netminder Antti Niemi’s blocker. Niemi reacted but it was too late and Hudler scored his ninth of the season, giving his team a lead leading into the third period.

So far this season the Sharks did not have very many games when they won after trailing, being 24th in that category in all of the NHL. This game did not prove to be an exception, and even one goal game lead for the Flames proved to be too much. Sharks had their chances in the third period, perhaps their best, but the Flames played a strong defensive game, keeping the Sharks on the peremiter of their zone and blocking a lot of the shots. Whatever pucks reached the net, they were stopped by the stellar play of the Calgary’s backup goaltender Karri Ramo.

When the game came down to the last two minutes when teams usually pull their goaltender for an extra skater, Sharks did so but just to even out the number of players on the ice as Justin Braun was in the penalty box. Patrick Marleau did seem to have a scoring chance at that time as he broke through on the wing, but he missed the net on his shot and the puck skated all the way outside the Sharks zone, giving two Flames players an open net, with Hudler taking the shot and scoring his second of the night.

Both the coaches and the players felt disappointed after the game

“We’re a result based league and not happy with the results,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “The effort was there. We had some opportunities to score, obviously. For whatever reason, they’re not going in. Defensively we didn’t give up much. I thought the weakest shift we had was the very first one when they got two or three scoring chances. After that we played pretty well defensively. Didn’t give up much.”

Joe Pavelski felt the same way, thinking they “had some good looks and maybe it didn’t feel as dangerous as it could’ve been at times and it’s just disappointing. We want to win; we want to get out of this. It’s the harder we try right now, the worse it’s going. So we’re probably not doing the right thing from guy to guy and we’ve got to find a way.”

Sharks next face Anaheim Ducks back at SAP Center on Saturday.

Sharks come back twice, but still lose to Panthers

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA — After losing to one of the bottom teams in the NHL in Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday to cap off the seven game road trip, San Jose Sharks failed to return to their winning ways when they fell to another Eastern Conference outsider Florida Panthers, and this time at home. They twice came back from behind and did  salvage a point, but still lost 3-2 in the shootout.

What seemed like the turning point in the game came when there was only six minutes left to play and the scale was turning in the Sharks favor. Trailing the Panthers 2-1 in what was a close game up to this point, Patrick Marleau had two great chances to tie the game for the Sharks. First chance came on a breakaway when he used his speed and stick skills to blow past Florida defense and only had the netminder Roberto Luongo to beat. He had the momentum and the Tank was about to explode, but a stick from behind stopped Marleau right as he approached the net. The referee called a penalty shot and Marleau got to try his trick again. This time he went to his left (he was heading right on the previous place) but the puck got too close to Luongo who denied him with a poke check, leaving the Sharks trailing.

But Marleau got another chance to shine in the game.

With the home team desperate and their net empty for another skater, it was Patrick Marleau, again, and of all people, who came through and tied it at last on a pass from the corner by Joe Thornton from just below the face-off circle.

Sharks saved the point, but not the victory, as they fell in the shootout when Florida’s game hero Nick Bjugstad who already had two goals in the game to his name, helped Florida secure the victory with the game deciding shootout goal.

And that was not that much different from how the game went overall.

The contest got off to a rough start for the Sharks when it was Panthers who got on board first and early. It happened just 24 seconds in the game when the first puck went in from Bjugstad as a redirect of a long shot from Dmitriy Kulikov. It didn’t look all that dangerous but when the puck changed directions, it went into the net between Antti Niemi’s pads and it was likely too close for him to have the time to react.

Sharks tied the game close to halfway in the second period when Logan Couture scored his eighth goal of the season on the power play. Panthers penalty kill struggled on Tuesday against LA Kings, allowing three goals, and it continued to leak against the Sharks who generated multiple scoring chances just prior to the goal. Joe Pavelski was the one who put the original puck on the net, causing Roberto Luongo to spread on the ice trying to make a save, and it was Couture who pushed the rebound into an open net, breaking the ice for Sharks offense that look potent but unable to put one into the net up to this point.

But the Florida went on to score again towards the end of that period, when Bjustad lit the lamp with blast of a shot from just above the face-off circle, on a power play.

San Jose Sharks spent a lot of time on the road, and did show some rust at times on Thursday. But the next five games are still at home, and they will need to improve in their play and execution if they are to make the home stand a success. They will next face Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.