Boyle’s back bar shot seals comeback OT win

Photo Credit: Unknown

By Pearl Allison Lo

It was a swift and abrupt end for the Vancouver Canucks, after upon video review, the referee acknowledged San Jose Sharks’ Boyle’s goal had entered the net for a 2-1 win Thursday.

31 seconds after Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin went off for hooking at 2:07 of overtime, Boyle made the Sharks’ fourth time on the power play count. Boyle was aided by Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture for San Jose’s second consecutive overtime win, as they took the season series over the Canucks 3-1 in an early finale.

Couture had a chance with 3:11 left to go in the first period, moving across the ice against traffic, but his shot was muffled up front by goalie Roberto Luongo. The Sharks later controlled the majority of the possession as the first period neared its end. San Jose’s Marc Edouard Vlasic with three shots on goal, was the only one with multiple shots. Ryan Kesler led with almost half of Vancouver’s blocks with four.

The Sharks’ second power play was majorly controlled by the Canucks, and included an offensive blocked of a shot attempt by Luongo with his stick.

Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows was called for interference to give San Jose their third power play at 11:10 of the second period. The set up for the Canucks’ go-ahead goal then started when Pavelski was called for interference 40 seconds later. After the then even matchup expired, Vancouver was given a 36 second man advantage, with which they capitalized.   After a faceoff win and Burrows’ wide shot, Kevin Bieksa was awarded his first goal of the season, slapping the puck in the net from 56 feet away. Bieksa was helped by Sedin with his 18th assist and Burrows.

The Sharks were outshot 20-9 in the second period.

In the third, it looked like the Canucks would be ending their two game losing streak amidst their momentum since the second period. However, with an extra attacker, San Jose was able to stay alive. Joe Thornton went down, but was able to pass it to Boyle, who eventually got it to Tomas Hertl, on Luongo’s left side, as Hertl scored with just over a minute left. Thornton had his 18th assist and Hertl had his 11th goal.

Re the goal, Boyle responded, “The puck came out and I was going to shoot originally, and then…guys kinda came together and I changed my mind at the last minute…”

Game notes: Vlasic led the team in shots at the end of the game with six and led in ice time, along with Boyle, as both stayed on for 22:34. Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis led all skaters in ice time with 25:40. Thornton extended his points streak to six games. The Sharks will go for three in a row when they face the Edmonton Oilers at 7pm PST Friday.

Sharks win 3-2 in overtime

by Jerry Feitelberg

The San Jose Sharks, who have been winless in their last five games, played Calgary Tuesday night hoping to get back on the winning track. The Sharks are10-2-5 on the season find themselves six points back of the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks did pick up four points but they have not been playing well especially late in the game. The Calgary Flames entered play with a record of 6-9-2 and were hoping to get a win at home. Alex Stalock was sent out to tend the nets for San Jose. Regular goalie Antti Niemi was given the night off and the Sharks hope that a day of rest will get him back to form. The Flames had Swiss-born Reto Berra tend goal. The Sharks scored two goals in the first period but Calgary came back to tie the game in the third period. The Sharks won the game in overtime when Brad Stuart scored when the puck hit his elbow and beat Berra for the win. Final score Sharks win 3-2.

The game summary follows below.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Logan Couture scored with just 1:32 played. It was the first shot on net of the night. The Sharks dominated play in the first period and they lit the lamp again when Patrick Marleau beat Berra with just 56 seconds left in the period. The Sharks outshot the Flames 17-3.

There was no scoring in the second period. The Flames played better for the first ten minutes of the period but the Sharks pushed back and took control of the game again. Shots on goal after two period were in San Jose’s favor 28-6.

It was a different story in the third period. Justin Braun was called for interference with 6:44 played. It was the first San Jose penalty of the night. The Flames wasted no time as they scored seven seconds later on a Chris Russell slap shot that Stalock did not see as he was screened out on the play.

It was only the ninth shot on goal all night for the Flames but the momentum had shifted and the Sharks were back on their heels. The Flames tied the game a few minutes later when Mark Cammaleri scored his eighth goal of the year. There was no scoring so they went to overtime. The Sharks came out with a vengeance determined not to go to a shoot-out. Big Joe Thornton fired a shot at the net and it hit Brad Stuart in the elbow and it slipped past Berra for the win.

After the game Brad Stuart said”we were a little sloppy in the third period and got away from what we were doing in the first two periods.” He also said the following regarding the game winning goal”I drove the net and it hit me in the elbow and it went in.” The goal was reviewed and it was determined to be a good goal. Goalie Alex Stalock is now 2-0 in games he has started for the Sharks.

The Sharks continue to miss Brent Burns. He gives the offense a lot of oomph and there is no date yet for his return.

Next up on the road trip is a visit to Vancouver Thursday night at 7pm.

Sharks Lose to Jets in Shootout, Losing Streak at 5

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks started a five game road trip with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan summed up the good and the bad of Sunday’s game:

That was much better. Not everybody that watched tonight’s game got to see what we did against Vancouver, which was poor. So we made strides as far as competitiveness, I still don’t think we were at our best. Thought we looked slow, especially to retrieve pucks. They’re a very quick team and they exposed some of our speed issues in certain areas that we have to get better. The goals they scored, we’d sure like to have a couple of them back but full marks to them.

The Sharks will need to polish their shootout skills. Unlike last season, when they had exceptional results in shootouts, now they have scored only three times in five shootouts, and won only once. McLellan acknowledged this in the post game interview:

We practice it probably too much now. We created a whole bunch of different situations in practice, we’ve gone through different guys, they’ve got to score. There isn’t magic, you’ve got to beat the goaltender. Right now there’s too much pressure on Niemi in a shootout to be perfect. I don’t know what we are now, we’ve tried different guys, the only one who’s scored this year is [Couture.] So we’ve got to find a way.

With a shortage of shootout specialists since the Spring purge of 2013, San Jose will need a few more shooters to come forward.

Seven times this season, the Sharks have scored in the first two minutes of the game. They did not do so Sunday in Winnipeg. Instead, the Sharks took a penalty. While Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan sat in the box for high-sticking Devin Setoguchi, the Sharks’ penalty kill went to work against the 29th ranked power play in the NHL. Penalty killed off, the Jets continued to attack. The Sharks didn’t have a shot on goal until six minutes had elapsed in the period. By the 13 minute mark, the Jets had outshot the Sharks 10-2.

Moments later, Jets Captain Andrew Ladd went to the box for tripping Sharks’ defenseman Dan Boyle. It took Boyle 14 seconds to score with a blast from the slot. During a CSN intermission interview, Boyle credited Joe Pavelski with clearing the lane for him, while Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau got in front of Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

The audience went quiet. They stayed quiet as Tomas Hertl burst across the Jets blue line moments later. Jason Demers’ pass from the Sharks zone was perfectly timed to hit Hertl just shy of Jets territory. It was a great pass and a good shot, modest enough to offend no one while still scoring.

Jets Head Coach Claude Noel responded by calling a time out. He used it well. The Jets continued to lead the Sharks by a wide margin in shots and zone time. During the last minute of the period, Evander Kane went to the box for goaltender interference and put the Sharks back on the power play. The period ended with the Jets challenging short-handed.

The Sharks had a two goal lead but by every other measure, they were being out-played. By the end of the period, the shot count was 15-9 for Winnipeg.

The Sharks started the second period on the power play. The Sharks had a few good chances but did not score. The Jets went back to work, but the Sharks pushed back quickly, showing more confidence and accuracy with their passes, giving Pavelec more work.

The Jets caught a break when a Matt Irwin shot was blocked and then taken away by Matt Halischuk, who carried the puck in. Halischuk’s pass came late enough to look like he would shoot, and Frolik got by Dan Boyle to put the Jets on the board from the other side of the net.

The audience had barely finished cheering when Tommy Wingels responded with a quick shot over Pavelec’s shoulder. Braun cleared the puck off the boards and it hit Wingels just as he crossed the line. The Jets couldn’t stop him. The goal came 41 seconds after Frolik’s.

It took the Jets a minute and 20 seconds to answer with another goal, this one from Dustin Byfuglien (his first of the year) on the blue line. The Sharks left him briefly uncovered with a clear lane for his shot all the way to the net.

At 12:21, Devin Setoguchi earned a power play for the Jets, an intereference call on Hannan. The Jets’ power play didn’t tie the game for them, but five minutes later, a shot from Grant Clitsome bounced off Justin Braun and past Niemi’s glove to tie the game.

In the final second of the middle period, Dustin Byfuglien shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The Sharks escaped the second without giving up the lead, and would start the third on the power play.

That power play was underwhelming. The second unit’s strategy through the neutral zone failed twice as they shot the puck in from the red line. Jets got to the puck first and sent it back out before all five Sharks were in the zone.

The Sharks had another chance at 3:19 when Halischuk went to the box for tripping Tyler Kennedy. San Jose’s first power play unit of Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Boyle, and Couture took 40 seconds to score.

Logan Couture, lurking by the side of the net, took a pass from Joe Thornton and sent the puck through his legs behind him, where Boyle found it and put it in the net. Had Boyle not succeeded, Joe Pavelski was nearby as well. It was a beautiful play.

At 11:05 of the third, a bizarre series of penalties cycled through a 5 on 4 SJ, to a 4 on 4, to a 4 on 3 WPG, back to 4 on 4 and to 5 on 4 SJ. The numbers changed so quickly, it didn’t seem to matter who had more men on the ice, the play went back and forth throughout the sequence.

The teams didn’t slow down once they were back at even strength. The back and forth play went down to the last minutes, when Todd McLellan used his time out. The Jets appeared to benefit more from the break than the Sharks did. They won the next faceoff in the offensive zone and Ladd tied the game two shots later.

Two minutes into overtime, Tommy Wingels was involved in his second discounted goal of the season. Wingels, positioned in front of goaltender Pavelec, lost the shoving match and ended up too close to Pavelec. The goal that followed seconds later was disallowed for goaltender interference. McLellan commented on the call after the game:

If you’re a Shark you’re questioning it, if you’re a Jet you agree with the call. It’s a discretionary call that occurs in a game. He was allowed to make the first save easily, it’s the second one, it’s the rebound and I don’t know who has the right to that ice, I don’t understand it. But we move on.

The Sharks were not penalized further on the play, and the game went to a shootout.

The Jets shot first, with Andrew Ladd shooting third for Winnipeg and scoring the shootout winner. He skated in and lifted the puck from what appeared to be an impossibly close angle. Niemi saved the first two shots from Blake Wheeler and Brian Little. The Sharks’ shooters were Logan Couture (save), Tommy Wingels (miss), and Dan Boyle (save).

Final shot count: 46-34 Winnipeg. The Sharks’ power play went 2-6, their penalty kill was 2-2.

Notes:

The scratches were Brad Stuart and John McCarthy. That put Matt Irwin in as Dan Boyle’s partner, and left Mike Brown on the fourth line.

The Sharks’ next game is Tuesday in Calgary at 6:00 pm PST.

Sitting Sharks: SJ Losing Streak Stands at Four

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The Sharks are not winning anymore. Fans might be having flashbacks to every season past, when even the most magnificent point streak was marred by some inexplicable, nonsensical streak of poor play, bad luck and predictably disappointing results. It would be reasonable to assume that it is time for the Sharks to break pattern, at least in some subtle way.

One could argue that the Sharks’ recent losses were not all due to poor preparation or unsettled play. One could say that the Coyotes had a bone to pick with the Sharks after the insulting 4-1 loss on October 5. One could say that the Canucks had an even bigger grudge to settle, having been defeated by the Sharks nine times in a row, including a playoff sweep. Then one could argue that it is too much to ask of a team to take this season’s Sabres seriously. So that is three of the four losses summarily dismissed, and the fourth was exactly like a game against the Los Angeles Kings: close and exhausting and down to who gets the last change.

Perhaps the Sharks are not in the middle of their seasonal falling sky routine. Maybe the bounces just caught up to them. Nevertheless, they have not responded well. They have not matched their opponents’ intensity. They shifted gears, but not to the right gear. Their passes were rushed and sloppy, their corrections off the mark. With each successive loss, their panic peaked higher and their ability to recover declined.

The most talked-about gaffe of the Vancouver game was Jason Demers’ bad pass followed by his worse decision to hit instead of defend. Not every Sharks player is combining errors so quickly and disastrously, but that sequence revealed the kind of hasty decisions too many Sharks are making. Did it go wrong because Demers was in the process of making the pass while he realized he should not make it? Was it just dumb luck? It doesn’t matter, he lacked poise at that moment. Demers was not the only Shark showing signs of needless panic. Blind passes, a lack of awareness and ill-conceived plays abounded from the blue paint outwards. It took the team two periods to burn off the panic.

Todd McLellan will probably respond with line changes for Sunday’s game in Winnipeg. He may sit Demers, he may shuffle forward combinations. McLellan was clearly disappointed after the Vancouver game, as was every player interviewed. Of course they were. But the team had already made the right correction. In the third period of that game, they were clearly more composed. Passes started to connect, lines were able to move the puck from here to there without giving it away. Even if Vancouver was sitting back, it still allowed the Sharks to compose themselves, go back to basics, settle down. That is exactly what the Sharks needed to do to prepare for the next game. Will they start slow again? It depends how high their pain of loss threshold is.

History suggests that McLellan will pull the lines apart and sit the most conspicuous offenders. The same history reveals a peculiar Sharks habit of allowing veterans to “play through” bad spells, while young skaters sit after  poor performances. It seems counter-intuitive that a veteran should be less able than a younger player to come in and out of the lineup. Demers has played a lot of NHL games for a defenseman of his age, but he hasn’t played more games than a professional player of his age. It is fair to say that he has yet to reach his potential. The same is even more true of Matt Irwin. To sit a game won’t hurt, but Irwin has been out for three now. His absence doesn’t seem to be helping. James Sheppard, though not a prototypical fourth liner, has shown that he can do the job if it is his to do.

Scott Hannan and Mike Brown should be better able to sit until needed. They have both played well, just not well enough to carry the team to wins recently. They shouldn’t have to do that last. Neither player was brought in to be a game changer. They were both brought in to back up a strong team. If the team is struggling with or without them, wouldn’t the ice time be better spent getting the team back on track?

All of this is true of the team’s goaltenders as well. Even if Niemi plays better when he plays more, he should not play as many games as he has in past seasons with the Sharks. If he needs to play a lot, let him do that closer to playoffs. At this time of the season, all he gains is wear and tear. Alex Stalock has shown that he can do the job and maybe he would be even better if he played more too.

If the Sharks want a different result from this season than seasons past, they should probably make some changes to their lineup, just not the ones they usually make.

Sharks drop fourth straight

Vancouver Canucks' Brad Richardson (15) is congratulated after scoring against the San Jose Sharks during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Vancouver Canucks’ Brad Richardson (15) is congratulated after scoring against the San Jose Sharks during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Ivan Makarov

SAN JOSE, CA – Counting last year’s playoffs, San Jose Sharks have beaten Vancouver Canucks in nine straight games. The streak came to an end on Thursday night as Sharks were defeated 4-2 and have lost their fourth game in a row.

Sharks fell two goals behind in the first half of the game, and while correcting some of the weaknesses in their game, they were unable to execute a come back.

The scoring in the game got off to a quick start as both teams exchanged goals early on. Sharks scored first on a strange bounce around the net. Joe Thornton was passing the puck along the boards inside Canucks territory but it bounced off the top netting, and into the goal off the Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo’s back. Canucks responded with a tying goal by Brad Richardson who scored from close range after Sharks turned the puck over inside their zone.

Sharks defensive woes continued when Mike Santorelli made it 2-1 for the visiting team by scoring yet another goal in front of Antti Niemi that saw Sharks defense got caught in the middle of the change and could not stop a developing fast attack by Vancouver.

But Sharks responded only a minute later with Mike Brown scoring his first goal in the Sharks uniform after a breakaway attack and a great pass from James Sheppard that found him all alone in front of Luongo. Brown put the puck high and say Luongo’s blocker to tie the game at 2-2.

Sharks continued to struggle on the defense, and allowed what was perhaps the most embarrassing goal of their season so far at the end of the first period. In a situation that appeared safe Jason Demers was on his own blue line but bobbled the puck while trying to pass it to Scott Hannan. It was easily intercepted by Alexandre Burrows and in the confusion of all and scrambling to get the puck back Sharks defensemen fell on top of each other, allowing Chris Higgins to face Antti Niemi all alone and put the puck into the net, giving Canucks 3-2 lead going into the first intermission.

Second period did not start any better for San Jose, as Canucks doubled their lead on a goal by Zack Kassian on a redirect from Kevin Bieksa shooting all the way from the blue line. The goal made it 4-2 and forced Sharks to switch their goaltenders as Antti Niemi headed to the bench and got replaced by Alex Stalock after allowing four goals on 12 shots.

Stalock’s presence improved Sharks focus and their play on defense. Having only put 11 shot on goal in the first two periods, it wasn’t until the third that San Jose picked up their game offensively. They held the puck more, and started winning the battles in the tight areas. As their play improved, so did the play of Roberto Luongo who was on time to the puck and poisoning himself well each time.

With two minutes remaining in the game, Todd McLellan pulled the goaltender for extra skater in the zone. That helped generate chances, but none of them were realized by the Sharks, and they lost yet again.

After three home games in a row, the Sharks will travel to Canada where they will face the Jets, Flames, Canucks and Oilers with the last stop in Chicago before returning to SAP Center for five game home stand in the second half of November. It may be a good time to get on the road again where coaches can spend more time with the players, address some of the bad habits that are starting to creep into the team’s play, and simplify their game, as they do when playing away from their home crowd.

Sharks lose again

Image
Buffalo Sabres’ Cody Hodgson (19) scores the game-winning goal past San Jose Sharks’ Antti Niemi, of Finland, during the shootout of an NHL hockey game on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. Buffalo won 5-4. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Ivan Makarov

What on paper looked like one of the easiest games of the early season for the San Jose Sharks, turned out to be one of the wildest and disappointing games so far. Playing at home against the last team in the league Buffalo Sabres, Sharks had to come back from behind multiple times to force the overtime, but in the end, they still lost the game 4-3 in the shootout.

“This was a fear of mine that we would be complacent and that we would turn it up when we thought we had to,” said disappointed Sharks head coach Todd McLellan after the game. “And that’s exactly what we got. I thought we were outworked for the large part of the game, and out detailed, certainly.”

Sharks outshot the Sabres 51-36 during the game, but did not look like the better team, chasing the puck, being sloppy on defense and not capitalizing on many rebounds given up by Ryan Miller.

Marty Havlat opened the scoring in the game as he picked up on the rebound from Patrick Marle shot inside the zone following a long possession in the offensive zone and the score remained 1-0 in the first period. But it was in the second period that Sharks lost the lead by allowing Buffalo to score two goals – first one by Drew Stafford who capitalized on the Sharks turnover by Tyler Kennedy inside their own zone, and the second one by Cody McCormick who scored by picking up the puck off the face-off won by his own team inside the Sharks zone, making it 2-1 in favor of the visiting team.

Sharks fell even farther behind at the start of the third period when they were unable to kill a penalty on Dan Boyle’s hooking call. Tyler Ennis scored just 15 second into the power play on a pass from Cody Hodgson as the two of them were standing all alone in front of Antti Niemi.

Sharks climbed back into the game two minutes later when Tyler Kennedy and Tomas Hertl scored two goals within 70 seconds to tie the game at 3-3. But the score did not remain tied for long, as Henrick Tallinder picked up a puck Sharks could not control inside their zone and put it past Antti Niemi, who wasn’t at his best on that play and should have made the save.

Sharks finally tied the game on the first power play goal of the night with less than four minutes remaining in the regulation. With the mad scramble in front of Miller, Tommy Wingels was the first to reach the puck with a dive as it was bouncing in the crease. But that was all the offense the Sharks could produce, and Antti Niemi allowed Matt Moulson and Cody Hodgson to score against him in the shootout, while Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Tomas Hertl were unable to do the same against Ryan Miller.

Sharks are now winless in their last three after starting the season with 10 wins in the first 12 games. They take on Vancouver Canucks next at the SAP Center on Thursday.

Larry Levitt on the NHL

Hockey_wallpapers_284

by Larry Levitt

SAN JOSE–The Youth coming into the NHL now has such talent it’s really amazing to see there’s so many teenagers and 21 year olds coming in here in the first year and they are not intimidated by the game or the speed or the pace and they’re actually holding their own. Of course Tomas Hertl of the Sharks is also one them.

The Anaheim Ducks are near the bottom in penalty kills but the Ducks are on the move and are in first and statistics can be skewed a little. When you have a very bad penalty kill and your not doing well and yet your doing great five on five, your playing five on five more than your killing penalties hopefully so there are more full strengths than making it up on the other end.

The Sharks looked pretty good against Phoenix the other day in a shoot out loss 3-2 at SAP arena last Saturday night the way I would explain this game they have moments where they fall asleep and lose their focus and those moments are when good teams capitalize on you and the Coyotes are a very good team this year.

Every team in the west is very well rounded but the team that the Sharks usually have trouble with the Coyotes being one of them is because of the great goaltending of Mike Smith. They took advantage of him in the first game when he was really off his game but when he’s on his game he’s a tough guy to beat. They could have beat him it’s the Sharks own fault they had some loses of focus and allowed some really cheap goals but it is what it is and they’ll take the one point out of it as a gift.

My biggest fear is Buffalo their an NHL team, yes they play in the east and their record is 2-13-1 so they’re really playing poorly on the stat sheet but their actually a pretty good team. They’re a young team they have four young rookies on their team that are doing actually quiet well. The problem is when the Sharks face a team like the Sabers you don’t want to mail a game like that in.

You need to go out there and play your game, the way the Sharks need to look at that game last Tuesday night and say “let’s use this as a real good fine tune to get our focus and get our system in place and get ready for Vancouver Thursday night” but you can not look past Buffalo. You got to play that game and you got to really bear down and if it happens to be a blow out then use your third and fourth lines.

If it’s not a blow out you really need to stay focus because they’re an NHL team and in any game, any team, can win on any given night. The Canucks are no exception but I don’t know if they’re buying into head coach Mike Tortorella’s system and it’s going at the one step that Phil Kessler and and the Sedin twins are one, two and four for forwards time on ice in the NHL. So the Canucks top line is logging a lot of minutes.

Larry Levitt does NHL and ECHL hockey commentary each week for Sportstalk Radio

Sharks lose heartbreaker in shootout

pavelski-video-thumb

By: Phillip Torres

November 2, 2013

SAN JOSE-The San Jose Sharks (10-1-3) were defeated by the Phoenix Coyotes (10-3-2) Saturday night at the SAP Center in a heartbreaking loss 3-2. The game was determined by shootout.

Phoenix started off very strong as they scored just 36 seconds into the game. The goal was scored by Antoine Vermette and assisted by Rob Klinkhammer and Mikkel Boedker. The Sharks had a chance to tie the game up after a Coyote penalty lead to a four minute power play for San Jose. San Jose could not convert on it and the Coyotes led 1-0 after the first period despite being outshot 16-7 by the Sharks.

Joe Pavelski put the Sharks on the board early in the second period as he scored his sixth goal of the season at 1:16. Dan Boyle gave the Sharks the 2-1 advantage shortly after with his second goal of the season on a power play. The goal was assisted by Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton at 5:10 in the middle period.

The Coyotes tied the game at 2-2 midway through the period with a goal from Boedker. Derek Morris earned the assist on the game tying goal. With the score tied at two goals apiece going into the second intermission, the Sharks outshot the Coyotes 31-14.

The third period went scoreless resulting in a tie at the end of regulation, forcing an overtime period. Overtime also went scoreless and the game went into a shootout.

The Sharks lost the shootout 2-1 with Vermette scoring the clincher to give Phoenix the 3-2 victory.

The Sharks will be back on the ice on Tuesday as they will host the Buffalo Sabers. The puck will drop at 7:30 pm.

Boyle and Havlat Back in the Game

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The question going in to Saturday’s Sharks game was… well, there were many. Who would want the win more, the team that lost to SJ 5-1 last time around, or the team that lost a frustrating game to LA a few days earlier? The Coyotes gave their answer quickly with a goal just 36 seconds in to the period. The Sharks pushed back like the goal was a wakeup call heard loud and clear. In the end it was as close to a draw as it can get, a shootout won by the visitors.

There were other questions: how long before returning Sharks Martin Havlat and Dan Boyle are up to game speed?

Saturday morning, Boyle said that he believed his first hit, given or received, would be a benchmark in his proof of recovery. Mikkel Boedker and David Moss wasted no time helping Boyle get that out of the way, each hitting him before four minutes had elapsed in the game.

Boyle also scored on the power play, something the Sharks had been having some trouble with. Not a lot of trouble, but some. It didn’t look like Boyle will take very long to get back into the swing of things. Even his post-loss demeanor was much as it ever was:

I expect a lot out of myself as you guys know… I had to be realistic, I knew I was going to be not as good as I want to be, and that’s pretty much what I think happened out there. I think I definitely didn’t feel like my normal self out there but that’s to be expected. I’ll definitely get better in a hurry.

Boyle wasn’t entirely down on his situation. He expressed confidence that he would improve, and that what he lacked in Saturday’s game had everything to do with time off, not the injury that caused it. That was essentially what he said after the morning skate as well:

You can’t be in game shape unless you play in games. You can mimic it all you want, you just try to minimize the difference by doing all the skating  [you can]. I imagine I have a little catching up to do.

For Martin Havlat, it was a second game back but also a first game back with last season’s linemates, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Havlat was a little more adventurous Saturday than he had been Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings. He did some things better and others worse, a pattern common to highly skilled, creative players. They try things that either work and make people say “ah!” or they don’t work and everyone says it was a dumb idea. Hindsight and all that.

Asked how many games Havlat thought he would need to be back up to game speed, he said:

A few, so hopefully… the less the better. It’s going to take some time, but we’ll see how it goes tonight. The last one wasn’t that bad, the first night.

He didn’t look bad, playing on Pavelski’s line or playing on Couture’s line. Wherever he lands– and of the many line adjustments Todd McLellan made Saturday, Couture’s was least tampered with– he is probably right. He probably will hit his stride sooner than later.

That these two are back in the lineup could mean the imminent departure of one of the call-ups, depending on how long Burns will be out. Saturday, Matt Nieto and James Sheppard both played while Mike Brown sat, though all signs at the end of practice pointed to James Sheppard sitting. So much for signs.

On a side note, it is good to see the fourth line regulars getting substantial time and responsibility on the penalty kill. That has always seemed like a logical choice, since they would otherwise have energy to burn. McLellan had Andrew Desjardins on the penalty kill last season as well, and now John McCarthy is taking regular shifts shorthanded.

Not Quite Right: Sharks Fall to Kings in OT

sanjosesharksvlosangeleskingsnyfai_dvd93l

By Mary Walsh

LOS ANGELES-

We don’t like the way things ended last year, and we want to try and set things right tonight. -Patrick Marleau, to CSNCA during warmups

It looked like the Sharks were ready to do just that when Logan Couture found Marc-Edouard Vlasic pinching in deep, after getting a quick look at the play. Vlasic’s goal gave the Sharks a lead just 13 seconds into the game. The Sharks looked poised to play a slippery, unpredictable game. In the end, the Kings won in an entirely predictable fashion for them: by taking away the Sharks’ time and space with relentless physical play. After trailing by a goal three times, the Kings won 4-3 in overtime.

At 2:32 of the period, a miscalculation by Matt Irwin in the Sharks’ zone ended with a failed breakout. Justin Williams took advantage and sent the puck back up to Drew Doughty, who tied the game with a snap shot.

The game was Martin Havlat’s first back with the team after a lengthy recovery from off-season surgery. He started on a line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels. That line produced the Sharks’ second goal. As the Kings were exiting their zone, Pavelski and Wingels converged between Kings, stole the puck, and a quick back and forth between them ended with a patient shot from Pavelski to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Wingels and Havlat had a 2 on 1 chance on their next shift. The line looked very much in sync.

The Sharks started the second period with several good chances from the Pavelski and Desjardins lines, but on the Kings’ first good shift of the period, the Kings took the puck from Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart with a hard hit. The home team took over and Jarret Stoll scored off a deflected shot from Slava Voynov.

Antti Niemi added a little surprise move when he came out above the faceoff circle to prevent a dangerous breakaway by the Kings’ Stoll. Near the Kings’ blue line, James Sheppard tried a pass to the slot, but Stoll blocked it and went other way. He had a step on everyone. Niemi’s pass moved the puck to safety, though it bounced meekly back into the Kings’ zone. That pass was more successful than half the Sharks’ passes in the second. Good pressure from Los Angeles rushed the Sharks skaters and led to several giveaways.

Neither team allowed many good second chances, though the Sharks’ fourth line had a few in the middle period. A lot of physical play was the key, and Mike Brown certainly helped there when he got near the net.

A too many men penalty with just over six minutes left punctuated a lack of poise from the Sharks. That penalty kill seemed to help the Sharks briefly regain their focus.

The Sharks caught a break in the form of a goalie interference call against Kyle Clifford at 17:22 of the second period. After some rapid-fire puck movement from the Sharks’ power play, Logan Couture gave San Jose the lead.

The fourth line followed up with a very good shot from Desjardins that just trickled wide of the Kings’ net. Play went the other way, and the Kings answered with a great steal off Justin Braun by Dustin Brown just ahead of the goal line. The Sharks collapsed to the slot before he could get a shot off.

The Kings got their own goalie interference power play not long in to the third period. The Sharks had some close calls and had to make several very quick adjustments to protect their lead while Tommy Wingels was in the box for falling over Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

By the middle of the third, the Kings looked like the fresher team, though they had played the night before. The Sharks were scrambling and were called again for too many men on the ice. A beautiful play by Anze Kopitar was too much for San Jose’s penalty kill, and Justin Williams tied the game again.

Momentum shifted when Kings forward Dan Carcillo hit Logan Couture from behind and went to the penalty box for boarding. The ensuing power play for San Jose was fiercely defended by the Kings. There would be no extended passing plays now. The Sharks adjusted, coming up with some fast plays and faster shots, but still didn’t score.

The Sharks stretched out the last seven seconds of the period by icing the puck again and again. The clock ran out and the teams went to overtime.

Less than a minute into overtime, the Sharks went back on the penalty kill. The Kings had a relentless shift in the offensive zone, which ended when Justin Braun hooked LA’s Jeff Carter, possibly preventing a shot puck but taking the penalty. Neither team looked especially fresh during the four on three power play, but the Kings had plenty of room to work with. With 22 seconds left in the four on three power play, Anze Kopitar slapped the puck in from the blue line to give the Kings the win.

Talking about what he needed to do in his first game back, Havlat mentioned a couple of things that the whole team might have done to improve the outcome Wednesday night:

I just have to keep it simple, not try to do too much… I’m just trying to focus on the little things and not think too much. -Martin Havlat to CSNCA during first intermission

The Sharks next play on Saturday, back home at SAP Center in San Jose.