Sharks Lose 4-3 to Red Hot Sabres

photo from Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, right, reaches for the puck next to San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture during the third period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The Buffalo Sabres continued their hot start to the season with a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks Saturday. The win brings the Sabres record to 7-1-1. Buffalo goals came from Marcus Johansson, Casey Mittelstadt, Jeff Skinner and Zemgus Girgensons. Linus Ullmark made 29 saves in the win. Sharks goals came from Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl and Marcus Sorensen. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 31 saves in the loss.

After the game, Sharks forward Timo Meier said:

I think it was a good team game. We took some penalties that we probably shouldn’t have taken. It kind of took the rhythm out of our game, to kill off some penalties, and you know at the end, some energy that might miss. But overall, I think we played a pretty solid game. Like I said, too bad we didn’t come up on top but overall some stuff we can take out of this game.

Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer also thought the team played pretty well:

I liked their resiliency, I thought we battled all night. I thought our game was pretty good tonight. When I look at the seven or eight games we’ve played, that’s probably one of the better sixty minute efforts we got. Penalty kill did a good job, we got a power play goal. I thought we passed up some opportunities to shoot, you know, got a little cute around the net a few times. That might have been the difference.

The Sabres scored first at 12:10 of the first period. Henri Jokiharju carried the puck into the zone and made a drop pass to Marcus Johansson in the slot. Johansson took a shot just as Jokiharju passed in front of him. The puck went off of Jones and trickled across the line Assists went to Jokiharju and Marco Scandella.

The Sharks tied it on a power play at 16:00. With Marleau screening the goaltender, Timo Meier took a pass from Joe Thornton below the goal line. Meier’s quick shot went into the top corner for his second of the season. Assists went to Thornton and Erik Karlsson.

The Sabres took the lead back near the end of the second period when Casey Mittelstadt scored on a shot that was initially called a goal, then disallowed by the on-ice officials as being scored with a high stick. An official review reversed that reversal and called it a good goal. Assists went to Jokiharju and Jimmy Vesey.

The Sharks tied the game again 44 seconds into the third period on another power play. Erik Karlsson took a shot that went off of Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen. Tomas Hertl had taken a shot that rebounded out to Karlsson. Hertl and Evander Kane we both nearby when the puck went in but it did appear that Karlsson was the last Shark to touch it. Nevertheless, the goal went to Hertl with assists to Karlsson and Logan Couture.

Buffalo took their third lead of the game at 2:28 of the third with a goal from Jeff Skinner. Marcus Johansson tried to take a shot as he skated to the net but he didn’t get all of it and instead the puck slid slowly toward Martin Jones. Jones kicked it away but had come out too far to properly recover when puck went to his right. Skinner skated in behind him and was able to backhand the puck into the net for his fifth of the season. Assists went to Jake McCabe and Johansson.

The Sharks tied it again just 22 seconds later when Brent Burns’ blue line shot went off of Marcus Sorensen’s skate. The puck bounced over Ullmark’s leg and under his blocker.

Zemgus Girgensons scored the game winner at 12:15 of the period. Johan Larsson took a shot from above the face off circle. Martin Jones was set to stop it but it hit Kyle Okposo in the back instead of getting through to Jones. That created a rebound that Girgensons was able to pick up and shoot back in before Jones could find the puck. Assists went to Okposo and Larsson.

The Sharks will play the Sabres again in Buffalo on Tuesday at 3:30 PM PT.

NHL podcast with Matt Harrington: Kings snap 10 game skid; Lightning tie NHL record for 50 wins; Oilers Koskinen stops 30 shots for shutout; plus more

photo from Kings beat Blackhawks 6-3 to halt 10-game losing streak on Saturday night at Staple Center against the Chicago Blackhawks

On the NHL podcast with Matt:

#1 The Los Angeles Kings finally snapped out of it and won a game after losing ten games straight the Kings Andre Kempe scored a goal and an assist as the Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3. Kings head coach Willie Desjardins said it’s been a long time and it feels good just to win.

#2 The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov led the Bolts with a goal and an assist as they won their 50th game in 66 games defeating the Ottawa Senators 5-1. With the win the Lightning tie the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the fastest team to win 50 games in a season.

#3 The Edmonton Oilers Mikko Koskinen stopped all 30 Columbus Blue Jacket shots and the Oilers Leon Draisaitl got a goal and two assists for the 4-0 win.

#4 Brad Marchand got the Boston Bruins only goal and B’s goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped all 20 New Jersey shots in the Bruins 1-0 shutout of the Devils.

#5 The Toronto Maple Leafs had an offensive extravaganza from John Taveres and Mitch Marner who scored a goal each and had two assists in the Leafs 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabers. It was Toronto’s fourth win in five games.

Matt does the NHL podcasts each Saturday at

Sharks’ hopes cut short as Sabres win 10th in a row 3-2 in OT

Photo credit: AP

By Pearl Allison Lo

Red-hot Jeff Skinner kept Buffalo’s perfect streak alive in regulation when scoring first with the final say in their third 3-2 victory in a row, defeating the San Jose Sharks at First Niagara Center on Tuesday.

Goalie Martin Jones went out to poke the puck away from Rasmus Dahlin and Skinner pounced on the puck afterward. Jones swung his arm to the right and Skinner scored short side before Jones could move back all the way. Skinner’s goal came at 1:41. In his last 10 games, he has scored 10 goals and one assist, pointless in only one of those games.

The Sabres’ 10th straight win matched a franchise record as they remained on top of the NHL.

San Jose fell to 3-5 in overtime, while Buffalo moved to 7-2.

Meanwhile, the Sharks worked hard to secure a point after they were down 2-0 in the third.

San Jose outshot Buffalo 13-7 in the first and 17-11 in the third. The Sabres had all three shots in overtime.

The goal scorers in regulation were Sabres’ defensemen and Joe Pavelski.

After a scoreless first period, Rasmus Ristolainen struck at 14:42 of the second. Casey Nelson and Sam Reinhart strung the puck together smoothly to get it to Ristolainen, who moved the puck between his legs from right to left versus Brent Burns and buried the puck after moving across Jones. Ristolainen finished with a swaggy cowboy riding a horse celebration.

The Sharks kicked off the third (1:35) with a power play, during which they made three shots. Almost 40 seconds after it ended though, things went the other way as Nathan Beaulieu found himself free and fired a perfect pass from Reinhart top center.

San Jose, not to be counted out, got things going in the second half.

With a 4-versus-4 formation on ice, Pavelski won the faceoff, with the puck going to Timo Meier and then Burns. Burns this time passed between Vladimir Sobotka’s legs to find Pavelski, who rocketed the puck in at 11:20.

Pavelski’s second goal came after a minute on the power play. Kevin Labanc made a shot, and Pavelski followed the puck movement after Logan Couture recovered the puck from the boards. The Sharks’ captain then fished the puck behind the net and made a swift wraparound before goalie Carter Hutton was aware at 16:42. Pavelski led all players with seven shots on goal.

San Jose’s Evander Kane had a chance to win the match before overtime, which he described as a “tough one not to finish.”

Regarding the contest, Burns said, we ”had our chances. They ended up with one more.”

Up Next: During the game, a two minute high sticking penalty to the Sharks’ Brenden Dillon got taken back. San Jose’s five-game road trip rubber match arrives quickly in the form of the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday at 4:30 pm PT.

Couture Hat Trick, Revamped Power Play Key to 5-1 Sharks Win over Sabres

Photo credit: @EMISports

By Jerry Feitelberg

SAN JOSE–The San Jose Sharks power play clicked in a big way Thursday night, pushing team teal to a 5-1 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres. Logan Couture scored his third career hat trick, Joe Pavelski picked up a power play strike and Joonas Donskoi also lit the lamp a man up to give the home team a win in the debut of their new Stealth jerseys. Jake McCabe lit the lamp for Buffalo, the only shot out of 25 to beat Sharks netminder Martin Jones.

With early season power play woes leading to a bottom-five power play for the Sharks entering play Thursday, changes were made to the first power play unit. It’s safe to assume assistant coach Steve Spott, power play coach for San Jose, found the right mix.

Kyle Okposo drew a double-minor for high sticking just 1:45 into the game, giving the Sharks their first man advantage. With time expiring on the first minor, Joonas Donskoi potted his second goal of the season 3:35 into the game. Logan Couture fired back rapid fire, beating Buffalo keeper Carton Hutton for his second goal of the campaign just 27 seconds later for a 2-0 Sharks edge and two power play goals on two opportunities.

San Jose didn’t score in the second and Buffalo’s McCabe scooped up a rebound for his first goal of the year 1:35 into the period to cut the Sharks lead to 2-1. The Sharks dominated the third though, with Logan Couture scoring the lone even strength Sharks goal of the game 4:54 into the third for his second of the game.

Joe Pavelski scored San Jose’s third power play goal of the night over a whopping seven opportunities, moving San Jose to 19th in the league with a 17.8 percent success rate. Couture capped the hat trick off with an empty-net goal with 1:47 left in regulation.

Buffalo went 0-for-5 on the power play to cap a great special teams night for the Sharks. Evander Kane and Brent Burns each had a pair of assists. The Sharks welcome another team from the Empire State to the Shark Tank Saturday night. The Islanders come to town after shellacking the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.

NHL Podcast with Matt Harrington: Sharks get shutout in Sat matinee 2-0; Stars get scoring help in the third period to get by Ducks; CBJs win their third in a row; Flames on solid defense and goaltending help in 2-1 win

Photo credit: @DallasStars

On the NHL podcast with Matt Harrington:

1 The Dallas Stars got scoring help on power play goals from Devin Shore and Jamie Benn in the third period that got them by the Anaheim Ducks 2-1. The Stars improved their lead for a first place spot in the wild card with the win.

2 The Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. The Jackets are hot they’ve won three straight as the Jackets’ Seth Jones found the back of the net twice to help lift Columbus to a home ice win. Sergei Bobrovsky, who missed two games due to an illness, came in as the Jackets netminder and stopped 22 shots.

3 Sam Bennett and Mat Stajan scored all the goals the Calgary Flames needed in a win over the Ottawa Senators 2-1. The Flames goaltender David Rittich saved the day with 29 saves.

4 The Minnesota Wild’s Eric Staal made it to the top three stars with a go-ahead goal to help pace the Wild to a 5-2 win past the Vancouver Canucks. Staal is on a roll with 11 goals in his last nine games. He has 37 for the season.

5 Injuries on the NHL front: The Stars’ Martin Hanzal is scheduled for back surgery and is not going to return for the rest of the season his recovery is expected to be six months. Also, the Sabres’ Kyle Okposo suffered a concussion when he collided with the Sens’ Bobby Ryan and is listed out indefinitely the injury happened during Thursday’s game.

Matt Harrington does the NHL Podcast each week and is a San Jose Sharks beat writer for

Sharks End Road Trip With 3-2 Win Over Sabres

Photo credit: San Jose Sharks

by Mary Walsh

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The San Jose Sharks defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Saturday afternoon. The win extended their win streak to three against a team that was once nigh unbeatable for the Sharks, at least in Buffalo. Sharks goals came from Logan Couture, Joonas Donskoi, and Chris Tierney. Sabres goals came from and Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Pominville. Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell made 31 saves on 33 shots for the win, while Sabres goalie Robin Lehner made 28 saves on 31 shots.

The game concludes a five game road trip for the Sharks, during which they added three wins to their record. After the game, Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said: “Six points on the road trip is huge for us but we have to be ready coming home we got a lot of good teams like Tampa, Nashville and we have to win home. It’s like our building, our tank and we have to play better there.”

Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said, of the six points:

We’ll take six. You know, six, seven, eight, I mean you want as many points as possible but I like how we’re starting to play. I think the majority of our play is heading in the right direction and we’re giving ourselves a chance to win every night which is a big part of it.

The game marked a significant improvement in the Buffalo power play, ranked 27th in the NHL before Saturday. Though they only scored once in five chances, the Sabres showed signs of returning to last season’s top ranked power play. The Sabres’ power play goal ended the Sharks’ impressive streak of 16 consecutive penalties killed on the road trip. The Sharks had three chances on the power play but did not score, and at even strength each team had dangerous moments. Both goaltenders had their work cut out for them, but neither team was especially sloppy on defense.

In a near miss for the Sharks, a Buffalo goal was called off with 2:48 left in the first period for goaltender interference. Sam Reinhart caught Dell’s leg and then blocker while skating through the blue paint, turning Dell away from the play and making it harder for him to get back in position. After the game, DeBoer said of the decision to challenge that goal:

It was a great challenge by Dan Darrow and Johan Hedberg who handle that end for us. That helped us get a little momentum too early… When you look at it, I don’t have those feeds, those guys do. But it’s clear that’s what the rule is in place for, for exactly that situation. So I’m glad they got it right.

The first goal came at the tail end of a Buffalo power play, when Joonas Donskoi came out of the penalty box and catch a stray puck that Matt Tennyson failed to stop at the Sharks blue line. Donskoi broke away with a step on the Sabres defense and had room to pick a spot just wide of Lehner.

The second goal of the game came on the first Sabres power play of the second period. Joel Ward was in the box for hooking. Both teams were on their way into the zone after Timo Meier’s short handed chance. O’Reilly came in as the trailer and beat Dell from above the faceoff circle. Assists went to Kyle Okposo and San Reinhart.

The Sabres took the lead with a goal at 14:51 of the second. Evander Kane pushed the puck down low to Jack Eichel, who passed it back up to Pominville. Pominville got his shot around both Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun for his third goal of the year against the Sharks. Assists went to Eichel and Kane.

The Sharks tied the game back up with just 12 seconds left in the second period. Their power play had just expired. Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier had just come on the ice. Meier carried the puck behind the net under pressure from Rasmus Ristolainen. Melker Karlsson trailed the pair, pulled the puck off the boards and took a hard shot from just above the goal line. The puck went off of the goalie and Tierney was on the other side to knock it down and in the net. It was Tierney’s second goal of the season. Assists went to Meier and Karlsson.

Logan Couture’s game winner came 16:08 into the third period. He fought his way through a check from Jake McCabe to catch a pass from Tomas Hertl. McCabe followed after Couture and gave him a shove while he took the shot. No matter, the shot went in anyway. Assists went to Tomas Hertl and Justin Braun.

After the game, DeBoer gave his assessment:

Tough game, they’re a desperate team. We wanted to end this road trip right and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We shot ourselves a little I thought early in the game with the penalties but recovered and did enough to win, got a great performance from Deller. So it was a good win for us.

The Sharks next play on Monday in San Jose against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 PM PT. The game will be Patrick Marleau’s first visit to the Tank as a Maple Leaf.

Sharks Lose to Buffalo in Penalty Free Game

By Mary Walsh

AP Photo: Buffalo center Sam Reinhart (23) and Justin Bailey (56) celebrate the fourth goal of the year by Zach Bogosian (47)  scoring on San Jose in the third period on Friday

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks lost to the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 3-1 on Friday. The game was remarkable for being a loss the Sharks could ill afford as the regular season ticks away. The game was also noteworthy for being the first in Sharks history without a penalty called on either side. Head coach Pete DeBoer had some thoughts on how the teams got through the game without drawing or taking any penalties:

We’ve gone two games now without drawing a penalty. So I think that’s… we’ve got to figure out why. Obviously we’re not attacking enough holes, we’re not creating enough chances. That’s when you draw penalties. You have the puck, you get people in bad positions, you attack a hole and somebody has to haul you down. So we’re not doing enough of that.

It was an off night for Pacific Division teams. For the Sharks, a regulation loss was exactly what they did not need, and more disappointing: they lost the Buffalo Sabres. Down south, the Anaheim Ducks also underperformed somewhat, needing overtime to beat the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 2-1. Instead of creeping closer to second place in the division, the Sharks lost ground for a second game in a row.

The Sharks line adjustments featured Patrick Marleau moving to the wing again, with Logan Couture at center and Joonas Donskoi on the other wing. After the game, coach DeBoer was asked about the new lines. He said: “It was a tough night to judge lines. I thought they were really good defensively. I thought we worked at it. Again, we got one goal from a defenseman so it’s not a good night to ask me how the lines looked.”

The Sharks seemed to be off to a good start in the game. They scored the first goal just 1:28 in. Matt Nieto’s pass across the slot found Marc-Edouard Vlasic. After the game, Nieto confirmed that his pass was meant for Nick Spaling, who over skated it. Luckily, it was well-placed for Vlasic to collect as the fourth man in. He took the puck a little ways back to the slot and put it on net. It went by Buffalo goaltender Chad Johnson’s shoulder and in. It was Vlasic’s eighth goal of the season and Nieto’s eighth assist. That was into the first period.

The Sabres went to the room leading on the shot clock by one, but trailing on the scoreboard.

The Sabres tied the game well into the second period. The puck skipped by Brenden Dillon’s stick and was picked up by Brian Gionta. Martin Jones stopped Gionta’s shot but it slipped under him and sat near the goal line behind him long enough for Larsson to get to it. He had to dive for it and was tripped on the way, but Larsson did get his stick on the puck and push it in before Jones could get a glove on it. It was Larsson’s third goal of the season and Gionta’s 13th assist, at 13:38.

The teams were tied at the second intermission: 15-15 in shots and 1-1 in goals.

Dillon was not the only one having trouble catching long passes. The puck was bouncing pretty badly all night, and by the third period both teams were being more conservative with their passes and even their shots. Still, it was Zach Bogosian’s shot from the point that broke the tie. The puck went off of Tomas Hertl’s skate and seemed to hit Sam Reinhart too before going into the Sharks net. The goal was given to Bogosian with assists to Zemgus Girgensons and Reinhart.

The Sharks pulled their goaltender with just over two minutes left in the game. The additional skater did not help their passes connect or their shots improve. With 1:19 remaining, the puck bounced past Brent Burns at the Buffalo blue line and Evander Kane caught it bouncing through the neutral zone. He put it in the empty net. An assist wet to Zach Bogosian.

The Sharks now fly to Vancouver to play the Canucks on Sunday at 4:00 PT.

Sharks Break Buffalo Curse With 2-1 OT Win

By Mary Walsh

photo credit AP Sharks Joe Pavelski scores first period goal vs. Red Wings

The Sharks finally defeated the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo, breaking a ten year losing streak with an overtime win. Before Saturday, the Sharks had only won one game in Buffalo and that was in 2005. After the win, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said:

It’s a good feeling. It’s a big weight to carry around: ten years. I didn’t know it was that long until kinda dug into it here today, so I think the guys were happy to get that monkey off our back. It was a hard fought game, we pushed out early and they came back at us. Both goaltenders I thought were excellent. It was a good game.

Sharks captain Joe Pavelski picked up his 500th NHL point. It was just the second time that Sharks goaltender Martin Jones played in back-to-backs, and the second time he won both games. It was just the second time the Sharks went to overtime this season, and they won both games.

The game was remarkably even, though each team had moments of dominance. The shots were 32-31 Sharks, faceoffs were 31-29 Sabres. Each team had three power plays, and the Sharks scored on one. The teams were within one on giveaways and takeaways, and the Sharks blocked eleven shots to the Sabres’ eight. It was only fitting that such a close game go to overtime.

The Sharks drew a penalty in the first minute of play, when Tommy Wingels skated into the Buffalo zone and was slashed by Jake McCabe. As a result, the Sharks took the lead on a power play goal from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, at 1:48. Patrick Marleau screen Buffalo goaltender Chad Johnson. Assists went to Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. It was Pavelski’s 500th career point.

The Sharks took their first penalty at 8:26, for having too many men on the ice. Just 34 seconds into that, Marc-Edouard Vlasic made contact with Ryan O’Reilly’s upper body, and was called for tripping. Martin Jones, Paul Martin, Joel Ward and Brent Burns weathered some close calls during the five on three time. Pavelski, Dillon and Hertl went out for the second part of the kill, and finished it off.

With 1:36 left in the period, Joe Pavelski was called for tripping Jake McCabe. The Sharks had a steady penalty kill, leaving the Sabres with just 26 seconds left of power play to start the second period. at the end of the first, the Sharks held a 9-8 lead in shots as well as the 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.

The Sabres took their second penalty at 7:34 of the second period. Carlo Colaiacovo was called for tripping Joe Pavelski. San Jose’s second power play was much less effective than their first. The Sabres penalty killers not only kept the Sharks out of the zone, but backed them into the defensive own zone and took a shot or two.

In the final four minutes of the period, Mike Brown went to deliver a check on Tyler Ennis. Ennis seemed to lose his footing before being hit and fell backwards awkwardly into the boards. He appeared to be shaken up but he did not leave the game.

The Sabres dominated play in the final minutes of the period, but could not beat Martin Jones. Except for the one penalty, the second period was quite even. The shots were tied at nine each for a total of 18-17 Sharks.

Early in the third period, coach DeBoer started adjusting his lines, moving Matt Nieto into Goldobin’s spot and alternating others with the fourth line. Late in the second period, Goldobin lost track of the puck at an inopportune moment, allowing a dangerous scoring chance for Buffalo. That seemed like a forgivable offense but in general his play had not been as strong as prior games Saturday.

At 4:33, Buffalo defenseman Cody Franson left the game after sliding into the boards feet first.

While Goldobin’s second period miscues did not result in a goal against, the new second line was on the ice at 6:27 when Ryan O’Reilly won the puck away from Paul Martin near the Sharks blue line. O’Reilly had time to take a clean shot past Jones on the far side. Assists went to Rasmus Ristolainen and Josh Gorges.

At 14:35 of the third period, Tommy Wingels lined up Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons for an open ice hit, but Girgensons seemed to duck and Wingels sailed over him. Wingels may have caught Girgensons in the head with a knee as he fell over his target. Girgensons stayed down. Colaiacovo went after Wingels, and was called for the roughing. Girgensons went to the dressing room.

The Sharks power play started pretty well, and Brent Burns had a chance one on one with the goalie, but his shot caught the edge of the goalie’s pad and wound up hitting the post. The Sharks spent the rest of the power play in the offensive zone but could not score.

In the final 20 seconds of regulation, Jack Eichel took the puck and skated end to end around every Shark that tried to get in his way. Eichel did get a shot off but Jones stopped it. The Sharks that had been chasing Eichel almost ran over Jones as he tried to corral the puck. He did keep it out.

The teams headed to overtime three on three. DeBoer opted to start with Thornton, Pavelski and Burns. The Sabres started with Ristolainen, Gionta and O’Reilly. Hertl, Vlasic and Marleau went next for the Sharks, then Vlasic, Wingels and Karlsson. Cody Franson had to defend all three Sharks skating into the zone, and opted to fall over Wingels’s stick to prevent a shot or a pass.

With 2:10 left in overtime, Tomas Hertl had the puck along the boards. He fell but held on to the puck and managed to turn and skate into the slot to take a shot. The rebound started a flurry of shots from the Sharks. Vlasic took a slap shot from the blue line that created a rebound for Marleau to pick up near the net. He put the puck over Johnson for the game winner.

Patrick Marleau led the team in shots with five, Tommy Wingels led in hits with six. Martin Jones made 30 saves on 3 shots for the win.

The only change to the Sharks lineup was on defense, where Mirco Mueller got a look, in Matt Tennyson’s spot with Brenden Dillon. Mueller and forward Nikolay Goldobin, both rookies, skated very limited minutes in the game but neither were on the ice for goals against.

Zemgus Girgensons led the Sabres in shots with five, and Josh Gorges led the team in hits with four. Former Shark Jamie McGinn had three shots and three hits. Chad Johnson made 30 saves on 32 shots.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday in Boston against the Bruins at 4:00 PT.

Sharks Can’t Get By Sabres, Lose 2-1

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The Buffalo Sabres scored two quick goals in the third period to beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 Saturday afternoon. After the teams ground out two scoreless periods, Cody Hodgson took advantage of a defensive lapse to open the scoring at 3:43 of the third. Just over two minutes later, Nicolas Deslauriers extended the Sabres’ lead to 2. The lone Sharks goal was scored by Brent Burns less than 30 seconds after that.

Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves in the game, and 15 of those were in the third period. That reflects the sharp disparity in the Sharks’ play during the first two periods and the third. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said the team just took too long to wake up:

Just by looking at their record, 1 and 7, we shouldn’t have lost this game. But they’re a hard-working team, they play a good system. We were too late on waking up in the third.

Saying the Sharks needed to wake up did not entirely account for their defensively clean but otherwise tentative first two periods. Giving up the two goals let something loose for the team. Forward Tommy Wingels described it as a type of useful panic:

We played a more energized game in the third. When we kinda got behind you hit the panic button in a good way. But we’ve got to find a way to get those chances and that energy in our game earlier. It’s a work in process now but we can’t keep saying it’s things we’re going to work on. We’ve got to execute it now and see some changes.

Asked whether it stings more to lose to a team that has yet to win in regulation, Logan Couture said:

I think it stings that we’ve lost four in a row. I mean I could care less what the Buffalo Sabres are doing right now. San Jose Sharks have lost four straight games, two at home, and haven’t played well.

It can be difficult to identify important moments in games that are low in both penalties and goals. It could be little things like a puck passed into skates that snuffs out a nice zone entry, or a pass during a power play that ends up leaving the zone via an empty point. It appears that the team is just failing to communicate, again.

Couture mentioned two disappointing plays that he and Patrick Marleau failed to score on:

I didn’t know he was there until I heard the crowd actually. I was looking back. I heard the crowd so I looked up. He’s so fast it’s tough to get an angle to pass to him. It’s my fault on that one. But the other one, two on one, we’ve got to score on that one.

The team seemed constrained and there were definitely some knocks and pings in the engine.

The lines changed very little, if at all, through the game. James Sheppard started on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. Joe Pavelski started the game on a line with Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton. Chris Tierney was also back in the lineup, with Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto onhis line. Finally, John Scott, Adam Burish and Andrew Desjardins made up the fourth line.

Of the forward lines, the one that stood out was the third with Tierney, Wingels and Nieto. Of those three, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said:

Unfortunately they were on the ice for a goal but I thought Chris Tierney maybe had his best game for us. Tommy Wingels, Matt Nieto, certainly through the first two periods were our best line.

Through the first two periods, it looked like the team would make it through without giving up too many goals– their stated objective after the last couple of games.

As the first period wound to a close, the Sharks were being outshot 5-6 and the game remained scoreless. The Sharks were winning the faceoff battle 9-3, but there was little else to measure the game by. Neither team dominated in zone time, both were guilty of giving up the puck when they should not have. With 55 seconds left, Andrew Desjardins was called for interference and the Sabres went on a power play.

The Sharks killed off the rest of that penalty to end the period and to start the next one.  By the first tv timeout of the second, the shots were 8-7 Sabres. The Sharks’ game lacked excitement but they were still winning faceoffs and had not given up and goals yet.

The Sharks got their first power play when Rasmus Ristolainen went to the box for interference at 11:51 of the second. That power play featured some judgment lapses and communication failures but the Sharks did create some chances.

Possibly the most exciting chance of the period came when Chris Tierney managed to carry the puck behind the Buffalo net and try a wrap-around. It was close and very authoritative but it did not go in.

Buffalo got another late power play at the end of the second when Scott Hannan was called for tripping Chris Stewart. This time, the Sharks’ penalty kill looked much bolder. Two good short-handed chances punctuated the kill, until the Sabres lost their man advantage with a second left in the period. Tyler Ennis went to the box to set the Sharks up for an early power play in the third.

The second period ended with the shots 14-9 San Jose. The Sharks had won 17 faceoffs to the Sabres’ 10.

Wingels and Tierney started the third period with Vlasic and Braun, as the teams were still four on four. 24 seconds later, Wingels was called for holding the stick. That put the Sharks down a man and negated the power play they were anticipating. Burns, Pavelski and Hannan handled the four on three shift and made it back to four on four.

In the four on four play, Andrew Desjardins had the best chance on a breakaway. Sabres clogged the passing lanes but left him with a clear view of Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth stopped him. The penalties expired and the Sabres attacked at even strength.

Cody Hodgson scored his first goal. It looked as if the Sharks simply lost track of Hodgson and he found himself alone with an open net. Assists went to Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgenson.

The second goal was a little like the first. The puck squeezed through Stalock’s glove side and trickled into the blue paint. No one was there to stop Deslauriers from putting it across the line. Assists went to Cody McCormick and Sam Reinhart.

Finally, the Sharks bit back at 13:50. Brent Burns put it past Neuvirth, as unassisted as it gets. Burns avoided Marcus Foligno at the blue line, carried the puck through the slot to the far boards and took a shot that flew through traffic and past Neuvirth. Buffalo did not lie down after that but the Sharks finally looked like they were in the hunt.

By the time Todd McLellan used his timeout with 1:38 to go, the Sharks had taken as many shots in the period as they had in the previous two combined.

Tommy Wingels led the Sharks in shots with four. John Scott led the team in hits with seven in just 5:52 of ice time. Brent Burns led the team in ice time with 22:30. Alex Stalock made 12 saves on 14 shots.

Lineup notes: Jason Demers was out, Mirco Mueller was in. Tye McGinn and Eriah Hayes were out, John Scott and Chris Tierney were in. Matt Irwin was still in the lineup, paired with Scott Hannan, while Mueller was back with Burns.

The Sharks reassigned Eriah Hayes to the Worcester Sharks of the AHL on Friday. Hayes played four games with the Sharks since his recall on October 18.

From a Sharks press release on Friday:

Sharks Defenseman Brent Burns, often recognized by his untamed hair and mountain-man beard, today announced the  return of Burnzie’s Buzzcut for Charity. In an effort to raise funds to support Defending the Blue Line, the Katie Moore Foundation, and the San Francisco Zoo, Burns is going to allow his teammates to give him a buzz cut and shave his beard. From now until November 1st, the Sharks Foundation will be accepting donations at with the goal of raising $5,000 for each of these worthwhile charities.


NHL Free Agency Day 2: What Are The Sharks Doing?

By Mary Walsh

What are the Sharks doing? This is a question that came up over and over on Twitter today, from near and far. Today the team made three announcements. The first announcement was that the Sharks are holding auditions for women to join their co-ed ice crew, and they will wear short tops and tights. Men’s auditions tba. Second, the Sharks signed 31 year old left wing John Scott. Third, they traded a 2015 3rd round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for 23 year old left wing Tye McGinn.

The team’s activity at the draft and on the first day of free agency seemed consistent with General Manager Doug Wilson’s promise that he was not going to make any big moves that would cost picks, prospects, or young players. He used his picks, trading them only for more picks.

He signed Taylor Fedun, a 26-year old free agent defenseman from the Oilers system on the first day of free agency. He signed him to a low-risk two-way, one year contract at a modest salary. Fedun spent last season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, scoring 38 points in 65 games.  Fedun has played 4 NHL games. He played four seasons with Princeton University, finishing with 68 points in 127 games, and receiving collegiate honors.

All seemed to be going as promised. On the second day of free agency, the gloves came off.

The ice crew is not exactly an addition, though broadcasting public tryouts for it is new. Additionally, while the ice cleaners of the past all wore simple pants and shirt, the female crew members will now wear a sort of midriff-baring modified jersey and tights, while the men will wear a style-coordinated version of what they have always worn: top and pants. The team is not calling these female crew members ice girls, but few teams do. While that news was sinking in, the Scott signing was announced.

The last GM to acquire Scott is now out of a job, after he put together a team that broke records with its awfulness. On a team that performed as badly as last season’s Sabres, Scott averaged 6:45 of ice time and managed to rack up 125 penalty minutes (25 minors, 5 majors, 4 misconducts) in 56 games. He had one goal, his first since 2009. Scoring is not what Doug Wilson expects Scott to do.

“John brings a physical, no-nonsense element to our lineup,” said Wilson. “As we integrate more younger players to our team, John’s presence alone can act as a deterrent and help keep teams and opposing players honest.”

Wilson has brought other players to the team over the last two seasons, advertising their toughness, grit, energy, or combination of those. Raffi Torres, Adam Burish and Mike Brown all got introductions of that sort. Unlike those players, the 6’8″, 259 pound Scott has not demonstrated a lot of versatility in his game. He is unlikely to surprise the team with a multi-point game just back from injury, or a timely goal, or bursts of speed at just the right moment. It is hard to say how his fighting ability will help the team, since few players will engage him. In any case, he is now a Shark. It may be safe to say that this dwarfs recent roster moves in shock value.

Tye McGinn is an interesting acquisition. Younger brother of former Shark Jamie McGinn, Tye has spent his professional career with the Flyers organization. Early last season, while the Flyers were flatlining in the starting gate, while captain Claude Giroux couldn’t score a goal to save his life, McGinn was given a chance with the big club. He scored three goals in his first two games of the season, all in losing efforts to Vancouver and Detroit. Like his brother Jamie, he seems to have a knack for performing well when everyone else is reeling. After that, he went pointless for four games before being sent back to the AHL for most of the season. The Flyers’ rationale for this is unclear, in view of the players who were put in the lineup in his place. Zac Rinaldo, penalty-taker of some repute, was probably the most productive of them. What a struggling team does might not be a model anyone should follow.

Of McGinn, the Sharks’ news release said:

“Tye is a hardworking player who plays an honest game,” said Wilson. “We’re excited to add him to our group of young forwards.”

McGinn could be a very good addition to the Sharks, if they can instill the confidence and structure he needs. He has speed and grit and has shown flashes of skill. Despite playing only 18 games a season in the NHL, his shooting percentage went up significantly from season one to season two. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he had 33 shots and 3 goals. Last season, he took 19 shots and scored four goals. He also cut down on his penalty minutes by a large margin, going from 19 to 4. The addition of John Scott makes me wonder if the Sharks care about minimizing penalties, but fans might. McGinn is a bit of a dark horse, but he is still young enough to grow into a bright spot.

These moves still do not answer the question “what are the Sharks doing?” They do, however, open up a host of possibilities. The team appears to be determined to change its image, every which way it can. Who knows, they may move after all, to Seattle or parts unknown. Maybe it’s time for the NHL to go south of the border.