Sharks Beat Blackhawks 5-2, M. Karlsson Scores 2

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks beat the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Sunday night. Despite the absence of Erik Karlsson, the Sharks still got three goals from Swedish players in the third period. Melker Karlsson scored two and Marcus Sorensen scored one. Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier added two more for the Sharks. Martin Jones made 28 saves for the win. Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson scored for Chicago and Cam Ward made 29 saves in the loss.

Both Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane missed a second game in a row with injuries. After the game, Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer talked about winning without them in the lineup:

Take out two critical pieces like that out of somebody’s team and you’re in tough. But I thought our fourth line was excellent tonight, I thought Tim Heed’s been playing great hockey for us. That’s what good teams do on nights when guys are out or nights when a line is off a little bit, another line picks it up. I thought Tommy Hertl and his line were real good tonight so, you know, that’s part of winning hockey.

Tomas Hertl gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 12:16 of the first. He carried the puck into the zone, pestered somewhat by Duncan Keith, and when Cam Ward went down to block the shot, slipped the puck around him. Tim Heed got the assist.

Chicago tied it up in the final minute of the period with a goal from Dylan Strome. A few good offensive shifts from Chicago was followed by a neutral zone turnover by the Sharks. That gave the Blackhawks a two on one of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat. Strome looked like he would pass, but he shot and beat Jones on the blocker side. DeBrincat and Brent Seabrook got the assists.

At the end of the first, Chicago held the lead in shots 11-7. The Sharks had won 67% of the face-offs.

Early in the second, Timo Meier gave the Sharks the lead back. He started by sending the puck around the boards to Tim Heed before moving to the slot. Then, from above the hash marks, he tipped Heed’s shot, sending the puck just under the goalie’s glove. Tomas Hertl screened Ward so the goalie really had no chance to see the shot coming. Assists went to Heed and Joonas Donskoi.

Erik Gustafsson tied it back up at 6:40. After a little give and go up by the blue line with Jonathan Toews, Gustafsson moved to the middle of the ice and took a shot right up the middle, going through three skaters aligned in a perfect screen. The puck brushed the underside of Jones’s sleeve as it went in. Assists went to Toews and Keith.

The Sharks outshot the Blackhawks 14-12 in the second period, but their face-off win percentage dropped to 53%.

4:27 into the third, the Sharks took the lead back with a great shot from Marcus Sorensen skating to the net. Joe Thornton and Joonas Donskoi had spent a spell around the net and boards. Thornton and Donskoi got the assists.

During a delayed penalty against Chicago, Melker Karlsson extended the lead to 4-2. It was a well-deserved goal for a fourth line that had been close to scoring several times in the game. Karlsson tipped a Brent Burns shot tipped from the hash marks. The time of the goal was 8:16, with assists going to Burns and Micheal Haley.

Karlsson scored again at 17:38. The Chicago net was empty when Karlsson picked Goodrow’s clearing shot out of the air. He broke away and took his shot from the Chicago blue line. Assists went to Goodrow and Haley.

The Sharks killed three of three penalties, one per period and had one power play during which they did not score. They allowed eight shots on the three penalty kills and got one on the power play. The final shot count was 34-30 Sharks and they won 51% of the face-offs.

The win puts the Sharks just three points behind the Pacific Division and Western Conference leaders, the Calgary Flames.

The Sharks next play on Thursday against the visiting Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 PM PT.

Sharks Beat Blackhawks 7-3 in Chicago

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 Sunday in a much-needed road win at the United Center. After a shaky first few minutes, the Sharks took over with goals from Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen, Evander Kane, Barclay Goodrow, Kevin Labanc, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. In all, 13 Sharks earned points in the game, six of them earning more than one. For Chicago, goals came from Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini.

Both teams used both of their goalies, with San Jose’s Martin Jones being replaced after giving up three goals on four shots in the first period, and Chicago’s Corey Crawford leaving the game after an injury in the first period. Sharks’ Aaron Dell did not give up a goal on 16 shots, while Blackhawks’ Cam Ward made 30 saves on 35 shots. San Jose’s special teams were perfect with four penalty kills and two goals on two power plays.

After the game, Sharks forward Logan Couture commented on how the team has improved lately:

We’re playing the right way now. There’s less cheating, less chances being taken in bad areas of the ice. Defensively I think we’ve played some very strong hockey, and when we do that, it may be hard to realize but it always leads to offense. You’re always going to score more goals when you’re defending well. It’s just the way this game works, you don’t think it when you’re on the ice, but that’s the way it works.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer talked about his fourth line of Melker Karlsson, Barclay Goodrow and Lukas Radil after the game: “Melker consistently gives me the same game. You know, his production maybe isn’t there all the time but I think you know what you’re getting from him every time he puts his uniform on and he’s going to do whatever he can to help you win a game. You know, that fourth line has some chemistry and they’re making a difference in games. That’s the first time we’ve had that in a while so it feels good.”

The Blackhawks scored first and last in a goal-laden first period. In the first four minutes, Chicago scored twice. First, Alex DeBrincat got his 14th of the season at 2:34. The Sharks were on a change as Erik Gustafsson carried the puck into the neutral zone. He made a pass to the Sharks blue line where DeBrincat waited and DeBrincat took the shot from just over that blue line. The puck trickled through Martin Jones. Less than one  minute later, Dylan Strome defelcted a shot from Connor Murphy that came from above the faceoff circle. Assists went to Murphy and Patrick Kane.

The Sharks got one back, courtesy of Melker Karlsson at 9:58. Lukas Radil and Barclay Goodrow caused a turnover in the neutral zone, allowing Brent Burns to take the puck and send it away from the Sharks zone to Radil near the Chicago blue line. Radil made a quick cross-ice pass to Karlsson. Karlsson took the shot from inside the faceoff circle and beat Corey Crawford over the pad. It was Karlsson’s third of the season, with assists to Radil and Burns.

The Sharks tied it up with their next shot less than a minute later. Joe Thornton stole the puck in the neutral zone and gave it back to Justin Braun. Braun moved the puck quickly to Kevin Labanc, who sent it cross-ice to Thornton. Thornton found Marcus Sorensen in front of the net. Sorensen used a backhand to sneak the puck under Crawford fr his sixth of the season. Assists went to Thornton and Labanc.

Chicago retook the lead at 12:54 of the period. Brendan Perlini scored off of an ugly play that started with a breakaway by Dylan Sikura. Sikura got tangled up with Justin Braun and fell on his way to the net, but he continued to drive the puck forward. Meanwhile, Perlini won a race against Marc-Edouard Vlasic and tapped the loose puck around Jones’ skate. Assists went to Sikura and Brent Seabrook.

The Sharks switched goalies at this point, putting Aaron Dell in net.

With 1:30 left in the period, Corey Crawford was bowled over by Dylan Strome after Strome tried to slip between Logan Couture and Evander Kane as they converged on the net. Kane was called for goaltender interference. Strome was called for slashing Couture. Crawford left the game and Cam Ward came in. A tripping penalty 44 seconds later on Timo Meier turned the 4-on-4 into a 4-on-3, which carried over into the second period, but none of the penalties altered the score.

The Sharks tied it back up 4:21 into the second period with a power play goal from Evander Kane. Chicago was short-handed for playing with a broken stick, attributed to David Kampf. Kevin Labanc took a stick to the eye early in the power play. It was not observed by officials but Labanc had to leave for repairs.

With under 30 seconds left in the power play, Brent Burns took a shot from above the faceoff circle. The shot came off of Ward’s pads and went right up the middle to where Kane was waiting to swat it back in. It was Kane’s 10th of the season, with assists to Burns and Erik Karlsson.

Barclay Goodrow gave the Sharks their first lead of the game at 7:36 of the period. After a great shift from the Sharks’ fourth line, Justin Braun took a shot from the blue line that went off of Goodrow who was screening Cam Ward. It was Goodrow’s fifth of the season, with assists to Braun and Melker Karlsson.

Logan Couture stretched the Sharks’ lead out to two with his 11th of the season at 16:16. After a nice keep-in by Joe Pavelski up on the blue line, Evander Kane kept the puck away from two Blackhawks below the goal line before getting the puck up to Brenden Dillon on the blue line. Dillon took the shot and Couture deflected it over Ward’s shoulder. Assists went to Dillon and Kane.

The Sharks scored a second power play goal at 13:03 of the third period, with Chicago’s Patrick Kane in the box for tripping. Tomas Hertl kept the puck in at the corner, then moved it along the blue line to Burns. Burns juggled it a bit, just keeping it on the right side of the line. Burns then moved down the slot, threatening a shot, before passing it to Kevin Labanc. Labanc caught the pass just above the hash marks and beat Ward high on the short side. It was Labanc’s fourth of the season, with assists to Burns and Hertl.

Tomas Hertl got on the board with the Sharks’ seventh of the game at 18:27. The Blackhawks were pushing hard in the last couple of minutes, but Timo Meier broke the puck out and took it down behind the Chicago net. Meier put the puck in front of the net, where it came out to Erik Karlsson for a shot. That one came back out for Meier to shoot, but he broke his stick. It went back below the goal line to Logan Couture, who found Hertl coming in for his shot. Couture got the only assist on that one.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday in Minnesota against the Wild at 5:00 PM PT.

Sharks Lose 5-4 to Hurricanes

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– Saturday, the San Jose Sharks fell to yet another non-playoff team. This time they lost 5-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes who came into San Jose 18 points out of a playoff spot. They left San Jose a little closer, but still out of the running. This after the Sharks defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 just last Thursday. The game winner was scored in the final two minutes of the third period, by Victor Rask. Carolina netminder Cam Ward made 23 saves on 27 shots for the win.

Why do the Sharks have so much trouble beating teams they should beat? Logan Couture tried to answer it, not for the first time:

We’re an inconsistent team. That comes with youth I think, although tonight our younger players played very well. We’re an inconsistent team this year. We’re going to need to fix that going forward.

As Couture said in a previous postgame interview, if they knew why they do that, they might stop doing it.

Tomas Hertl scored two of the Sharks’ four goals. His resurgence and a very good game from Chris Tierney might not have been expected by all but were no surprise to Couture and teammates:

They’re good players, you expect them to go out and score. So it’s really not a surprise when they go out and score. That’s what they’re expected to do as well. For us to be successful, we’re going to need everyone to go out and produce offense on different nights. So we weren’t surprised by seeing them score.

The Sharks lineup faced a few challenges Saturday night. Not only were they facing a non-playoff team (their Achilles heel this season) but they were also missing a season high of key players: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Tommy Wingels. Braun and Wingels are both on IR, while Vlasic was a last-minute scratch with what the team has called an upper body injury. Of all these, the low ranking of the Sharks’ opponent was probably the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Carolina came out swinging for the net and had three shots on goal in the first two minutes. In the third minute, the Hurricanes’ Ron Hainsey took a hooking penalty. The Sharks’ power play featured a few good chances for the Sharks, and a very good shift for Tomas Hertl. He looked more confident and assertive than he has looked in a while, both in front of the net and along the boards.

Most of the Sharks’ power play shots were blocked by Hurricanes, and after five minutes the shots were 6-2 Carolina. Niemi was facing a lot of good chances. Six and a half minutes in, Matt Tennyson went to the box for high-sticking. The Sharks killed the penalty off and during the second half of the first they gained some ground on the shot clock.

Just as the announcer was calling out “One minute left to play,” a wide shot from Jiri Tlusty came off the boards for Eric Staal to push in behind Niemi’s skate blade before the Sharks goaltender could close the gap. Assists went to Tlusty and Jordan Staal.

The Hurricanes finished the period ahead by one goal and five shots.

Where the first goal was a little fluky, the second goal of the game was not. It was the product of a very nice pass from Alex Semin to Andrej Nestrasil, and some inattention from the Sharks. Nestrasil skated between Hertl and Sheppard before he shot the puck over Niemi’s right shoulder. Assists went to Semin and Andrej Sekera. The 23 year old Czech was claimed by the Hurricanes on November 20 after the Detroit Red Wings waived him. It was his second goal of his NHL career.

The Sharks finally got on the board when Chris Tierney chased the puck around behind the net and sent it back out in front to Hertl. Hertl put the puck past Cam Ward without hesitation. Assists went to Tierney and Andrew Desjardins.

The Sharks went from that goal to killing a hooking penalty to Matt Nieto. The Carolina power play did not last long. Justin Faulk deked at the blue line to put Pavelksi out of position, then gave the puck to Elias Lindholm, who shot through a screen of Mirco Mueller and Jiri Tlusty to make it 3-1.

At 12:53, Tomas Hertl went to the box to serve a too many men on the ice penalty to the Sharks. The Sharks killed that off but seconds later were back on the penalty kill when Barclay Goodrow went to the box for roughing against

This time the Sharks showed more creativity with their penalty kill, challenging the Hurricanes and keeping them from getting set up as they had several times before.

The first really good attack from the Sharks came from the line of Tierney, Hertl and Sheppard in the last minute of the period. They mustered several shots and maintained possession in the offensive zone for a good long shift.

The Sharks came out for the third with some grit. It took them a couple of minutes but after a couple of shots and a lot of tenacity, the Tierney-Hertl combination paid off again. This time it came by way of a Scott Hannan shot from the blue line, caught and shot in by Hertl. Assists went to Hannan and Tierney, bringing the Sharks back within one goal.

The tying goal came from a quick spin shot by Logan Couture off a pass from Matt Tennyson, just 82 seconds after Hertl’s second goal.

Melker Karlsson was hit by a puck and went to the dressing room. He was back before the period ended but was gone long enough to give fans a scare.

Carolina’s fourth goal went in off of Brenden Dillon’s skate. Niemi stopped the initial shot, but the rebound hit Dillon. The goal was given to Justin Faulk.

The Sharks pulled Niemi with just under two minutes left. It took the Hurricanes two tries but they managed to put the puck in the empty net.

The Sharks got one back in the final minute, with the goalie pulled. Patrick Marleau’s wrist shot fond its way through, with assists going to Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl. That made for an exciting last minute, but the game ended 5-4 Carolina.

Couture summed up the game fairly well, talking about that fourth Carolina goal:

It’s tough, I mean, I don’t know if we deserved to be in it at that point in the game, but we found a way to get back. It’s tough to get a bounce like that with four minutes left. You kind of get what you deserve though, it’s kind of the way this game works.

Scott Hannan led the Sharks in shots with five, and in shots blocked with four. According to the stat sheet, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau were the only Sharks with more than one hit, and they only had two each. Brent Burns led the team in ice time by a hefty margin, at 25:25. Antti Niemi made 25 saves on 29 shots faced.

Eric Staal led the Hurricanes in shots with five. Tim Gleason led the team in hits with five. Justin Faulk led in blocked shots (3) and ice time (23:06). Cam Ward made 23 saves on 27 shots faced.

The Sharks next play at home against the Calgary Flames, on Monday at 7:30 PT.

Sharks Need a Quick Reset

By Mary Walsh

The Sharks lost two games in a row. How tedious of them. The Pittsburgh Penguins are having a fine season, so losing to them isn’t something to be completely ashamed of. The Carolina Hurricanes, however, should not have defeated the Sharks 5-3, even if the Sharks’ backup goaltender was in net, even if the Sharks were on the second half of back to back games with travel. The Hurricanes had matching travel issues, and San Jose didn’t give Cam Ward enough work for goaltending to be the difference.

Yes, the Sharks should be thoroughly disappointed with themselves for losing to Carolina, especially after being blown out the game before. How awful to respond to a bad loss by losing again, giving up an early two-goal lead, and being outshot 35-25. Three goals and 30 saves would normally be enough for a Sharks win this season.

Despite all that, it would be unreasonable for anyone to get too excited about that lost pair. The Sharks have a record to be proud of, 19-5-5 on the season and 7-3-0 in their last ten. Still, San Jose has a responsibility to make sure that little pair doesn’t grow up to be a great big panic-inducing streak of losses.

To that end, the Sharks made some roster moves. Matt Pelech, who didn’t play on the road trip, was sent to Worcester, while Matt Nieto and Freddie Hamilton have been called up. Mike Brown was placed on injured reserve, for injuries initially described as almost negligible.

Who will sit now? The switching of ¬†Joe Pavelski and Andrew Desjardins at the end of the last two games could indicate that the coaching staff will focus their adjustments on the bottom six. Pavelski always seems like an unlikely candidate for the press box. Tyler Kennedy’s minutes have been slipping. Will he sit? Was that line juggling a demotion of both Kennedy and Havlat to the fourth line? Will they both sit? Or will Hamilton, a center, be in for Desjardins? Will Nieto or Hamilton replace McCarthy, he of the two penalties in Pittsburgh? Would any of that be enough?

The problem in both losses was defense. Not defensemen per se, but this creeping habit the Sharks have of giving up goals in bunches. In Toronto and Pittsburgh, the leak seemed to be confined to the second period. San Jose patched that, only to see the Hurricanes tear open a four-goal breach in the third. It is hard to see exactly how those failures can be solved by changes to the third and fourth lines. There isn’t a lot you can do when you are not on the ice.

On his first stint with San Jose, Nieto played on the top line. If McLellan really wants to mix things up, the lines may look nothing like they did in these last three games, and the winning streak that preceded them. It sounds like overkill to throw all of the forward lines into flux over two measly losses, but waiting to see how bad it can get isn’t a good plan either.

The team’s best hope won’t be found in the defensive instincts of two call-ups. Even if they are perfect, they can’t compensate for a team-wide meltdown. A change to the lineup might focus the team, make them more cautious and attentive to communication and execution. The refreshed, reset Sharks’ mantra has been speed. That is all well and good, but if you are heading into a wall, you don’t want to get there faster. It might be time for the Sharks to slow down, at least mentally.