Sharks Finish Road Trip With Shootout Loss to Penguins

By Mary Walsh

For the second time this season, the Sharks and the Penguins went to a shootout to resolve a tied score. This time, the Penguins prevailed, jumping over the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Sharks earned a single point but despite having a four on three power play for most of overtime, they could not grab the extra point that they urgently needed to keep fighting for a playoff spot. On the bright side, Al Stalock was featured in the NBC save of the game. Stalock was starting the second of back to back games, after playing Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.

The shootout winner was scored by Pittsburgh’s David Perron. Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz also scored for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves on 32 shots for the win. Ben Smith and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks and Al Stalock made 31 saves on 33 shots for the Sharks.

The Sharks were without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, so Taylor Fedun was called up to fill the empty spot on the blue line. The Penguinswere also missing some key players. They only had five defensemen after Kris Letang sustained a concussion on Saturday.

The Sharks held their own for the first minutes of the game, but gave up two goals in a 56 second span mindway through the first period. At 7:08 of the first, Patric Hornqvist opened the scoring off his own rebound. After some tenacious play behind the net, Daniel Winnick got the puck ahead of the goal line. Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby were hovering around in front of the blue paint to make something happen. They did. Assists went to Winnick and Ian Cole.

33 seconds later, Taylor Fedun took Evgeni Malkin down with a hook. It was difficult to see why Malkin fell, but the hook was called and the Sharks went on the penalty kill. The eighth ranked Pittsburgh power play did not take long to score. In less than 30 seconds, the Penguins had the Sharks moved out of position and heavy on the right side. This gave Crosby plenty of time to draw Stalock to the left and then pass to Kunitz on Stalock’s right. Crosby’s pass went under Brenden Dillon’s stick as the Sharks defenseman attempted to help his goalie out. The goal was scored by Kunitz with assists to Crosby and Derrick Pouliot.

The Sharks stopped the bleeding for the rest of the first, and ended up outshooting the Penguins 12-9. Melker Karlsson was hit in the hand by a shot from Brent Burns late in the period but he was back on the ice for the second period.

The Sharks cut the lead in half when Barclay Goodrow controlled the puck on the half boards long enough to pass it to Justin Braun at the point. Braun took a quick shot that Ben Smith deflected past Marc-Andre Fleury’s shoulder and in. Assists went to Braun and Goodrow.

The Sharks had their first power play opportunity at 11:06 of the second when Maxim Lapierre was called for hooking. The Sharks did not get a shot on goal during the power play. They had another chance at 14:53 of the same period when Ben Lovejoy was called for cross-checking Chris Tierney. This time, Logan Couture made the most of the situation and scored at 15:38. After one failed zone entry, the Sharks regrouped quickly and Brent Burns’ neutral zone pass caught Patrick Marleau, who was able to hand it off cleanly to Couture who was moving to the net. Assists went to Marleau and Brent Burns.

At the end of the second, the Penguins had edged ahead of the Sharks on the shot clock 20-19.

The Sharks had another power play early in the third period when Crosby tripped Brent Burns in the Sharks’ zone. Brent Burns created one good chance carrying the puck into the zone and getting it in front of the net, but the Penguins’ penalty killers did not give the Sharks any room to work. The score remained tied.

The Sharks took the next penalty, a high-sticking call against Tommy Wingels at 12:51 of the third. San Jose’s penalty killers were more effective this time, clearing the puck more than once and, obviously, not allowing another goal against.

A penalty against Pittsburgh followed right on the heels of their power play, when Nick Spaling went to the box for holding. The Sharks could not take the lead with the power play and the next best scoring chance went to the Penguins’ David Perron but the buzzer sounded.

A play by Justin Braun almost ended the game early in OT but Marleau could not get his stick on it before the Penguins cleared it away from the crease and out. The Sharks came back in quickly. In a battle along the boards to keep the puck in, Hornqvist caught Brent Burns in the mouth with his stick. He did look remorseful, as he had been trying to lift Burns’ stick and not cut him in the face. In any case, Hornqvist went to the box for a four minute power play.

The Sharks started the four on three power play with a Thornton shot off the post. Pavelksi shot next, then Couture opted not to shoot. That was probably the tidiest part of the extended power play. The Penguins seemed to find their rythm and pushed the puck out a few times. One interesting hiccup came when the puck looked like it was going out but Burns kept it in with his body. Unsure whether it had been kept in, several players loitered near it as if expecting a whistle.

Sharks coach Toddd McLellan used his timeout to rest his players after the next stoppage, instead of changing his four man power play unit. The strategy did not pay off and the Penguins killed the penalty. Their fans gave them a standing ovation for their efforts. The final shot count after overtime was 33-32 Penguins.

David Perron went first in the shootout. After a careful hesitation, he beat Stalock with a backhand to give Pittsburgh the lead. Melker Karlsson shot next but lost the puck after faking a shot.

Sidney Crosby shot second for the Penguins and scored. Logan Couture shot second for the Sharks but hit the post.

Final score: 3-2 Penguins.

Logan Couture led the Sharks in shots with seven. Brent Burns led the Sharks in hits with three and ice time with 26:08. Brenden Dillon led the team with three blocked shots. The Sharks had a slight edge in the faceoff circle, winning 36 to the Penguins’ 33. Tommy Wingels had the best faceoff win percentage on the team with 60%, but he only took five faceoffs. Joe Pavelski won 9 of 16 for a win percentage of 56%. Pittsburgh’s Maxim Lapierre beat pretty much everyone most of the time, winning 93% of 14 faceoffs, against a variety of opponents.

The Sharks return home to play at 7:30 PT on Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Sharks’ Win Streak Ends With 5-1 Loss to Pens

By Mary Walsh

PITTSBURGH- The San Jose Sharks were overwhelmed Thursday, by a team they had handled very well in past meetings. The final score was 5-1 Penguins. The Sharks had their work cut out for them in Pittsburgh, as Sidney Crosby has still never scored against the Sharks, so that was and is probably on his to do list. The job got much bigger when the Sharks went down 4-0 with just over half of the game remaining. That hole was too deep for San Jose to climb out of.

Thursday morning, Pierre LeBrun offered the Sharks at Penguins game as a good alternative to the All Star Game. In the first period, the comparison was grossly inaccurate, as both teams played stifling defense. Play opened up in the second period, with one team racking up the shots, and the other piling up goals. The Sharks got credit for 24 shots in that fateful period, while the Penguins scored four goals.

Before the game, Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma said, of his team’s third line:

…it’s not a typical physical it’s not a shut down line, they do it with speed. All those guys have some tenacity to their game too, it’s not just speed, you can’t knock them off the puck that easily. Chris Connor, we said it when we called him up “he’s going to knock someone down every game” and against Toronto his first game, right before his goal he reversed shoulders and knocks a guy down in the offensive zone but the speed at which they play as a unit is a factor… and they’re tough to handle and they’ve been able to do that with some consistency for our group in all the games they’ve played.

That formula turned out to work well against the Sharks, not only for the line Bylsma was describing.The Sharks had a lot of shots, but they didn’t have much time to set those shots up.

Much was made of how the Penguins and the Sharks were not especially familiar with each other, but they each had players who had faced the other team more than once. The above-mentioned Chris Conner had faced the Sharks as recently as late last season, while playing for the Phoenix Coyotes. Some of the Penguins, though, had not played the Sharks before. Penguins defenseman Simon Despres, recently recalled from the AHL, looked forward to the challenge:

I know nothing about San Jose, it’s my first time playing a West[ern] team personally, so I’m excited to play them … They’re a top team in the league, it’s going to be a good challenge for the team.

Familiar with San Jose or not, the Penguins were prepared for the game.

Sharks’ Head Coach Todd McLellan didn’t make too much of the absence of Evgeni Malkin from the Penguins lineup. Before the game he pointed out that the Penguins have a lot of recent experience playing without their top scorers, and playing well.

The Sharks took two penalties in the game, and both went to John McCarthy. On the second of those, the Penguins scored their fourth goal of the game. McCarthy’s penalty minutes were not the only thing going wrong for the Sharks. There were few mistake-free players for San Jose, and the team’s overall composure was badly rattled by the early second period onslaught from Pittsburgh.

In the first period, both teams kept their opponents to the outside and most of the shots taken were hurried. One good chance came for the Penguins when Andrew Desjardins and Scott Hannan both failed to get control of the puck in the slot, Chris Conner sped in and got a shot off. Niemi stopped it. Neither team had many great chances in the first period, even on the power play.  The period ended with shots 12-7 Pittsburgh.

The second period started inauspiciously for the Sharks, with the home team scoring less than 30 seconds in. Pascal Dupuis scored the first of the game on a tip from Brooks Orpik’s shot from the point. The Sharks responded  with a good shift from the Pavelski line, but that was followed by a three-on-one rush when Despres pushed the puck past Jason Demers. Jayson Megna and Joe Vitale went the other way. Megna took the shot, scoring his third of the season.

With the score 2-0, Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen was called for interference on McCarthy. The Penguins stopped the Sharks from scoring on the power play, and came back with offensive pressure that exposed the Sharks yet again.  After a turnover in the Sharks’ zone, Niemi stopped a Sidney Crosby shot but Chris Kunitz picked up the rebound and made it 3-0.

San Jose’s fourth line looked like they might shift the momentum as they got in the zone and had the Penguins scrambling, until McCarthy was called for tripping Olli Maatta in front of the net. It took the Penguins 14 seconds to score on that power play. The goal went to Kunitz, from James Neal and Sidney Crosby. 4-0 Penguins.

The Sharks finally got on the board at 9:27 of the period, with a goal from Tomas Hertl, possibly off of Pittsburgh’s Derek Engellund’s stick. Shortly thereafter, Andrew Desjardins drew a penalty, giving the Sharks a power play that seemed to let them regroup. They had eight shots before the penalty expired but failed to score.

By the end of the period, Todd McLellan had replaced Joe Pavelski with Andrew Desjardins at center with Tyler Kennedy and Martin Havlat. Pavelski was moved to center John McCarthy and James Sheppard.

The second period ended with the score 4-1 Pittsburgh, and the shots 31-27 San Jose.

McLellan changed goaltenders for the third period, putting Alex Stalock in to replace Antti Niemi. The forward lines remained as they had finished the second, with Pavelski centering McCarthy and Sheppard.

The Penguins started the period in the Sharks’ zone. Four minutes later they extended their lead to 5-1, a goal from Kris Letang. It was the Penguins’ first shot of the period. They only got credit for two more, to the Sharks’ 14. The final count was 45-30.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves on 34 shots for the win. For the Sharks, Antti Niemi made 21 saves on 24 shots in the first two periods, Alex Stalock made two saves on three shots in the third. The Sharks’ power play went 0-3, their penalty kill 1-2.

It was Dan Boyle’s 900th NHL game, Tyler Kennedy’s 400th, and Sidney Crosby’s 500th.