Sharks Lose 5-1 in Final Home Game of Season

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– In their last home game of the season, the San Jose Sharks fell to the Dallas Stars 5-1. Before the game finished, both the Sharks and Stars were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Minnesota Wild, putting the Jets out of reach for Dallas or San Jose. The Los Angeles Kings obliged the Sharks by losing in overtime to Vancouver. That makes it just possible that the Sharks could have the opportunity to play spoilers to the Kings’ last minute scramble into the 2015 playoffs. Probably that is not much motivation for the Sharks today. It is not clear what would motivate the Sharks at this point.

Joe Thornton scored the Sharks’ only goal on Monday. Jamie Benn scored the game winner for Dallas. Jason Demers was roundly applauded by the Sharks fans when he was featured on the jumbotron. The Sharks gave away a lot of signed jerseys and gifts for fan appreciation night. It is possible that those last two facts are more significant than the first two.

It did not matter, as far as playoffs go, who won Monday. Still, one team was more eager to win than the other.

28 seconds into the game, Jason Demers took a shot from the blue line. Al Stalock stopped it but kicked it out to Colton Sceviour, who was waiting, unmolested, between the blue paint and the faceoff circle. Sceviour scored, assists went to Demers and Vernon Fiddler. A few seconds later, Mike Brown and Antoine Roussel fought. They both went to the box and the score was still 1-0 Stars.

The Sharks took the first penalty of the game, a tripping penalty to Melker Karlsson. The Sharks killed the penalty off and by the midpoint of the period, they were near even on the shot clock.

At 9:51, Mike Brown was called for charging Trevor Daley, a call that did not go over well with the crowd or Brown. The hit was a beat late but Daley did just release the puck. The hostile encounter with Roussel just after the hit on Daley could have been called roughing, but the ref opted to go with the hit on Daley. The Sharks killed that penalty too.

The Sharks finally got a power play when Shawn Horcoff went to the box for holding the stick at 14:21. The power play generated some good chances but did not change the score.

The Sharks went back on the penalty kill with just 2:50 left in the period. Barclay Goodrow was in the box for elbowing Tyler Seguin. While everyone was mulling over that call, the Stars scored. They had some help from a couple of Sharks skaters who crowded their own goalie and did not help him out. Patrick Eaves had a clear shot at the net, though Logan Couture did try to impeded him from behind. Eaves got the goal, with assists going to Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza.

At the end of the first, the score was 2-0 Stars, with the Stars leading on the shot clock 11-9.

The Sharks made it to 6:12 of the second period without taking another penalty or giving up another goal. This time, Joe Pavelski went to the box for hooking. Al Stalock was not happy about the call, since he had just gotten a shoulder to the face from a falling Dallas Star. Perhaps the officials felt the hook caused the fall. In any case, back to the penalty kill went the Sharks.

With 46 seconds left in that penalty, Brent Burns joined Pavelski in the box for slashing. It was a fairly blatant slash, breaking Eaves’ stick.

Logan Couture, Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon and Al Stalock managed to kill 26 seconds of the five on three, but with 20 seconds left, Jamie Benn scored from the faceoff circle. Assists went to Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza.

At 11:29, Shawn Horcoff went to the box for interference. The Sharks power play looked stymied by the Stars’ penalty killers and spent too much time chasing rushes the other way. In the final two seconds of the power play, one of those short handed rushes trapped two Stars in the Sharks’ zone while Chris Tierney went the other way with the puck. He dropped it to Thornton at the Stars’ blue line and charged ahead one on two to add to a screen in front of Jhonas Enroth. Joe Thornton followed him in and shot through the three-man wall to put the Sharks on the board. The assist went to Tierney.

At the end of the second period, the Stars led 3-1 and 20-15 in shots.

Just over four minutes in to the third period, the Sharks showed some life on a delayed penalty, maintaining control of the puck in the Stars’ zone for over 20 seconds before the whistle blew and their power play officially began. They did not score on that power play.

Tommy Wingels went to the box for boarding at 9:15. The highlight of that penalty kill, possibly the second best Sharks play of the game, was a short-handed breakaway by Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney. They didn’t score but they looked very dangerous.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed. A shift from the Thornton line followed and they looked rejuvenated. That was not enough to change the course of the game, but it did help slow the Stars down.

The Sharks held the Stars scoreless for 15:08 of the period. With 4:52 left in the game, Patrick Eaves evaded Brenden Dillon along the boards in the Sharks zone. He was clear just long enough to get a pass to Jamie Benn, who was loitering below the faceoff circle. 4-1 Stars.

With the three-goal lead, Ryan Garbutt decided it would be a good idea to elbow Matt Irwin in the neck as the Sharks defenseman skated into the Dallas zone. The Sharks power play did not score.

Ryan Garbutt did score at 18:00, on a breakaway with a backhand.

The Stars took another penalty with 37.3 seconds left in regulation. Shawn Horcoff went to the box for the third time, this time for goaltender interference.

Final score 5-1 Dallas. Shots 25-24 Dallas.

Matt Irwin led the Sharks in shots with six. Mike Brown and Tommy Wingels led the team in hits with four each. Karl Stollery and Brenden Dillon led in blocked shots with four each. Al Stalock made 20 saves on 25 shots.

Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn led the Stars in shots with four each. Antoine Roussel led the Stars in hits with three. Jyrki Jokipakka led in blocked shots with four. Jhonas Enroth made 23 saves for the win.

The Sharks next play in Edmonton on Thursday at 6:30 PT.

Sharks Putting Pieces Together

By Mary Walsh

Training camp is well under way for the San Jose Sharks. Some players are getting a shot to make the team, others have a guaranteed spot but have to move on from an offseason that was too long. The way last season ended should not be forgotten, but Sharks players, coaches and staff have to forgive themselves and each other, and move forward. That will involve some mental acrobatics that will last well beyond training camp and into the season.

Justin Braun’s five year contract extension is an excellent step ahead. With Braun under contract through the 2019-20 season, the Sharks have secured yet another talented and still improving young defenseman. From the Sharks’ press release:

“Justin has emerged as one of our most well-rounded and dependable defensemen,” said Wilson. “He’s an excellent skater who excels in matching up against the opponents top players on a nightly basis and fits in well with our core group of younger players. We feel Justin has just scratched the surface of his talent and we are excited to have him under contract for the next six seasons.”

Last season, Braun was second on the team in average time on ice per game (20:59), tied-for-first in shorthanded ice time per game (2:11) and set career-highs for points (17), goals (4) and assists (13). He was one of four Sharks to play in all 82 games in 2014-15. In addition, he tied a franchise record with eight blocked shots on Nov. 29 vs. St. Louis.

Braun also added two points (one goal, one assist) in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.

It is clear that Braun has been doing the job the Sharks need him to do, logging a lot of minutes in pressure situations. There is little doubt that he can be expected to continue doing this for the team. In his first season with the team, he seemed a little more eager offensively. That is something he may build on now that he has garnered the “dependable” label usually reserved for more seasoned veterans.

What the press release does not brag about is how salary cap friendly the deal is for the Sharks. Starting in 2015, Braun’s cap hit is just $3.8 million, a modest number for a defenseman the team plans to depend on for so many years. Five years is a long time of course, the risk of injury always looms. But it is a risk the team was wise to take. Braun is a smart, cool-headed player. He is much more likely to improve than regress over the next few seasons.

Speaking of the salary cap, how unfamiliar is it for the Sharks to still be so far down CapGeek’s list (at 21 today)? They have $6,145,000 available, with 23 players signed and the stated intention of not shopping for help. It is an unfamiliar situation to not be in the top five list of teams that have no money to spend.

The hot topic at the start of camp was still who was not wearing a letter on their sweater. At this point, I am willing to examine the decision to remove the letters from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau less as an indictment of those two and more as a challenge to the rest of the team.

The idea that there are more than three or four leaders in the room is not a new one. It is something players have said over and over on many teams. But what does it really mean? If you take away the title of captain, everyone has to look a little harder at everyone in the room and ask themselves who they would like to hear from, who they should be listening to. So long as someone wears the letter, there must be some expectation that that guy will start the conversation if it needs to be started.

The decision to have a team meeting in Tahoe before camp came from Adam Burish and Jason Demers. Both are known for being engaging and media friendly, good ambassadors, but neither has worn a letter on the team. Perhaps this is a sign that different players, more players, are warming up to the idea of leading with or without a letter. Or maybe those two would have come up with that idea no matter what the state of designated leadership was. In any case, it is an example of what can occur when leadership roles are up for grabs.

In that sense, it may be regrettable that a team needs to put letters on anyone at all for games. To switch them around frequently could cause confusion during games. To put them on will quell the useful chaos that a lack of letters can produce.

While the captaincy question may produce some positive chemistry for the team, it is hard to ignore the way the decision was initially communicated- or not- to the players involved. That still makes it seem like a reprimand to Thornton and Marleau as well as the rest of the team. Of course if everyone is responsible, then that includes them.

Sharks Keep Demers and Doherty in the Fold

By Mary Walsh

Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks announced the resigning of defensemen Jason Demers and Taylor Doherty. The team gave Demers a two year contract and Doherty one year. The moves solidified the team’s current blue line and add some depth for the future. It might not be enough to improve their offseason PuckDaddy grade from an F, but it is a start.

Last season was a bounce-back season for Demers, who performed below expectations the two seasons prior. Those seasons were marred by injury but also found him often benched as a healthy scratch. His improvement this past season could be attributed to better health and the changes on the coaching staff that occurred before the last lockout season. All of the team’s young defensemen have shown improvement since Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson joined the team.

Demers’ career path could be considered a cautionary tale about why you do not want to rush players, especially defensemen, into the NHL. He started playing in San Jose when he was just 21 years old, one season after being drafted. He got off to a great start with the team, posting 21 and 24 points his first two seasons, then bottomed out with 13 in his third season and just three in the fourth. Perhaps his sophomore slump came late, and he took a lot of heat in those two poor seasons for not repeating earlier success. Nevertheless, the Sharks’ coaches have shown slowly increasing faith in him and his performance has improved accordingly. His 34 points last season were a reminder of why expectations were so high for him.

Demers’ role as an offensively-minded defenseman will always make him prone to risk-taking. Much as fans would like to see all the players, forwards and defensemen alike, play a diligent defensive game, playing well at both ends of the ice is harder than it sounds. Well, obviously it sounds pretty hard, barring teleportation powers. Additionally, fans don’t actually enjoy perfect defensive games– those tend to be low-scoring and uneventful. So that’s the cake- eat it or leave it. If Jason Demers is supposed to keep an eye out for scoring chances and even create some, his defensive game might on occasion leave something to be desired.

His contract is eminently reasonable. Looking at the defensemen around Demers in the standings, his salary is lower than most players of equivalent value to their teams. Whether measuring by points or time on ice or age, his $3.4 million per year is a good deal for San Jose. It is such a good deal that one wonders if it isn’t a setup for a trade. The last Shark to file for arbitration (TJ Galiardi) only got one year out of the team, but he was not signed and traded either. For the sake of San Jose, we can hope the Demers contract is not just a set up to move him out.

Taylor Doherty was drafted by the Sharks in the second round in 2009. This year, he will enter his third full season with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. Last season saw him miss a number of games due to injury, and he has yet to play in the NHL. There was a little more buzz around his name a season ago, but the Sharks obviously think he is worth another look.  Just 23 years old, 6’7″, he has not been heating up the score sheet but last season showed some improvement over the season before. With a little down tick in the +/- column (from +2 to -2), he improved his points total from 6 to 10, playing 23 fewer games. He has a strong shot that he could probably use more often.

Doherty, like Demers… and Braun, and Burns, is a right-handed shot. That is worth noting as such defensemen seem to be in short supply elsewhere.

The Sharks’ offseason is looking like a long slow one, but that is what Doug Wilson promised at the end of last season. If Wilson is serious about not wanting to bring any veteran player in who may supplant younger players, that remaining cap space ($6.145 million, per will continue to sit there and taunt those who had hoped for any exciting new additions.

NHL Free Agency: Independence Day Weekend

By Mary Walsh

The Fourth of July has come and gone without much fuss for the Sharks in the free agent market. A few Sharks have moved on, several San Jose rivals in the Pacific Division appear to have gotten better while the Sharks have only made some small moves.

Along with signing free agents John Scott and Taylor Fedun, the Sharks made qualifying offers to three of their RFAs. Jason Demers has filed for arbitration, Tommy Wingels has been signed to a three year contract and there is no news yet on James Sheppard.

The announcement that the NHLPA and the NHL agreed on a lower than expected salary cap for the upcoming season has caused some consternation around the league. The cap is set at $69 million while some had anticipated it would be over $72 million.

Only Philadelphia and Chicago find themselves over the cap right now. For the Flyers, this is a mere technicality. Chris Pronger is still on their roster until they can put him back on LTIR, and removing his salary will push them back below the cap. They still do not have a lot of room to work with, but like the Sharks they are not in “win-now” mode.

Chicago is a couple million above the cap, but they have 23 players on their roster so they are only a move or two away from the line. Their roster is pretty solid, and with the addition of Brad Richards they do not have a lot of work to do.

Dallas won the Spezza trade sweepstakes, giving up several assets including Alex Chiasson, a promising young forward. In other notable moves, they also signed goalie Anders Lindback, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves. The Stars have no present plans to do more.

Closer to home, Los Angeles and Anaheim are safe under the cap after making some key additions. Los Angeles resigned Marian Gaborik, a late season acquisition who worked out very well for the Kings on their run to the Stanley Cup. They are just under the cap now but they appear set.

Anaheim added Ryan Kesler, one of the bigger names available this Summer. They also lost Teemu Selanne to retirement. You can’t compare Kesler to Hall of Fame bound Selanne, but he is a good addition, so the Ducks could be considered status quo. That status was pretty good last season. On top of that, the Ducks have over $13 million left in space, and 22 on the roster.

In terms of cap space, the Sharks are in a good position. They have plummeted to 21st on CapGeek’s list, a list you want to be at the bottom of… if you plan to add players. Even after the Sharks sign Demers and Sheppard the team will have 23 on the roster and probably have a substantial sum left over. Before signing Wingels, the Sharks had almost $14 million to work with.

The loss of Dan Boyle and Martin Havlat could be significant if either or both of them plays well and healthy this upcoming season. But for San Jose’s purposes, they were often without one or the other last season, due to injury or coaching preferences. If the Sharks are roughly as good as they were last season, will it be enough to get them into the playoffs? Have their rivals improved so significantly? Marian Gaborik is arguably the biggest difference for the California teams. The Kings might have a better regular season than last.

Ex-Shark Notes:

John McCarthy, never quite a regular in the Sharks lineup, has signed a one year two way contract with the St. Louis Blues.

Sena Acolatse, who never appeared in the San Jose lineup, has signed with the Calgary Flames.

Martin Havlat, after the Sharks used one of their compliance buyouts on the remainder of his contract, signed with the New Jersey Devils.

As has been widely announced, Dan Boyle signed with the New York Rangers for two years at $4.5 million. For those concerned that he and Brian Boyle might have a conflict of 22s, no need to worry. Brian has moved on to Tampa Bay.

Also in Tampa Bay now is Evgeni Nabokov, presumably to back up Ben Bishop in goal. The Lightning roster has a very young average age, so another veteran was probably on GM Steve Yzerman’s shopping list.

Thomas Greiss, last year of the Phoenix Coyotes, has signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Depending on the sort of year Marc-Andre Fleury is having, Greiss may get to start quite a few games, or at least play in several.

One of Three Sevens: Sharks, Kings Must Win or Go Home

By Mary Walsh

Seven. Each NHL Playoff round is a best of seven games, and three of eight first round match-ups have gone the distance. Second round dates have already been set, even for the Penguins who do not yet know who they will play.

With three Game Sevens today, it seems likely that we will see at least one upset… if you define upset as the triumph of the team with the lower position in the standings. In the case of the Pacific Division contest, the predictions have been for the third place team to upset the second place team all along, so would that even count as an upset? Is it really an upset if it was expected? Will the Kings live up to expectations, or will the Sharks reassert themselves?

All three of today’s games came to be with a Game Six win won by three goals. The Flyers and the Wild both beat their opponents 5-3 and the Kings beat the Sharks Jose 4-1. A little more eerie than that is the Philadelphia connection to Los Angeles: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were both part of the Flyers team that upset the Bruins in 2010, and now they are in another Game Seven after a three game comeback, while their old team is playing a Game Seven on the same day.

The Sharks are not playing in three games, only one. They are not even playing in seven games, they only have one tonight. Is it any different from any other game? Sharks forward Logan Couture said:

Every playoff game has a different atmosphere compared to a regular season game. I mean, guys know, obviously, what’s at stake. I don’t think it’s any big difference.

Playing in and winning a Game Seven is every young hockey player’s dream. But after squandering a three game lead in the series, the Sharks might be feeling some extra pressure. This morning, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle was asked about the fun and the pressure of a Game Seven:

This is fun, you know everyone’s going to talk about how we got to this point but at this point it really doesn’t matter. We’re in Game Seven, we got to win a hockey game to move on and we’re at home. So you’re right this is fun and we’ve got to channel our energy the right way.

The Kings won three games in a row, as did the Sharks, but the Kings played all of those games with the threat of elimination hanging over them. They were all “win or go home” situations. Is it any different for the Sharks now that they too must win or go home? This morning, Sharks defenseman Jason Demers said:

I don’t think so. But it’s like I said, it’s just about executing. You can talk as much as you want about x’s and o’s, but it’s just about executing those x’s and o’s… Just executing when we need to execute to win.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan’s approach to the win or go home situation is to go back to his core group:

I think our core on our team has to step up, and they were there early in the series. LA’s core has been there later in the series. Tonight’s the deciding game and in my opinion Nemo’s a very big part of that core and they’re going to get their chance to perform in Game Seven.

It is April 30, 2014, or 4/30/14. Add month and day together without the zeros and you get seven. Divide the year by two and you get seven. All three games start in the seventh hour, two of them at seven sharp. It seems like it should mean something, but I can’t tell what that is or what could possibly be done about it. Probably a safe bet that everyone should steer clear of deadly sins.

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi said his routine would not change for this game:

I just got to think about my own game… and do the same things to get ready as I do every day.

Sounds like a plan.

Three is Prime: Sharks Keep Stars in Place

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks really like the number three. They needed three goals to win their sixth in a row Saturday night. All three goals were scored by the Sharks who just signed three year contract extensions: Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

With those contract extensions, the Sharks propped open that window people talk about, the one that is supposed to be closing on them. Whether or not they also extend Dan Boyle, the team has locked up most of its most productive players for at least three years.

One piece the Sharks do not have locked up, and are not likely to have before the summer if at all, is associate coach Larry Robinson. It is safe to say that there is little if any negotiation involved there: it is a decision Robinson will make when the time comes. Any NHL team in their right mind would want Robinson to stay as long as possible.

The arrival of Robinson and Jim Johnson was a boon. Whether it was a matter of continuing development, as with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, or getting a player back on track as with Jason Demers, the new coaches have had an enormous impact on Sharks defensemen.

If Robinson does not stay, his influence will remain in what he is teaching Sharks players, but in some things it is good to be greedy. It would be very regrettable if the Sharks could not convince Robinson to stay on.

On the player front, the Sharks should retain Dan Boyle, but numerically they have the majority of their top skaters in place until 2017: Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Vlasic, Braun, and now Thornton and Marleau. That isn’t a whole hockey team but it is a fine collection of centerpieces.

That is why signing those three year contracts made sense for Marleau and Thornton too. It is a situation that offers as much chance of success as they would be likely to find anywhere else. Anyone can argue that there is something wrong in San Jose that they have never won the Stanley Cup after so many trips to the playoffs. But there’s many a slip twixt a cup and a lip, even more slips on ice with a bunch of guys trying to jostle your hand. No outcome is certain in the playoffs, except one: you can’t win if you miss the second season.

Maybe the Sharks need to finish the playoffs every which way they can before they win it: swept out, four games to one loss, game seven OT funny bounce loss… Maybe they have a few more exits to try before they find the right door. Not keeping their top players at this point won’t help them find it any sooner.

The notion of rebuilding right now is preposterous, with Couture and Vlasic and Braun and Tomas Hertl locked up. When you have promising players like Tommy Wingels, Matt Irwin and Matt Nieto playing as well as they are right now in the NHL, when you have a few more like Eriah Hayes and Matt Tennyson in the picture, and you might have a dark horse or two lurking in Worcester, now is not the time to trade everyone away and start over.

Alex Stalock is vying for more attention than Sharks backups usually get. Unless the Sharks will give him enough work to really test his potential as a starter, they may not reap the full benefit of his skill. That Stalock got two starts in four games is a step forward here. Maybe McLellan is ready to force some rest on his starting goaltender.

That isn’t a serious problem, and it certainly would not be solved by the acquisition of another player. The team doesn’t have any gaping holes, any glaring need of another big money player- actually or figuratively.

That is why the Sharks should try to keep Dan Boyle. The Sharks don’t need a significant disruption. Boyle probably wants a multi-year contract. Why wouldn’t he? Who doesn’t? What kind of salary he wants is probably the hold up. Doug Wilson has shown that he can get players to sign for less than they would be worth on the open market. That is partly because most players would rather not hit the open market, but also because the Sharks are perennial contenders.

I would guess that Boyle stays with the Sharks. If his salary requirements are reasonable, which would be significantly less than he is presently earning, I think Wilson is likely to offer him three years. He has given as many and more to players who are less central to the team’s core. With Thornton and Marleau at three years, it would be indecent for Boyle to expect more.

I would not put money on that guess. Boyle is at the point in his career where he is deciding how and where he will finish his playing career. Wilson has more cap space to work with than he might have after signing Marleau and Thornton, but he is not swimming in it.

Wilson might need some room to keep Jason Demers.  While Demers has been in and out of the lineup for a few season, he is clearly coming into his own now. He will probably have some suiters calling if the Sharks don’t secure him early.

While other teams are giving their masthead names seven years to stay, it is a sign of confidence from Marleau and Thorton that they accepted three. A 34 year old can’t expect seven years, but players of Thornton’s and Marleau’s stature could certainly get five somewhere. 37 isn’t a great age to be looking for a new contract, but those two are willing to take the risk. If they really think San Jose is the place to be, maybe it is.

Predators Bring Down Sharks 3-2

By Mary Walsh

Amid the hubbub of Olympic roster announcements Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks had a game to play in Nashville. They lost 3-2, but made a game of it despite yet more changes to their lineup, including the loss of Logan Couture to injury. Couture is scheduled for surgery, and is expected to be out for three to four weeks.

The Sharks were still without Tommy Wingels (upper body), Martin Havlat (lower body), Tyler Kennedy (flu) and Tomas Hertel (knee). No reinforcements were coming from the old list of injured, no Raffi Torres, no Adam Burish. Freddie Hamilton had just been sent down to Worcester, while Matt Nieto, Bracken Kearns and Eriah Hayes stayed with the big club. Hamilton was called right back up.

The game was an opportunity for new players to step up. One always wants a win, but it is not surprising that recently-arrived players in new positions, with new linemates, will probably need more than one practice to get in sync. Seeing the team find some cohesion as the game wore on should make the loss a little more palatable.

A failure to call goaltender interference in the second period made the Predators’ game winning goal count. The official explanation was that Marc-Edouard Vlasic had pushed Colin Wilson into Antti Niemi. Todd McLellan said a few words about that after the game* (from CSNCA broadcast):

Even if there was a touch of contact there, you’re not allowed to jump on top of the goaltender. We all know that, there’s a lot of people that understand that, but… it happened.

The game started out inauspiciously, when Joe Thornton was called for hooking just ten seconds into the game. The Predators’ power play was ranked 7th in the league. The Sharks’ penalty kill was ranked 14th. The Sharks killed the penalty, despite some failures to clear.

At 8:57, Matt Cullen was called for interference on Jason Demers, putting the Sharks on the power play.  It was an unspectacular power play. They only mustered one shot with that man advantage.

Possibly the Sharks’ best chance of the period came in the final minute, when Matt Nieto passed the puck from the blue line to Patrick Marleau in the slot, with Joe Pavelski in range of a rebound. Apart from that, the first period was a grind, at least for the Sharks.

The Predators kept them well to the outside whenever they gained the offensive zone. At the end of the period, the Predators led 10-7 in shots on goal and 9-4 in faceoffs.

At 6:11 of the second, David Legwand opened the scoring to give the Predators the lead. Joe Thorton and Jason Demers were both trying to move the puck away from Craig Smith but the puck got through both of them. Legwand got behind Demers and put a shot past Antti Niemi on the far side. It was Legwand’s first goal in 11 games. Assists went to Smith and Shea Weber.

The Sharks answered a few minutes later with a power play goal, after Mattias Ekholm was called for delay of game at 6:11. Joe Pavelski tipped a Dan Boyle shot from the blue line to tie the game. It was Pavelski’s 19th goal of the season, his 10th in the last 14 games. Assists went to Boyle and Demers.

Less than a minute later, the Predators retook the lead. Despite good pressure from Justin Braun, Ekholm got a backhand shot off, with good traffic in front of Niemi. The assist went to Legwand. It was Ekholm’s first NHL goal.

The Predators’ third goal came after Colin Wilson fell across Niemi’s right leg, pinning him in place and leaving the net wide open for Nashville defenseman Roman Josi’s shot. Officials apparently believed Wilson was pushed by Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Assists went to Weber and Wilson.

The Sharks didn’t score on their next power play, when Nick Spaling was called for holding the stick at 13:38 of the second. Nevertheless, the Sharks’ third power play was miles better than their first. The new lines seemed to be finding a groove.

The Predators outshot the Sharks through the second period as they had done in the first, 13-10.

Brent Burns drew a hooking call on Shea Weber with a driving play that gave the Predators a scare at 4:05 of the third period. The Sharks held the zone for about 45 seconds before the Predators could push the first power play unit out of the zone. The next good chances fell to Bracken Kearns on the second unit. The Sharks had four shots on that power play.

With under two minutes left and the Sharks’ net empty, Nieto found Marleau in front of the net for a tip in to make it 2-3. Assists went to Nieto and Demers. Todd McLellan used his time out shortly thereafter, but the Sharks ran out of time.

The Sharks outshot the Predators in the third, to bring the final count even at 28. Nashville won 32 faceoffs to the Sharks’ 20. The Sharks got credit for 12 takeaways to the Predators’ 9. The Sharks’ power play finished 1/4, the Predators’ 0/1.

Brent Burns led the Sharks in shots with five, and Patrick Marleau had four.  Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi each had five for Nashville. Mike Brown led the Sharks in hits with five, while Rich Clune and Kevin Klein led the Predators with four each.


*More of what McLellan said about that non-call:

Does it make it tougher? That’s a blown call, and we played 44 games, I go back to the Buffalo blown call in overtime, I go to the blown call in Winnipeg. I go to one against Minnesota, and I go to another one tonight, and that’s one in every eleven games. And I understand mistakes, because I make a lot of them behind the bench. But when you get an explanation from a group of people and it didn’t happen, it’s disappointing. It really, really is disappointing. And there’s also a protocol to follow in our league. That protocol is you get together and you discuss it. That didn’t happen either. So obviously I’m not very happy with it.

The lines McLellan started with, and pretty much kept in place through the game were: Burns-Thornton-Pavelski, Nieto-Marleau-Kearns, Hamilton-Desjardins-Sheppard, and Hayes-McCarthy-Brown. Defensive pairs were Stuart-Demers, Boyle-Vlasic, and Braun-Irwin. The only healthy scratch was Scott Hannan.

Sharks beat Stars in shootout

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 21: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by teammages after he scored the winning goal in an overtime shoot-out against the Dallas Stars at SAP Center on December 21, 2013 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA – DECEMBER 21: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by teammages after he scored the winning goal in an overtime shoot-out against the Dallas Stars at SAP Center on December 21, 2013 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

By: Phillip Torres

SAN JOSE-The San Jose Sharks (22-8-6) hosted the Dallas Stars (17-12-6) on Saturday night at the SAP Center in San Jose. This exciting thriller was worth the price of admission as it took a Joe Thornton goal in the fifth round of a shootout to decide the winner. The Sharks came away with the 3-2 victory as they rallied late to earn the W.

San Jose fell behind early as Ray Whitney and Antoine Roussel scored the first two goals in the game to take the early 2-0 advantage. Jason Demers put San Jose on the board at 11 :47 in the second period. Demers slapshot goal was his first goal of the season with assists from Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins.

Joe Pavelski tied the game up at 2-2 with his 14th foal of the season at 4:24 in the third and final period. Pavelski scored on a nice backhand shot. Thornton and Marc Edouard Vlasic.

Thornton scored the lone goal in the shootout and gave San Jose just its fourth win in December. The Sharks will be back on the ice Monday as they will host the Colorado Avalanche. The puck will drop at 7:30 P.M.

Sharks fall to Hurricanes 5-3

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 06: Jiri Tlusty #19 of the Carolina Hurricanes and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks watch a shot deflect away from Alex Stalock #32 during their NHL game at PNC Arena on December 6, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC – DECEMBER 06: Jiri Tlusty #19 of the Carolina Hurricanes and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks watch a shot deflect away from Alex Stalock #32 during their NHL game at PNC Arena on December 6, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Phillip Torres

RALEIGH, N.C-The San Jose Sharks (19-5-5)  fell to the Carolina Hurricanes (13-12-5) 5-3 on Friday as they hosted the San Jose Sharks. The victory for Carolina gave them the all-time series lead, 15-14, against the Sharks. The Hurricanes rallied to score four goals in the final period to earn the victory.

The Sharks lead 2-0 for the first half of the game. Tommy Wingels and Marc-Edouard Vlasic put San Jose on the board to give them the early advantage. Jason Demers earned the assist on the first goal and Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl earned the assists on the Vlasic snap shot goal.

Jay Harrison scored his second goal of the season at 11:36 in the second period to cut the lead in half to make it 2-1. Zach Boychuk and Riley Nash earned the assists on the play. The score remained 2-1 Sharks until the start of the third period.

The final frame was dominated by Carolina as they exploded for four goals. Nash scored his second goal of the game and third on the year to tie the game at 2-2. Jordan Staal gave the Hurricanes the 3-2 advantage and first lead of the game at 6:42. Nathan Gerbe and Elias Lindholm were credited with the assists.

Justin Braun tied the game for the Sharks with a slapshot at 9:35 with assists from Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. This was the last goal that San Jose scored in the contest. Elias Lindholm scored what proved to be the game winning goal at 14:00. Eric Staal tacked on an an insurance goal late in period to cap off the four goal period.

San Jose will be back on the ice Tuesday December 10 as they will be hosting the New York Islanders. The puck will drop at 7:30 PM.

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.