Sharks Extend Streak to 5, Another Shutout for Stalock

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks won their fifth game in a row, defeating the Winnipeg Jets 1-0. Goaltender Alex Stalock got his second shutout in a row, the first being on January 16 in Florida against the Panthers.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was glad to see the Sharks play a much better game than they had Monday:

It was a tight game, I thought both teams played that way. Not many chances at either end. And when there were, both goaltenders played well. We’re lucky enough that [Pavelski] batted one out of the air and [we] got away with the win.

Good to see our team play a tight game. I thought against Calgary we weren’t any where near that, we were sloppy. Great to see Alex [Stalock] get another shut out. We’re excited for him. Some good things tonight.

As well as keeping their own zone in order, the Sharks also outshot the visitors. An imbalance on the shot clock was all but predicted by Jets head coach Paul Maurice, after the morning skate:

A huge, huge challenge in here tonight… in terms of their quickness and speed on the puck and the time that they take away from you when you have the puck it’s a huge challenge for the back end.

We loved the gritty effort in Anaheim, it was fantastic but the facts at the end of the day were our goalie made 40 saves and we blocked 36 shots. We didn’t have the puck enough, and I’m not complaining about our effort. So that tells you they were pretty good. I’m expecting to see that from San Jose.

The Sharks delivered, outshooting the Jets 32-20, with Winnipeg blocking 16 more shots. That was a closer margin than the Jets saw in their last game.

Thursday morning, Todd McLellan had predicted the first period to a tee, when asked what he expected from the game:

Tough game, probably a fast game when you look at their lineup and the way they’ve been playing the last four or five games. We know our opponent is confident, fast, they can play an aggressive game so I think we’ll see that type of night.

Bold plays abounded from both sides, the Sharks made quick, short passes through the neutral zone. The puck was bouncing much like it had the game before but the Sharks looked like they were used to it now. No matter how many times the puck hopped over a stick or went shooting into the air unexpectedly, they looked calm about waiting for it to come back into line. After the game, Joe Pavelski didn’t want to give the ice too much credit for either game:

I think it was a little better. You can’t put it all on the ice… You can make one play where the ice probably doesn’t affect it, and then there’s another play where it might make a difference.

It wasn’t a tough period in terms of physical play, but it tested the focus of both teams, with long stretches between stops. Neither team was able to execute or finish elaborate plays.

Pavelski went to the box at 3:33 of the first for holding the stick. That got some boos from the crowd and the Sharks killed the penalty off without giving the Jets much to work with.

The second penalty also went against the Sharks, this time to Tommy Wingels for tripping at 12:38. More boos from the audience, still no joy for Winnipeg.

The boards were unusually lively, as demonstrated by a Winnipeg shot that went wide, only to bounce back at the net. It missed the outside of the post, bounced off of Stalock, and across the blue paint. Luckily for the Sharks, the bounce was unlikely and fast, and no Jets players were in position to take advantage of it before the Sharks were on it.

The period ended with the teams even in shots at 11 each.

The second period was not so fast. The middle of the period was bogged down with pucks out of play and offside calls. The shot clock ticked along but neither team maintained lengthy attacks.

Finally, after a pile up in front of the Winnipeg crease, Olli Jokinen was called for holding.

It took the Sharks less than ten seconds to put the puck in the net, but the referee waived it off. Joe Thornton was on top of Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec when the puck crossed the line. That he was pushed there by Winnipeg’s Mark Stuart did not make a difference. The game remained scoreless, and the power play did not change that.

Shortly thereafter, Mike Brown helped Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba into the end boards. He didn’t hit him with a full body check but he gave him a distinct push from behind and Trouba hit the glass awkwardly. Brown went to the box for charging. The Sharks killed off their third penalty of the game. They did not allow the Jets a shot on goal.

The shots for the second period were 11-4 San Jose.

The Jets had a scare to start the third period, when a shot from Brent Burns stung Ondrej Pavelec. After consulting with the trainer, Pavelec stayed in.

The Sharks earned their second power play of the game when Matt Nieto drew a hooking call on Bryan Little. The Sharks couldn’t convert on that one either.

The score finally got to change after Justin Braun cut a path to the slot and threw a backhand on Pavelec. Braun described the shot after the game:

I just kind of put it on my stick there. Maybe I should have shot it right away but it kind of worked out: soft backhand, Pavs made a nice play, whacked it out of the air.

Pavelski did knock it out of the air, but described it as if it happened in slow motion:

It’s one of those that’s just kinda, well it’s hovering there. You’re going to the net just hoping for something like that.

In case anyone was still wondering if Pavelski is in the zone, if he’s seeing pucks hovering while the rest of us see them not at all, yes, he is officially in the zone. That is a good thing for the Sharks, a good thing for Pavelski, and dare I say it? Sure, it’s a good thing for America too.

Alex Stalock made 20 saves in the shutout win, Ondrej Pavelec made 31 saves for the Jets. The Sharks and the Jets both had perfect penalty kills on three chances each.

Braun, Andrew Desjardins, Brent Burns and Matt Irwin each had four shots on goal. Brad Stuart led the Sharks with five hits, followed by Eriah Hayes with three. Olli Jokinen led the Jets in shots, with 5. Jacob Trouba led the Jets in blocked shots, with four. The Sharks won 45 of 69 faceoffs.

The three stars were Alex Stalock, Ondrej Pavelec and Joe Pavelski.

The Sharks next play on Saturday at SAP Center. They will host the Minnesota Wild at 7:30 pm.

Sharks Lose to Jets in Shootout, Losing Streak at 5

By Mary Walsh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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