Stars Hand Sharks Third Straight Loss

By Mary Walsh

AP photo: The Dallas Stars Mattias (13) Janmark was on the mark finding the back of the net twice Saturday against the San Jose Sharks here he goes for a victory lap with teammates after his second period goal

SAN JOSE- The Dallas Stars beat the San Jose Sharks by a score of 4-2 on Saturday afternoon. It was the Sharks’ third straight loss, all on home ice. It also leaves them still waiting to clinch a spot in the playoffs. It was a disappointing follow up to Thursday’s defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers, but Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer saw some positives in Saturday’s game:

I think we played a pretty good game tonight. Obviously we didn’t win. It was one of those nights where every mistake we made ended up in our net and we couldn’t buy one at the other end for a couple periods. You gotta be careful and make sure you keep the proper perspective. Obviously we want to be winning every game his time of year but we’ve won a lot of games over the season where we played like that. So we just gotta build on the positive.

Sharks goals came from Joel Ward and Tomas Hertl. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 13 saves on 16 shots. Two Dallas goals came from Mattias Janmark, and one each from Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn. Antti Niemi made 34 saves on 36 Sharks shots. The shot discrepancy is not unfamiliar to the Sharks. After the game, Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon said: “The last couple games I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job. That’s one of the top scoring teams in the league and we limited them to 17 shots against so obviously we can’t be satisfied when we still lose the game and get no points.”

The Stars’ Antoine Roussel was a conspicuous participant in the first six penalties of the game, including a fight with Tommy Wingels. His antics did slow the game down. After the game, Wingels said:

I don’t get it. It’s embarrassing, I don’t think that stuff belongs in the game. Every shift after that you’re going to try to fight again. The rest don’t want that, the players don’t want their teammates… the fans don’t want to see after every whistle you have to be broken up.

Those Roussel penalties were not the only ones in the game. In all, the Sharks had six chances on the man advantage, but did not score. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said, of their power play:

You give our PP unit that much time, we’ve got to get one, you know. We’ve got to really find a way to produce, not just chances but goals. And we didn’t do a good enough job there. There were a few looks we had, we still need to be a little cleaner I think but this time of the year PKs are hard, they’re aggressive. You got to make those entries count, you got to make the faceoffs count, I didn’t win enough of those draws. They’re all parts where they really add to that momentum throughout the PP. Could do a better job, sure.

Missing from the Sharks lineup was Joonas Donskoi. He did skate in the warmups, which may indicate that his absence will not be a long one. Matt Nieto and Marc-Edouard Vlasic both missed their fifth games since injury on March 17. Dainius Zubrus moved up to the Couture line, and Micheal Haley played on the the fourth.

The Dallas Stars have sustained several significant injuries this season. They are presently without perpetual scoring threat Tyler Seguin and regular blue-liner Jason Demers. John Klingberg, talented young defenseman, recently returned from injury, giving his team a needed boost.

The first period was going by scoreless, with a penalty per team and a couple of scuffles. Brenden Dillon took a roughing minor against Antoine Roussel. Roussel then took a slashing minor against Micheal Haley. Roussel and Tommy Wingels finished with fighting majors around the 14 minute mark. At 15:28, the shot count was 12 to 3 Sharks. On the Stars’ fourth shot, the puck went over Martin Jones’ pad for Mattias Janmark’s 14th goal of the season. His shot from the blue line got a little help from passing traffic. Assists went to Jordie Benn and Ales Hemsky.

The Stars added to their lead 4:22 into the second. A miscalculation from Jones left him too far from the crease and the net open for Janmark. Tomas Hertl made an attempt to stop the goal, but he lacks experience as a goaltender. Assists went to Jason Spezza and Stephen Johns.

The first penalty of the game that did not involve Antoine Roussel came 6:40 into the second. The Sharks did not score. Joe Pavelski went to the box at 13:41 for boarding against Johnny Oduya. During the ensuing power play, Jason Spezza made a pass from below the faceoff circle across the ice and back. Patrick Sharp took the shot quickly and cleanly. Assists went to Spezza and Klingberg.

The Sharks had a late power play, at 15:35. Stephen Johns went to the box for elbowing Roman Polak. With four seconds left in the period, Klingberg was called for roughing, and Thornton received the same.

Seventeen seconds into the third, Stars captain Jamie Benn was called for hooking Joe Pavelski. As a result, the teams payed four on three for 1:40. The Stars went right to the man advantage when Dylan DeMelo was called for slashing, just as the Sharks power play expired.

Before the DeMelo penalty expired, Joel Ward put the Sharks on the board with a short-handed goal. Antti Niemi handled the puck behind the net and he made a pass up the wall. After the pass, Joel Ward skated in behind him and seemed to nudge him from behind. Niemi went down and was thus unable to get back to his crease before Ward could put the puck in an open net.

The Sharks closed the gap further at 5:48 with a goal from Tomas Hertl. Taking advantage of busy traffic in the slot, Brent Burns made a pass to Pavelski, who carried it a bit and tried a backhand shot. Hertl skated in behind him and caught the rebound for his 19th goal of the season. Assists went to Pavelski and Burns.

Alex Goligoski was caught hooking at 10:09, putting the Sharks back on their thus-far ineffective power play. It was not effective.

The Stars took another penalty at 13:24, this time to Mattias Lanmark for tripping DeMelo. Still no power play goal.

The Sharks took their time out with 1:35 left in the game, and set up for an offensive zone faceoff with their net empty. Dallas wont the faceoff and iced the puck. The Sharks made better use of the next faceoff and moved the puck around in the Dallas zone, but with 1:08 left in the game, the Stars’ Patrick Sharp took control of the puck, passed it to Jamie Benn and Benn put it in the empty net.

The Sharks next play on Monday against the visiting Los Angeles Kings at 7:00 PT.

Sharks Lose 5-3 to Stars Despite Special Teams Improvements

By Mary Walsh

AP photo of Antoine Roussel scoring third period goal on Sat

The San Jose Sharks lost on the road to the Dallas Stars 5-3 on Saturday. Special teams overshadowed even strength play: power plays and penalty kills were central to scoring, though not always in the usual fashion. A wide array of power play and penalty kill results were on display from both teams. Sharks goals were scored by Joe Pavelski, Matt Nieto and Joel Ward. Alex Stalock made 20 saves on 24 shots. Dallas goals were scored by Vernon Fiddler, Patrick Sharp, Jason Demers, Antoine Roussel and Tyler Seguin. Antti Niemi made 26 saves on 29 shots for the win.

It was a good challenge for the Sharks, as the Stars were 8-2-0 before Saturday’s win. The Sharks’ only win in the last five games came against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes. The Sharks had their chances on Saturday but were disappointed again, for the fourth time in five games. After the game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said:

We were right there, we had our chances, power plays right at the end. It definitely was better, gave us that chance. Special teams too. It was there for us, but it’s been there for us, the last few games, throughout this little bit of losing streak we’ve had, games have been there. We’ve got to get a little bit more, out of each and every guy. We’ve got to win these games or… It’s what the league is. You play so many one goal games and you’re in tight spots and teams are good. You gotta find yourself on the right side.

The Sharks faced two former teammates, goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Jason Demers. Sharks’ defenseman Brenden Dillon was also facing former teammates, as he came to the Sharks in a trade from Dallas for Jason Demers. The game was also a chance for Sharks goalie Alex Stalock to face Antti Niemi.

The first period began with an early goal from Stars forward Patrick Sharp. Stalock stopped an intial shot from Jason Demers, but he could not cover the puck before Sharp got a stick on it and put it over Stalock’s outstretched pad. Tyler Seguin was part of the four on three that set up the goal, and his pass found Demers right in the slot. Assists went to Demers and Seguin.

The first penalty of the game went to the Sharks, for too many men on the ice. This pitted San Jose’s 16th ranked penalty kill against Dallas’ 2nd ranked power play. Several short-handed chances for the Sharks turned those rankings on their heads. The Sharks penalty killers were successful in that first try and the next, when Joonas Donskoi went to the box for interference late in the period. The Sharks finished the period down by a goal but not by a power play goal. The Sharks also looked pretty good on the shot clock, trailing Dallas just 10-9, despite the power plays.

The second period expanded on those special team numbers. The Sharks’ first power play of the game came early in the second, when Jordie Benn went to the box for holding Tommy Wingels. Where the Sharks penalty kill had over-achieved, their power play did not look ready to do the same. They could not get organized to begin, and only managed one shot on goal during the man advantage. The Sharks got another chance a couple of minutes later when Alex Goligoski went to the box for interference on Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The second power play started even less well, with an odd man rush against and a short-handed goal by Stars defenseman, ex-Shark Jason Demers. Assists went to Antoine Roussel and Vernon Fiddler. It was Demers’ first NHL short-handed goal.

The power play was not yet over, and not done behaving unpredictably. The Sharks finally got on the board with a goal from Joe Pavelksi. Brent Burns took a couple of shots from the point and on his second try he hit Pavelski’s moving stick just perfectly for a deflection. Antii Niemi did not see it coming because Patrick Marleau was right in his eyes.

The next penalty went to Justin Braun not long after that goal, for closing his hand on the puck. The Sharks did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone against the Stars attackers, and made some space for a short-handed attack by Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto. Wingels stripped the puck from Jason Spezza and only John Klingberg was able to get back to defend. Wingels made a slick pass under Klingberg’s stick to Nieto. Niemi could not get across in time and Nieto shot it into the far corner of the net. It was Nieto’s second goal of the season. An assist went to Wingels.

The Sharks killed off the rest of the penalty. The score was tied 2-2, and so were the shots at 15 apiece.

With five minutes left in the period, Vernon Fiddler gave the Stars another lead. Brent Burns fell with some help from Roussel and slid behind the net. Fiddler escaped ahead of the wreck with the puck and Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon was trapped behind Burns, unable to pursue Fiddler as he went around the net and roofed it for his first goal of the year. A well-deserved assist went to Roussel.

The Sharks answered a couple of minutes later with a power play goal. After several seconds to warm their power play up during a delayed call, the Sharks tied the game again. A Thornton pass from the side boards was sent to the net by Patrick Marleau. Joel Ward’s stick stopped the puck in front of Niemi, then pulled it to him and popped it into place. Assists went to Marleau and Thornton.

Tomas Hertl drew another penalty for the Sharks. On what could have been called a breakaway, Hertl was hooked by Stars defenseman Jyrki Jokipaka. The Sharks only had 45 seconds of the second period left.

The Sharks did not score on that power play, in either the second or third periods. Where the second period had been littered with whistles, the third period did not see a penalty called for the first 15 minutes. It did see the Stars take back the lead, again, when three Stars crashed the net. Antoine Roussel got the goal, with assists to Klingberg and Fiddler.

The Sharks opted to challenge the goal using the offside option. It looked very close but the call on the ice stood up and the Stars had a 4-3 lead with 6:27 left in the game.

The first penalty of the period went against the Sharks with just 1:49 left. The penalty was against Brent Burns for interference. DeBoer pulled Stalock to even it up. A long shot from Tyler Seguin missed the net but seconds later, he tried again from the blue line. His shot went between Vlasic’s legs and in to give the Stars a 5-3 lead.

To make matters worse, Chris Tierney was called for holding before the Burns penalty was up.

The Sharks next play in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday at 11:30 PT.

Sharks Fall to Blackhawks 6-2

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks lost to the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 6-2 on Saturday afternoon. Losing to one of the top teams in the league is not the worst thing a team can do but the Sharks cannot afford to give up any point if they have any hope of making the post season. The game winner was scored by Brandon Saad for Chicago, with Patrick Sharp chipping in with two, Bryan Bickell, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa scoring for the balance. Corey Crawford made 33 saves on 35 Sharks shots. Sharks goals were scored by Melker Karlsson and Joe Thornton, with Antti Niemi making 24 saves on 29 Chicago shots.

The Sharks played well through the first 40 minutes, but could not take the lead over Chicago. After the game, Joe Thornton said:

We played a solid two period game and the third goal is a heartbreaker and you think you can get back into it and the fourth one just puts it out of reach. Yeah, we played good for 40-some odd minutes tonight just not good enough.

Every player and coach the media spoke to after the game was asked whether Thornton Gate had been a distraction leading up to this game. Logan Couture answered it as follows:

No, no, no. Our job is to come here and play hockey, that’s what we did. Guys showed up, played hockey, I thought we played pretty well. Go home, get ready to go to practice on Monday and play again.

No, no, no, is pretty much what everyone said about whether the Wilson-Thornton comments were a distraction. If the team really thinks outside fuss is not a distraction then they are kidding themselves. Even if they do know it is a distraction, they won’t share any more of what goes on behind closed doors than has already been said.

Sometimes a distraction is not a bad thing– see their start to Saturday’s game. Sometimes an irrelevant noise can improve performance. How all of these parts are working together now for the Sharks we are not likely to learn. The truth today is that the Sharks lost when they need to win.

Blackhawks took the first penalty, Bickell for holding the stick. It took the Sharks five seconds to put the puck in the net but since Joe Pavelski had just fallen in the Chicago crease, the goal was called back.

As soon as the penalty had expired, the Blackhawks went the other way. More specifically, Patrick Sharp went the other way. He got one shot off in a near breakaway, and Niemi stopped that one. But the rebound came back to Sharp as he crossed the red line and he put it over the sprawling Sharks goaltender. Assists went to Antoine Vermette and Brent Seabrook.

To that point, the Shark were outshooting the Blackhawks 10-3.

Just past the midway point of the first. Melker Karlsson was called for holding the stick. The Sharks’ penalty kill was quite effective, ejecting the Blackhawks from the zone at a rate of roughly once every 30 seconds without giving up any good chances.

The Sharks continued shooting and outshooting their opponent, but it took almost eleven minutes before a couple of now familiar things occurred: Matt Irwin shot the puck, and a falling Melker Karlsson put the rebound into the net. Joe Pavelski was by the net too, and it hit him before coming to Karlsson. The assists went to Joe Pavelski and Matt Irwin.

End of period, shots were 14-9 Sharks, with the score tied.

An interference call at 1:08 went against Antoine Vermette to give the Sharks an early second period power play. The power play did not start well, including an almost leisurely short-handed breakaway for Jonathan Toews. Niemi stopped that and the Sharks finally reacted to bring the puck back the other way. The Sharks got credit for two shots on the power play but spent most of the two minutes in their own zone.

The Blackhawks looked like a team that knows where their teammates were going to be, what to expect and anticipate from their linemates. This is the sort of familiarity that breeds success. It is a hard formula to compete with when you have a lot of players who are new to the team or even their linemates. For the Sharks to hang with them as well as they did was a good sign for things to come.

The second penalty of the period was called against Dillon, again for interference, at 7:35. It was enough to make a conspiracy theorist think the penalties had been chosen and counted in advance, with the same call going against each team in each period.

With their first shot of the power play the Blackhawks retook the lead. Duncan Keith took a shot from the top of the circle, beating Niemi in the top right corner, as the goaltender was moving left. Time of the goal: 8:45, with assists to Marion Hossa and Brandon Saad.

With 8:33 left in the second, Jonathan Toews was called for tripping. The Sharks were not going to score in the first few seconds, but Brent Seabrook helped them out with a perfect tip of a Joe Thornton shot from the blue line. Assist went to Logan Couture and Brent Burns.

The second period ended with shots at 26-13 Sharks and the score tied again. The shots for the period were 12-4 Sharks.

The tie only lasted the intermission plus 1:21, when Mirco Mueller tripped near his own blue line and let Brendan Saad get by him. Saad took the puck all the way in and shot it by Niemi. Assists went to Teuvo Teravainen and Corey Crawford.

The next Chicago goal came after a prolonged defensive struggle by the Sharks. Several passes and attempts to clear went awry, and when Matt Irwin failed to catch the puck along the boards behind the Sharks net, Marian Hossa Brad Richards took it and had time to pass it to Bryan Bickell right in front of the net. He did not miss. Assists to Richards and Michal Rozsival.

The Sharks barely escaped giving up a fifth goal near the seven minute mark. Niemi came out to meet the shot but wound up down and out of his crease with Joe Pavelski sprawled behind him. The puck ended up under Pavelski until reinforcements could close in.

With 8:35 left in the period, Joe Thornton went to the box for hooking. The Sharks’ penalty kill started well, allowing no shots in the first minute and spending plenty of time in the Chicago end. In all, Chicago only had a couple of good chances, but the Sharks followed up with a second penalty, a tripping call to Barclay Goodrow. The penalty killers made a valiant effort but with just 17 seconds left in the period, Patrick Sharp let one rip from the blue line and it sailed right in to make it 5-2. Assists went to Brent Seabrook and Antoine Vermette.

The empty net goal was scored by Marian Hossa.

Melker Karlsson led the Sharks in shots with six. Tommy Wingels outdid himself with eight hits. John Scott led in blocked shots with three. Brent Burns led the Sharks in ice time with 22:42.

Patrick Sharp led the Blackhawks in shots with six. Andrew Desjardins led the Blackhawks in hits with two. Brent Seabrook led Chicago in blocked shots with four.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday in Winnipeg against the Jets. That game will start at 5:00pm PT.

Blackhawks Embarass Sharks, Hand San Jose Toughest Loss of the Season

By Matthew Harrington

The San Jose Sharks were downed by the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 Sunday evening at the United Center, suffering their worst defeat of the season. Patrick Sharp had 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) while Brandon Pirri and Kris Versteeg notched a goal and an assist each. Joe Pavelski scored the lone goal for the Sharks who saw a three-game win-streak snapped with the loss.

Chicago opened up the scoring in the first period when a Patrick Kane shot deflected off Scott Hannon’s leg. The puck landed on Brandon Pirri’s stick and he fired it past an out-of-position Antti Niemi with 3:26 remaining in the first for the 1-0 lead.

Pavelski evened the score 8:16 into the second period when what appeared to be a harmless wrist shot popped out of Corey Crawford’s glove and trickled in to the back of the net. Tyler Kennedy and Justin Braun were credited with the assists. Crawford would go on to turn away the rest of the Sharks shots, making 23 saves in the game.

Patrick Sharp scored the game-winner just 3:58 after Pavelski’s tally, cashing in on a Marcus Kruger one-timer feed to beat Niemi. Niemi made 22 saves on 27 shots.

Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg, who made his first appearance back in a Blackhawk jersey following a trade with the Florida Thursday, added third period scores. Sharp finished the scoring with a penalty shot goal with 1:11 left in the game after Marc-Edouard Vlasic hooked him on the original breakaway attempt.
The Sharks faced a 27-24 shot deficit. San Jose failed to score a power play goal on two opportunities, while the Sharks foiled the Blackhawks on their lone chance.

The Sharks will have a few days to dwell on the loss. They return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning at the SAP Center for a Thursday night contest.