By Ivan Makarov
SAN JOSE, CA – Counting last year’s playoffs, San Jose Sharks have beaten Vancouver Canucks in nine straight games. The streak came to an end on Thursday night as Sharks were defeated 4-2 and have lost their fourth game in a row.
Sharks fell two goals behind in the first half of the game, and while correcting some of the weaknesses in their game, they were unable to execute a come back.
The scoring in the game got off to a quick start as both teams exchanged goals early on. Sharks scored first on a strange bounce around the net. Joe Thornton was passing the puck along the boards inside Canucks territory but it bounced off the top netting, and into the goal off the Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo’s back. Canucks responded with a tying goal by Brad Richardson who scored from close range after Sharks turned the puck over inside their zone.
Sharks defensive woes continued when Mike Santorelli made it 2-1 for the visiting team by scoring yet another goal in front of Antti Niemi that saw Sharks defense got caught in the middle of the change and could not stop a developing fast attack by Vancouver.
But Sharks responded only a minute later with Mike Brown scoring his first goal in the Sharks uniform after a breakaway attack and a great pass from James Sheppard that found him all alone in front of Luongo. Brown put the puck high and say Luongo’s blocker to tie the game at 2-2.
Sharks continued to struggle on the defense, and allowed what was perhaps the most embarrassing goal of their season so far at the end of the first period. In a situation that appeared safe Jason Demers was on his own blue line but bobbled the puck while trying to pass it to Scott Hannan. It was easily intercepted by Alexandre Burrows and in the confusion of all and scrambling to get the puck back Sharks defensemen fell on top of each other, allowing Chris Higgins to face Antti Niemi all alone and put the puck into the net, giving Canucks 3-2 lead going into the first intermission.
Second period did not start any better for San Jose, as Canucks doubled their lead on a goal by Zack Kassian on a redirect from Kevin Bieksa shooting all the way from the blue line. The goal made it 4-2 and forced Sharks to switch their goaltenders as Antti Niemi headed to the bench and got replaced by Alex Stalock after allowing four goals on 12 shots.
Stalock’s presence improved Sharks focus and their play on defense. Having only put 11 shot on goal in the first two periods, it wasn’t until the third that San Jose picked up their game offensively. They held the puck more, and started winning the battles in the tight areas. As their play improved, so did the play of Roberto Luongo who was on time to the puck and poisoning himself well each time.
With two minutes remaining in the game, Todd McLellan pulled the goaltender for extra skater in the zone. That helped generate chances, but none of them were realized by the Sharks, and they lost yet again.
After three home games in a row, the Sharks will travel to Canada where they will face the Jets, Flames, Canucks and Oilers with the last stop in Chicago before returning to SAP Center for five game home stand in the second half of November. It may be a good time to get on the road again where coaches can spend more time with the players, address some of the bad habits that are starting to creep into the team’s play, and simplify their game, as they do when playing away from their home crowd.