Even with all the drama surrounding the San Jose Sharks over the previous 48 hours, the South Bay club still looked strong as they took the ice to face the Blackhawks Saturday afternoon.
They bounced back from a pair of score deficits in the first two periods of play to tie the tough Chicago team, and entered the final frame with a 2-2 score and the opportunity to pull out a win to cap off their home stand. But the Blackhawks put their foot on the gas after retaking the lead 3-2 and never looked back, sending the Team Teal packing for their two-week road trip with a 6-2 loss.
“When you look at the first two (periods) we are happy with the tempo that we play with and the execution,” Todd McLellan said. “We were resilient, fell behind twice and came back. We didn’t do a job of being resilient after (Chicago’s) third goal. And the fourth one killed us.”
That summation seemed to be mutually agreed on throughout the rest of the dressing room after the game. “The way it was going, we felt like we could come back again,” Joe Pavelski sighed. “Even (Chicago’s third) goal, it feels like we’re in a strong position.”
Logan Couture agreed: “I thought we were the better team through the first two. Had a tough break on their third goal, and the fourth goal — left a guy wide open in the slot, and I think it was over after that.”
Logging a ton of time on the penalty kill in the final stanza didn’t help either. After 40 minutes of strong hockey, the Sharks emerged a little less urgent in the third, giving up three unanswered goals and racking up penalties to boot. Joe Thornton went to the box for hooking, and the split second the penalty expired, Barclay Goodrow was called on a very obvious trip.
“At 4-2, it becomes a wide open gambling game that favors them. From there on, you open up the game and you take some chances, and the penalties didn’t help either,” said McLellan.
“We played good for forty-some odd minutes tonight,” Thornton said. “Just not good enough.”
The Sharks could have gone up 1-0 on their first power play attempt on the evening. But it was disallowed due to Pavelski sliding through the blue paint and causing “goalie interference.” But unlike the last game, the Sharks didn’t avenge the no-goal before the opposition could get on the board. Patrick Sharp skated around Justin Braun and easily putted in his own rebound to give Chicago a 1-0 lead in the first frame.
A cross-ice pass from Thornton set up Matt Irwin in the slot. Corey Crawford was still on his knees stopping Irwin’s shot when Melker Karlsson tripped over his own skates in the process of sniping the puck past the Chicago net-minder, knotting things up 1-1.
San Jose’s power play to open up the second stanza did absolutely nothing. Chicago’s power play later in the frame, however, gave them the lead back when Duncan Keith beat Antti Niemi with a one-timer top shelf. But the Sharks made up for it on their net attempt after Jonathan Toews was sent to the sin bin for tripping. Thornton’s shot deflected off Burns’ stick and trickled past Crawford to knot it back up 2-2.
Brandon Saad skated around a fumbling Mirco Mueller to deposit Chicago’s third goal on the breakaway to open up the third frame. Bryan Bickell added to the assault with a snipe from the slot that eluded Niemi’s glove and gave the visitors a 4-2 advantage. Sharp found the back of the net for the second time on the evening with the Sharks trying to kill off the Goodrow penalty, then Marian Hossa buried an empty-netter with less than three minutes left to play to seal the 6-2 fate.
Despite the ugly ending on the scoreboard, Brenden Dillon explained that the loss couldn’t be dwelled upon. “I think overall you’ve got to take what you can from this game and get ready for the next one. This time of year, you’ve got to have a short term memory on games like this.”
“It would have been nice to fight back and at least tie it up,” McLellan said. “But we didn’t. And we have to move on now and find a way to win in Winnepeg.”