Sharks improved effort isn’t enough to beat red-hot Rangers

nyr

The Sharks looked better on Saturday night than they did in their previous game in St. Louis. They skated cleaner and fought harder. The effort level had definitely gotten a boost from the lowly product they put forward at the tail end of the past week’s roadtrip. It’s what Todd McLellan called a “moral victory.”

“The commitment level and the effort went way up,” he explained of the jump between San Jose’s 7-2 defeat in St. Louis to Saturday’s home bout with the New York Rangers.

Yet it still wasn’t enough to get a jump on the scorching New York Rangers, who completed a sweep of the California franchises with a 3-1 victory over the Sharks. Netminder Henrik Lundqvist was in his finest form during Saturday’s game, turning away 30 of San Jose’s 31 attempts and not allowing the home team to get on the board until the third frame. The Sharks’ lone goal on the evening gave them a boost as they played on of the most aggressive third periods they have all season. It was clear that they weren’t going to go down without a fight, making the Rangers late game-winning goal and subsequent victory sting.

“We’ve got to get wins obviously, that’s the biggest thing,” Joe Pavelski said, but acknowledged how good he thought the team played as a whole. “You lose, obviously it doesn’t matter. 7-2, 3-1 like tonight, it’s a loss. But the effort was there, it was a lot better.”

Matt Nieto echoed that approach: “I think everyone came to play tonight, and it’s a matter of them making plays on our errors. I think we easily could have won that game. But that’s hockey, that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

New York notched their first goal a little under 10 minutes in the first frame. Right off the faceoff in the Sharks’ zone, Martin St. Louis was left wide open to go five-hole on Antti Niemi and put NY on the board 1-0. Chris Kreider added to the damage with a wrister to make it 2-0 before the first frame expired.

San Jose had a multitude of chances in the second frame. The Couture-Pavelski-Karlsson combo absolutely peppered Lundqvist with shots. But the Rangers’ netminder wasn’t budging. Niemi got his game together on his end of the ice however, making a few stellar saves that kept the puck from passing him in the second stanza as it had in the first.

New York turned up the heat in the third frame. Things got tense when Mats Zuccarello’s attempt went into Niemi’s outstretched glove over the line. An official review took a long to time decide, but after a long, arduous process, the call was “no goal.” Not long after, San Jose went on the power play with Dominic Moore in the box for holding. Just before the PP expired, James Sheppard’s shot into the paint tipped off Melker Karlsson’s stick, and skipped past Lundqvist. The Sharks were finally on the board, 2-1.

The rookie’s fifth goal in just as many games seemed to give the Sharks an extra boost as they continued to keep the puck in the Rangers defensive zone and up the pressure on Lundqvist. Marc-Eduard Vlasic even made a killer shot that looked as though it would elude Lundqvist to tie the game up and push the tilt into overtime. But in a last second act of desperation, the Sharks pulled Niemi to make room for an extra skater and the result ended up in the back of San Jose’s net. Rick Nash buried an empty-netter with excatly one minute left in regulation to give the Rangers the final 3-1 victory. A tough pill to swallow after such an improved effort on the Sharks part.

“There were some gains we made,” McLellan concluded, “but at the end of the day that doesn’t get us anything in the bank account.”

***

Forward Joe Thornton played in his first game since sustaining an upper body injury in the Sharks New Year’s Eve tilt down in Anaheim against the Ducks. When asked after Saturday’s game how his left shoulder was feeling: “It felt like I didn’t miss any time at all. Felt really good, really comfortable.”

Thornton looked solid in his 2015 debut, despite not putting any points on the board. Of course the major area the Sharks’ missed Thornton was on the power play, and while he was not on the line that scored the Sharks’ goal on the man advantage, he said he felt that San Jose’s PP was clicking Saturday night. “Our group looked really good. Looked dangerous. So it’s a good sign.”

Shark Bytes

— Melker Karlsson extended his goal streak to five goals in five games, tying the Sharks rookie record set by Jeff Friesen during the ’94-’95 season.

— The New York Rangers are 18-0-1 this season when leading after two periods. Since the season of the 2010-’11 season, they are 121-1-6 when leading after two.

— With Saturday’s win, the Rangers improve to 22-8-3 all-time vs the Sharks. Per @EliasSports, the only team with a better record vs. the Sharks is the Buffalo Sabres. (Notes courtesy of @SharksStats)

Several players filling void left by Thornton on Sharks’ “so far, so good” road trip

There is more to the Sharks’ back-to-back wins — on back-to-back nights, no less — besides the obvious “wow” factor in the late goals that decided both victories. Or the fact that Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored both game-winning goals in epic fashion. (Even though one media outlet tried to give the credit for Tuesday’s OT win to the Minnesota Wild, but they appear to have fixed that error.)

Team Teal’s week on the road has come after their most atrocious home loss of the season, a game in which nobody on the ice was able to step up and get the rest of the team in the game.

Just before the road trip started, following the 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, members of the media asked the team if the absence of Joe Thornton played a factor in the devastating defeat. It was, not surprisingly, an unpopular question.

“This is a team, we’ve got a really good group in here,” Joe Pavelski said. “Obviously he’s a great piece of this team, so there’s a little absence. But it doesn’t change anything we do as a group, as a system … It’s solely on the guys in here.”

But if the absence of No. 19 over the past three games — the two road wins in particular — has shown us anything, it’s that now more than ever is a good time for other players to fill the void.

We’ve seen players outside of the usual goal-scorers put points on the board. In addition to Vlasic putting two deciding goals on the board in two nights, rookie Melker Karlsson has continued his successful tenure up from the AHL Sharks, extending his current goal streak to three games. Brent Burns — I know, he still has his moments where he looks absolutely dreadful — has been popping up on the stats sheet in a positive way as well, with a four-game points streak (one goal, four assists) that includes two assists during Tuesday’s game.

A couple Sharks have even started breaking out of slumps. Patrick Marleau tallied the primary assist on Burns’ power play goal on Monday in Winnipeg, his first point in 10 games. Tommy Wingels’ go-ahead goal in the third frame of the game ended his own 14-game scoring drought.

It isn’t just goal-scoring that has propelled the Sharks to victory, as they’ve also improved on the blue line. The new combo of Matt Irwin and Matt Tennyson has been strong over the past two games; Tennyson has been at his best in this recent call up from AHL Worcester, and has brought out some of the best in Irwin. Together they’ve been as sharp a pair as any in front of netminders Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock, respectively.

San Jose’s next test: maintaining a consistent team product on the ice in their rematch with the Blues. The Sharks make their only visit to Scottrade Center for the season on Thursday, and will not just be looking for a win, but a chance at redemption after the Blues embarrassed them at home last weekend. But a win will depend on the Sharks not collectively flailing like they did last Saturday, but rather more players stepping up and contributing.

Sharks get routed in “disappointing” 7-2 loss to Blues

Sharks Blues

There are losses where you can try to blame bad ice, poor officiating or even a hectic travel schedule. But on Saturday night, the Sharks just played flat-out bad, and head coach Todd McLellan put it plainly:

“There’s no excuse for us. Not one.”

A first period scrum between the Sharks’ Micheal Haley and the Blues’ Steve Ott seemed to get the home team back in the game for a brief moment. But the following 40 minutes saw Team Teal come completely undone in a 7-2 beatdown in which T.J. Oshie notched a hat trick and starting goaltender Antti Niemi was sent to the bench after allowing six goals.

“It’s disappointing, that’s the biggest thing,” said Joe Pavelski. “We had chances to get in the game and get going, and we didn’t do a good enough job by any means.”

Was there any particular reason one can pinpoint for what went wrong for the Sharks?

“What went wrong? Everything. Right from the first shift we weren’t in that game,” Logan Couture said. “And it’s very disappointing to do that in any game, especially in your home building, to let a team that played last night come in and dominate you from the very first second of the game.”

The Blues had in fact skated into SAP Center after losing 4-3 in Anaheim the night before, and hadn’t faired well on their most recent road trip. The Sharks were coming off two days rest after a New Year’s Eve win over the Ducks, although they were entering Saturday’s tilt without veteran forward Joe Thornton, who hadn’t missed a game since 2009. Whether it was Thornton’s absence or the Blues getting hot at the right time, San Jose just couldn’t seem to put the pieces together to play up to St. Louis’ level.

“On a night when we needed … well, everybody to elevate their game a little bit … We didn’t do that. We did the exact opposite.” McLellan said with a shake of his head. “We weren’t even remotely close to being in that game.”

The ice was heavily tilted in St. Louis’ favor from the drop of the puck. San Jose had little offensive zone time while St. Louis put Antti Niemi to work early, outshooting the home team 16-8 in the first frame alone. The Sharks had a few close calls in the better part of the period, including a shot by David Backes that hit the crossbar and kept the game scoreless.

But Oshie broke the game open when he skipped the loose puck over Niemi’s pad to put the visitors on top 1-0.

Following Haley’s brief exchange with Ott, the Sharks caught a bit of fire in their skates. Barclay Goodrow’s shot ricocheted off James Sheppard’s skate and Melker Karlsson poked the puck past netminder Brian Elliot to put San Jose on the board 1-1. On the next shift, Pavelski’s sniper shot from the right of St. Louis’s net went high and at an awkward angle to elude Elliot completely and give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. But they lost the advantage quickly when Niemi let in a soft goal by Alexander Steen to send the game into the first intermission tied 2-2.

That was the end of San Jose’s efforts for the night.

At the start of the second frame, Oshie walked right through the Sharks’ defense and beat Niemi glove side, giving the Blues the lead back 3-2. The Sharks seemed to think they would be able to skate into the second intermission down by only a goal, but a no-look shot by Jaden Schwartz from behind the net eluded San Jose’s defense to find Kevin Shattenkirk in front of the net, widening St. Louis’s lead to 4-2.

The third period opened up with Scott Hannan headed to the penalty box for a holding call — his second penalty on the evening. Five seconds into the power play Steen launched the puck to the back of San Jose’s net. Schwartz got credit for the power play goal that dug the Sharks into a deeper hole: 5-2. Dmitrij Jasken added to the assault with a wrist shot that Niemi didn’t even see pass him. The Blues’ sixth goal on the night chased Niemi out of the game and put Alex Stalock between the pipes. Stalock didn’t fair much better, as Oshie scored on the power play — his third goal of the night — to increase the lead even further, 7-2.

Sure, no team wants to lose in such horrendous fashion. Let alone right before a three game road trip that ends facing the Blues at Scottrade Center later this week. “They were better than we were (tonight),” Marc-Edouard Vlasic acknowledged. “We’ll probably analyze it tomorrow, but we know what we did wrong… We play these guys again on this road trip. So we’ve got to be better.”

Sharks “pay the price” in 3-1 loss to Canucks

canucks sharks

The desired result for the Sharks second matchup against the Vancouver Canucks was to not repeat their November 6 performance in which they fell 3-2. Tuesday’s tilt, however, was rather uninspired.

“There’s a price that our team has to pay to win,” Todd McLellan said. “Right now, we’re not reaching deep enough … We want everything on sale, is basically a good way of putting it.”

It’s a poetic way of putting it, really, as the Sharks followed up a 3-1 loss to the LA Kings on Saturday with a 3-1 loss to the Canucks, their third straight loss against a division rival.

Nothing seemed to go the Sharks’ way. Joe Pavelski rattled off the list of miscues that befell the team: “We didn’t find the back of the net. There were a lot of one-and-outs. There was nobody at the net when we had our looks. There were a couple good ones, but we didn’t capitalize on them.”

Capitalizing on any of their chances was made even more difficult by the fact that netminder Ryan Miller had another stellar showing in San Jose. “Miller saw a lot of our shots,” Joe Thornton said. “It was tough to get good looks tonight.”

So tough that the Sharks special teams suffered as well. Vancouver’s players went on a penalty frenzy in the second period, but San Jose ultimately went 0-for-4 on the man advantage on the evening.

Vancouver has proven to be stingy when they get an early lead, and such was the case in the first frame of Tuesday’s game. With chaos in front of Alex Stalock, the puck bounced off Brenden Dillon’s skate and was poked to the back of San Jose’s net. Bo Horvat was credited with the goal that gave the Canucks the early 1-0 lead.

The Sharks a golden opportunity to tie later in the period with a penalty shot opportunity for Pavelski. But it hit the crossbar with a mocking ‘clank,’ keeping San Jose off the board.

At the opening of the second stanza, Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen laid a dirty hit on Tommy Wingels that sent Sharks’ forward straight to the locker room. Right after he left the penalty box Hansen broke up the ice and shot high over Stalock’s block to add insult to injury and push the visitors’ lead to 2-0. “I didn’t like the hit,” McLellan said bluntly. “I didn’t like that he came out of the box and scored the winning goal and got to play the rest of the night.” Wingels did return to the bench later in the game, however there was no word after the game on how severely he was affected by the hit.

San Jose got another opportunity at a penalty shot after Joe Thornton was mowed over on a breakaway. Thornton’s shot was good, ending the Sharks’ five-year penalty shot drought and cutting Vancouver’s lead in half 2-1.

But Radim Vrbata added to the Canucks lead shortly thereafter with a wrist shot that Stalock couldn’t stop, giving Vancouver the 3-1 advantage. “That’s one I’ve got to have, obviously,” he admitted. “The guy at the other end played a great game, and outplayed me at my end.”

San Jose had a few choice looks towards the end of the second frame, but Miller was in fine form and smothered every shot that came his way.

Not that the Sharks have any time to dwell on the loss. They have a quick turnaround, facing the Ducks down in Anaheim for a New Year’s Eve twi-night match. Is there any advantage to heading right into another game to get the taste of this loss out of their mouths, or is it more nerve-racking having to work not to lose a fourth straight game to a division opponent?

“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” Pavelski said, “We’ve got to find wins. We’re going to be playing these teams down the stretch, there’s going to be tough games. It’s about rebounding our game now, and picking it up.”

Sharks Bytes

— Joe Thornton’s penalty shot goal was the first for the Sharks in five years. Previous converted penalty shot was December 30, 2009 against Washington (per @EliasSports)

— For the second time this season San Jose did not allow a power play goal. Although Thornton received a penalty for slashing during the second period, his penalty was sandwiched between two Vancouver penalties, thus nullifying their man-advantage opportunity

— The Sharks are now 12-5-3 vs West, 6-4-2 vs Pacific Division (Courtesy of @SharksStats)

Sharks need win over Canucks to stay competitive in Pacific Division

Never mind the four-day break for Christmas, or that the ice might have been wonky after being newly placed after the Clippers’ afternoon game. You really can’t fall back on excuses for the Sharks’ lazy play in their 3-1 loss to the Kings last Saturday. The Pacific Division has become incredibly tight as we enter the new year and Team Teal needs a good shot in the arm, especially as the chunk of their schedule that will carry them into January will not be a cake walk.

San Jose took the winning ways from their mid-December homestand on the road to Anaheim just before the Christmas break, and matched the surging Ducks team despite losing 3-2 in overtime.

But the Sharks had difficulty finding their legs at Staples Center this past weekend, and their woes on offense “kind of seeped into our special teams” Tommy Wingels told the media afterward. In fact, the Sharks’ post-Christmas blues went so far as to affect their penalty kill, which was no match for LA’s effective power play. Todd McLellan summed up the game with: “The better team won tonight.”

Not playing up to the competition is an issue they can’t afford to have against a tough stretch of schedule continues with a third straight game against a division rival — a home tilt against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night. It will be the teams’ second meeting of the season, but things are significantly tighter than when they faced off back on November 6. The Pacific Division has become quite cozy, with San Jose, Vancouver, LA and Calgary all sitting at 43 points apiece heading into Tuesday’s games. Another strong home performance in San Jose could be pivotal for the Sharks to stay in the hunt to play postseason hockey.

With the odd SoCal travel schedule that bookended the Christmas break behind them, the Sharks need to put a couple straight days of practice to work on the ice Tuesday night. Their revamped success at home — they’ve won their last seven on SAP Center ice — will hopefully continue on Tuesday as the Vancouver team coming in has faired incredibly well on the road, going 11-6-2. (Vancouver has also dropped four straight road matches after a loss in Anaheim on Sunday, so maybe the Sharks can use that as a confidence booster.)

Plus, having another healthy body or two should help a bit. While the recently recalled players have performed well, getting Matt Nieto back in the lineups will hopefully give San Jose’s offense a bit of a jolt, depending which line he ends up on. All the offensive power will be needed to get the puck past Ryan Miller, whose vintage performance between the pipes in the Canucks’ last visit to the Tank stymied San Jose’s efforts in the visitors’ 3-2 victory.

After the string of home victories, McLellan has described the Sharks’ performances as “team wins.” A collective team win on Tuesday — as opposed to the uninspired game they played against the Kings last Saturday — is what they’ll need to stay in the fight for the Pacific crown.

Sharks give St. Louis the blues in 3-2 OT win

brent burns shot

The game-winning goal in Saturday night’s battle between the Sharks and the Blues looked as though it had been fired out of a cannon. As if the tight nature of the game had condensed itself into the game puck and exploded the second Brent Burns launched it into the back of St. Louis’ net.

“He’s got a shot doesn’t he?” Todd McLellan said of the power play in over time that gave Number 88 the opportunity to end San Jose’s homestand on a high note. “He put himself in a good position, created a shooting lane. The pass was in his wheelhouse, and he just pounded away at it. It’s hard to stop a shot that fast and that quick.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s game-tying wrist shot to the back of the opponents net with 21 seconds left in regulation tied the tight-checking tilt up 2-2 and sent it into overtime. San Jose took a second period lead only to lose it in the second stanza, and trailed 2-1 right up until Vlasic beat netminder Jake Allen to send the game into extras. A late penalty on St. Louis’s Alexander Steen helped created pressure in the Blue’s zone, and Joe Pavelski set Burns up for a one-timer to notch the 3-2 victory, extending the Sharks home winning streak to eight games.

sharks burns“We call it ‘a man’s game,'” Burns said of the all-around nature of the game. “I think when you play these big teams, you expect that.”

Talk before the game about these two teams being similar proved true in the first 30 minutes of play, as both battled to create scoring chances. “When we’re tough to play against, we don’t give up much, and they’re the same way,” said Vlasic. “It took a lot, against a good defensive team.”

“We broke through, it just took a long time,” Pavelski said. “We were pushing hard starting in that second period. I think we gained the momentum in the second, even though we lost the lead there.”

Both goalies were on point through the scoreless first frame — Antti Niemi, who had looked sluggish in his start against Edmonton on Thursday, kept the Blues off the board with a few nasty saves while Allen kept some of San Jose’s best looks from developing into goals.

San Jose finally broke through when Justin Braun made a brilliant pass to Andrew Desjardins for the shot five hole, which completely eluded Allen and put the Sharks on the board first, 1-0.

The lead didn’t last long. A couple Sharks got tangled up defending a shot by Alex Pietrangelo and Patrik Berglund had room to putt in the rebound past an outstretched Niemi to knot things up 1-1. San Jose’s defense was stymied again just a few minutes later in the frame and Steve Ott made good on the breakaway to beat Niemi and give the Blues the lead 2-1.

San Jose came out even stronger in the third period and peppered Allen with shots, but nothing was getting past him. It took an elusive wrister by Vlasic to knot the game up and send it into four-on-four. Steen was called for tripping Pavelski with 1.03 left in overtime. San Jose top power play unit got right to work and Burns notched the game-winner to send the sold-out crowd at the Tank home happy. A fitting end to another “big team win” as McLellan has come to call it.

“Guys ‘bought in’ again tonight,” Pavelski agreed. “It’s fun to play that way.”

Shark Bites

— With Saturday’s game-winner, Brent Burns has seven career game winning goals in overtime, his second with the Sharks.

— Andrew Desjardins scored his first goal in 11 career games against the St. Louis Blues.

— The Sharks are now 9-2-2 in their last 13 games against the Blues in San Jose. They are 5-5-1 in their last 11 overall against St. Louis. (Notes courtesy of @SharksStats)

“Youth movement” continues with Sharks’ 4-3 win over Oilers

Sharks Barclay Goodrow

The groggy style of play that comes along with having four days off reared its ugly head early in the Sharks’ Thursday night rematch with the visiting Oilers. “It took us a little bit too long to get going,” Joe Pavelski admitted when recalling that Team Teal entered the third frame trailing 3-2 after giving up a 2-1 lead midway through the second stanza.

But San Jose regrouped and reevaluated, and in the end came out on top 4-3, mostly because of the team’s younger players. Defenseman Matt Tennyson registered his first NHL career goal, while surging rookie Barclay Goodrow tallied two points on the evening including his second career goal. “They are really starting to feel like they belong,” Todd McLellan said of the youngsters in the lineup. “The youthful enthusiasm is spreading throughout the team.”

If any young player is truly encompassing that enthusiam, it’s Goodrow, who as part of the Sharks’ most recent third line combo has been a huge playmaker on San Jose’s recent homestand. “It was nice to get out there and contribute more than one (point) tonight,” Goodrow said with a slight grin. “I think I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable over the last couple of games. I thought I played a lot better.”

His veteran teammates were a bit more complimentary. “(Barclay) was flying around all night,” Pavelski said. “He is one player who was in it right from the start, it’s good to see him get rewarded.”

The other player getting props was Tennyson — the former Jr. Shark made his first career goal look effortless. But when asked about it afterwards, the 24-year-old d-man shrugged and said: “Good to get that out of the way. And it was a goal that tied it up for us, so that makes it even better.”

Edmonton got on the board first, when a backhanded shot by Boyd Gordon eluded Antti Niemi for a soft goal to put the visitors up 1-0 with 5:12 left in the first frame.

Following a dangerous and productive penalty kill in the second period, that third line came out in full force to tilt the ice in San Jose’s favor. Goodrow had possession of the puck behind the net and passed it up to James Sheppard, who was right in front of the paint. Sheppard’s sniper shot past goaltender Ben Scrivens to tie things up 1-1.

Not two minutes later later, Logan Couture skated through the Oilers defense and lined the puck past Scrivens stick-side to give the Sharks their first lead of the evening, 2-1. It was short-lived, however, with chaos in front of San Jose’s net and Steven Pinizzotto poked the loose puck through Niemi’s legs to knot it back up 2-2. Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins caught the Sharks’ defense napping a few shifts later and putted another puck five-hole to give Edmonton the lead back 3-2.

On the power play, Tennyson came off the rush and wristed the puck past Scrivens, knotting the game back up 3-3. “It was good to see us battle back, and we had to do it twice,” Tennyson said of San Jose tying the game yet again. “It’s something we need to keep doing if we’re getting down, and we have the guys in this room to (mount) that comeback.”

Goodrow put the Sharks back on top after he fought against Edmonton’s defense on the breakaway and backhanded the puck to the back of the Oilers’ net for the game-winner with a little over half of the final frame left to play. Niemi, who had looked sluggish in the first two frames, made a few big saves late in the third to keep Edmonton from putting another goal on the board.

Hopefully having just one day in between games will dispel anymore sleepy play for the Sharks, as they end the homestand before the Christmas break on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues.

Shark Bites

The Sharks third line, comprised of Goodrow, Sheppard and Melker Karlsson, was responsible for five of the Sharks 11 points (both goals and assists) Thursday night.

— With his goal in the second period, Logan Couture now has 15 points in 15 career regular season games against the Edmonton Oilers.

— Matt Tennyson became the third Sharks player this season to score his first career goal.

Sharks get under Predators’ skin in shutout win

Tomas Hertl Joe Pavelski Sharks Preds

Even with the current homestand going their way, the Sharks had a big challenge ahead of them Saturday night when the surging Nashville Predators came into town. Particularly when it came to getting the puck past goaltending great Pekka Rinne, who entered the tilt with a league-leading 19 wins.

But Team Teal prepared.

“We were ready today,” Joe Pavelski said. “We knew (the Predators) were a good team. Good goalie, good defense, they don’t give up much. Their transition game is good. Those were things that we talked about early, and we handled them.”

The home team shut them out 2-0 in one of the Sharks’ most complete games of the season, notching their sixth straight home win in excellent fashion.

“We had a game plan and we bought into it,” Todd McLellan said. “It was a good team win tonight. Everybody bought in and sacrificed. Some guys didn’t get on the scoresheet … but they found ways to be real effective.”

One player who stuck out without notching a point was Barclay Goodrow. The rookie forward was on Nashville’s radar from the first frame on to the final buzzer, taking big hits from defenseman Shea Weber throughout the match and continued to stand up for himself. (The musical highlight of the night was when things got chippy between Goodrow and a few Predators with less than a minute left in regulation, and Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” played over the sound system.)

Goodrow admitted afterwards that he was ready to fight back, and enjoys a “scrappy” type game. “I like getting under their skin,” he said with a smile. “You kind of know you’re doing a good job when they start talking to you and chirping at you.”

With the shutout, Antti Niemi became the first Sharks netminder to blank the Predators since Evgeni Nabokov did it in 2007. Not bad for a guy who was riding pine all week with an injury he sustained during morning skate before Tuesday’s tilt against the Edmonton Oilers.

San Jose looked confident and aggressive right from the drop of the puck. Tomas Hertl’s first scoring attempt in the crease was denied by Rinne. But on the top line’s next shift he grabbed a rebound of a Pavelski shot and chipped it into the back of the net to take a 1-0 lead a little over five minutes into the first frame.

San Jose had an opportunity on the man advantage in the second period, but Rinne was in fine form, robbing Pavelski of two incredible attempts to increase San Jose’s lead. On the other end of things, San Jose’s penalty kill was at its best, denying the Predators the opportunity to notch a power play goal twice during that same frame.

Nashville picked up their game in the third, outshooting San Jose 18-5 and applying major pressure in front of the Sharks’ net. Niemi sprawled out to make a huge save on Weber to keep the opponent from tying the game up on the Sharks penalty kill — one of the Sharks’ best kills of the game. Later, Niemi’s helmet blocked a shot by Olli Jokinen that would have given the Predators their first goal on the evening. Desperate to get on the scoreboard, Nashville pulled Rinne — who was easily the Predators’ best player on the evening — for an extra skater. But the move played out in the Sharks’ favor as Joe Thornton notched an empty net goal at 18:26 to solidify San Jose’s win.

After the solid win, McLellan was asked if the team was playing their “best hockey” of the season. “The record would indicate that, but I think we’ve got to look beyond that,” he said. “We have to look at the little things that we’re trying to accomplish, and we probably are.”

Sharks finally unveil Stadium Series sweater to not-so-rave reviews

Sharks Northern California patch

When it comes to the upcoming Sharks-Kings outdoor game, all anybody has really cared about is what the team’s specialty jerseys will look like.

Honestly, the excitement of an outdoor game in the Bay Area or seeing the Sharks host the Kings at the 49ers new digs wore off a long time ago. For the past few months, all of the attention has been on what those Stadium Series sweaters are going to look like. Anticipation mounted last week when icethetics.com leaked a picture of what the coveted sweaters might look like — but you know the internet, just because somebody posts something doesn’t mean it’s real. So the Team Teal faithful continued their arduous wait for the official unveiling of outdoor game jerseys.

Finally, San Jose gave the people what they wanted. But the people, it appears, aren’t very impressed.

sharks outdoor game sweaterThe Sharks released a video Friday morning which mixes quick shots of Marc-Edouard Vlasic rocking the highly-awaited jersey while standing in the Levi’s Stadium seats, with percussive background music that sounds as though it were stolen from one of the new “Planet of the Apes” flicks.

The sweaters appear to be not too dissimilar from the Sharks’ home teals, with an added band of white across the front midsection of the jersey and sleeves, along with a jet black section on the bottom. Lettering is basic white, the same as it is on both home jerseys. The real kicker is the duo of patches featured on the sweater’s sleeves: One patch of course displays the Coors Light Stadium Series emblem, while the other is a nifty black-and-yellow Northern California patch featuring a shark fin slicing through the center of the state.

Outside of the NorCal patch, the general reaction to the specialty sweater seems mostly negative. Some responses on Twitter feature the word “ugh,  or ugly. I’ve even seen posts where people have suggested what the sweaters “should look like.” Leave it up to a hockey jersey to bring out someone’s inner fashion critic

I’m wondering if the attitude towards these new sweaters will change, given that the Sharks are planning to wear them more than once. After the outdoor match on February 21, San Jose is rumored to integrate the jersey into its gameday rotation and eventually take place of the Thursday night/postseason black jersey. Being that the fan base at large is rather disenchanted with the Black Armor for superstitious reasons related to the Sharks’ playoff woes, it will be interesting to see if the lack of love for the new jersey changes over the upcoming months.

Alex Stalock gives Sharks winning edge over Wild

alex stalock sharks

Considering that the Sharks hosted the Wild at a time when both team’s defenses were depleted, Thursday night’s game could have been incredibly high-scoring. It also could have spelled disaster for San Jose, which was missing a couple regular forwards and had several players newly recalled from AHL Worcester.

Plus, Minnesota puts more shots on net than just about anyone in the league. Not good for a team both missing its top defenseman in Marc-Edouard Vlasic and relying on a younger set of players to put on the pressure.

But a stellar performance from Alex Stalock and contributions from all four offensive lines was spice for the recipe that pushed the Sharks past the Wild, 2-1.

“It was a good night for our team, I thought everybody ‘fell into place,'” Todd McLellan said afterwards. “We made great plays and finished. Everybody played to their strengths, and it was a good team win.”

Some of those great plays came courtesy of Stalock, who twisted and stretched in front of the crease to keep the opposition off the board until the third period of play. Not bad for a guy getting a third consecutive start for the first time in his NHL career. “He’s just a guy that you cheer for night in and night out,” Logan Couture complimented. “Ever since I’ve played with Al, I knew he was going to be a great goaltender in the NHL. And he’s slowly proven that. He’s been through a roller-coaster ride of a career.”

Couture himself came to Stalock’s aid twice in the second stanza with two big defensive plays that kept the puck out of San Jose’s net. “(Those plays) didn’t go unnoticed,” McLellan said. “Everybody on the bench noticed it too. That’s powerful when a player like that, makes a play like that. Everybody recognizes the great offensive plays that he makes. But the commitment to coming back, it’s powerful on the bench when you’re teammates see it.”

The game remained scoreless through the first period and well into the second. The stalemate was broken on the Sharks’ power play attempt when Brent Burns lined the puck high through traffic, past Minnesota netminder Darcy Kuemper’s shoulder to break through and put the Sharks on the board 1-0.

In the start of the third period, Tommy Wingels had a rare giveaway in the Sharks zone, and Minnesota’s Christian Folin capitalized, snapping the puck past Stalock to knot things up 1-1.

It could have been a turning point for the Wild, but the Sharks top line fought back against the meltdown. Joe Thornton made a brilliant pass to Joe Pavelski for a one-timer that Kuemper couldn’t block, giving the Sharks the lead 45 seconds later. It was a lead they would not give up, with Stalock making some of his most stellar saves as the clock wound down in regulation.

With the win, the Sharks have six victories over their last seven games. Has the team established that home-ice presence they were looking for at the start of this stint in San Jose, even in light of the mounting injuries? “We’ve recovered from the long trip,” McLellan said. We’re finding players. As the young players are coming up from Worcester, they’re able to contribute. That’s a tremendous thing for our team moving forward.”

Sharks overcome mistakes and injury to defeat Oilers

joe pavelski goal

The Sharks’ Tuesday night rematch with the Edmonton Oilers was far from pretty. To be frank, their defensive game got pretty sloppy in the first frame. It even looked like San Jose might get embarrassed in their own house after jumping out to an early lead just to let Edmonton tie things up before that first 20 minutes had expired. “In my opinion, we played two first periods,” Todd McLellan said. “The first 10, we did the things that we wanted to do. In the second 10, we started to bring pucks back … and that ends up in your net.”

But in the end the home team didn’t let their first period mistakes — and the mounting injuries — get the better of them. “The positive thing is that the guys accepted those facts between periods,” McLellan continued, “and we got back to playing the way we needed to play to win.”

And win they did, thanks to a pair of goals from Joe Pavelski and some help from the Sharks younger players to pull out a 5-2 victory over the Oilers.

“It’s a game, there are going to be momentum shifts,” Pavelski explained. “You just have to stay with it, and keep working for it.”

Being able to “keep working at it” and notch the win was even more important since a few players were injured on Tuesday. That’s in addition to forwards Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto, who were already scratched due to bumps and bruises. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the first period after getting pancaked into the boards by Tyler Pitlick, although McLellan assured the media afterward that Vlasic was kept out as a “precautionary” measure. Forward Mike Brown took a nasty lower body hit in the second period that had him crawling on all fours off the ice; while the exact nature of the injury is unknown, McLellan said Brown would be “out awhile.”

Heck, Antti Niemi was originally given the call to start Tuesday night, but took a hit during the morning skate that sidelined him for the evening. Lucky for the Sharks, Alex Stalock was prepared to go back between the pipes after surrendering Sunday’s game to the Oilers up in Edmonton. “I think for Nemo and I, we have the same pre-game skate whether we play or don’t play,” Stalock, who saved 25 shots on the evening, said of getting the call last minute.

Stalock had some big saves later in the match, although early on all the action was going on at the other end of the ice. The Sharks early assault started when Pavelski got the puck from Joe Thornton, then pirouetted around and backhanded the shot up high over netminder Ben Scrivens’s block to give the Sharks an early 1-0 lead.

Just a few shifts later, the newly-assembled third line of James Sheppard, Barclay Goodrow and freshly called-up Melker Karlsson added to the lead. Sheppard fed the puck to Karlsson, whose shot was blocked by Scrivens. Goodrow picked up the loose puck and pitched it in to put the Sharks up 2-0. It was Goodrow’s first NHL goal, and Karlsson’s first NHL point in his debut. “It feels nice to be able to contribute,” Goodrow said humbly. “In order for a team to be successful, you need all lines chipping in. And I felt that our line played well tonight.”

And don’t be surprised if that line combo sticks as the homestand continues. “That line was good for us,” McLellan admitted. “Missing Kennedy and Nieto, I thought (that line) had jump in their stride.”

After the second goal, the Sharks’ defensive game began to unravel. A turnover in their defensive zone allowed Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle to nab the puck and chip it behind Stalock, cutting the lead to 2-1. Then David Perron tied it up with a snipe past Stalock.

San Jose didn’t look much cleaner in the start of the second frame, but wouldn’t let the Oilers find the back of the net again. Instead, Logan Couture broke the stalemate that period when he deflected a shot by Scott Hannan to put the home team back on top 3-2. The fourth line drew the Sharks’ second penalty of the evening on the next shift, and the top power play unit delivered. A tic-tac-toe play from Joe Thornton to Patrick Marleau to Pavelski beat Scrivens to give No. 8 his second goal on the evening to increase the lead 4-2.

Brent Burns put the nail in the coffin when he found the back of the net with a slap shot to the top corner to give the Sharks a 5-2 lead with just over five minutes left in regulation. A few nifty saves by Stalock kept the visitors from coming back.

San Jose will need to improve, and get as healthy as possible, before they host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. “There were definitely times tonight that we could have been better,” Pavelski conceded. “But, you start winning at home, it feels good.”

Sharks enter homestand looking for wins … and fan support

After a raucous come-from-behind victory over the Boston Bruins last Thursday, San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski admitted: It had been a long time since he had heard the crowd at the Tank get excited for Team Teal.

“It was great in the third period, we heard that ‘Let’s Go Sharks!’ and that’s probably the first time we’ve heard that all year!” Pavelski said with a self-deprecating smile. “That’s on us as players. That we haven’t created that kind of atmosphere.”

In fact, the atmosphere created by the Sharks in the first stretch of the season was one not so familiar to the South Bay franchise. The team played poorly enough that the home fans in San Jose either weren’t showing up, or booing their own team. While this phenomenon surely isn’t foreign to my colleagues from the East Coast, who are accustomed to more critical fan bases, I was downright shocked when I heard jeers floating up into the SAP Center press area. Bay Area sports fans are incredibly forgiving of their sports teams, and if the Sharks are getting booed, there’s a serious problem.

Since Thursday’s cheer-filled win, the Sharks extended their winning streak to four games with a win over the Flames in Calgary, then had said streak snapped by the Oilers in a less-than-inspiring Sunday performance that ended Edmonton’s 11-game losing skid. With a five-game homestand kicking off this Tuesday, we wonder if the Sharks have learned what they need to do to be successful, or if they’re due for another long stretch without hearing the San Jose crowd singing their praises.

A rematch with the Oilers on Tuesday unfortunately holds low expectations, since the Sharks showed in Sunday’s meeting that they still have a bad habit of playing down to bottom-of-the-barrel competition. Outside of Tommy Wingels’ hit on Oiler Tyler Pitlick in the first period, the Sharks didn’t look threatening for the better part of that game. While the fatigue of playing a back-to-back on the road can be taken into consideration, San Jose can’t be reserving the effort to notch four-plus goals for tilts with better teams. They were outshot 11-2 in the first frame on Sunday, putting almost no pressure on netminder Ben Scrivens. Granted, Sunday’s performance was better than when Scrivens pitched a 59-save shutout against San Jose last season. But if the Sharks want to hear their fans cheer this week, they will have to grab a bottle of whatever they were sipping on during the second stanza of the game against Boston and show Edmonton who’s boss.

Games later in the week should be more interesting, with the Wild coming into town on Thursday and the Predators on Saturday. Battles with Minnesota — who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and defeated the Sharks in their first meet-up back in October — always prove to be entertaining. Saturday will mark the first meeting this season with the Preds, who are currently 7-3-0 in the last 10 games and are only a point behind Chicago in the Central Division standings. These teams are averaging 2.7 and 2.9 goals in their last 10, respectively, which is great if the Sharks are putting the puck in the back of the net four or more times a night. That could be difficult, however, with two forwards who were heating up — Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto — sidelined due to injury, cutting into the Sharks’ offensive depth. San Jose has also created a pattern of falling behind early in a game and having to dig their way out of a hole. If they aren’t going to score more than two or three goals per game, getting on the board first might be their best bet in being successful.

Scoring early and not letting lowly teams get the better of them doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. But going by the Sharks’ current track record, this two-week stint at home could either be incredibly successful, or a complete mess.

“There’s a lot of effort that has to go in for (the success) to be there every night,” Pavelski said after the win over Boston. We’ll see if that effort makes an appearance on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, or if the home crowd will be forced to vocally show their disapproval again.

Sharks win third straight as three forwards score two goals apiece

bruins sharks

Just as the second frame was about to start Thursday night , a camera shot of Tommy Wingels came up on the cube above center ice. The home team was trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes, and the ice was heavily tilted in the visiting Bruins’ favor. Per usual when the Sharks are trailing, Wingels wore a wild man wide-eyed expression. I was about to tweet something about how he wasn’t going to blink until San Jose was on the board, but Number 57 beat me to it with a snipe past goaltender Tuuka Rask to cut Boston’s early lead in half 2-1.

It was the start of an assault by the Team Teal to end this homestand on a high note. Wingels was one of three players who registered two goals in Thursday’s raucous 7-4 victory over the tough Bruins team. It was the Sharks third win in a row, the first time all season that they’ve strung together that many victories.

“You’re only as good as your latest game,” Wingels insisted, “and fortunately for us, it’s three wins in a row. We can feel good about ourselves.”

Head coach Todd McLellan echoed that sentiment. “Today was a good morale boost — fall behind and then come back. And really have everyone contribute, it was a good thing for the team.”

What made the victory even more impressive was the high score. Everyone from the team to members of the media — and probably many fans — expected a low-scoring defensive tilt between these two teams. What they got was quite different. “Sometimes that happens, when you expect one thing, it can completely go awry,” McLellan explained. “I’d hoped we wouldn’t give up four, but I wasn’t sure we could get to seven.”

Falling behind early is bad enough, let alone against a good team like the Bruins. The visitors notched their first goal on the evening 29 seconds into the first frame. Patrice Bergeron hit Reilly Smith, who wristed the puck behind defenseman Justin Braun and then Antti Niemi to find the back of San Jose’s net. Another defensive misstep by Braun led to Boston’s second goal, and suddenly the Sharks were in danger of getting in too deep of a hole.

Since the Sharks would eventually take control of the game and pull out the win, Braun wasn’t too hard on himself after the game when talking about his troubles on the ice. “Guys bailed me out. I think I might have to pick up dinner for a few of them tonight.”

That second 20-minute frame was when the Sharks took over. “It took us a little bit to get going,” said Joe Pavelski, one of the three players to notch two goals on the evening. “We (had) a big second (period) and then things got going from there.”

The period at a glance: Following Wingels’ stanza-opening goal, James Sheppard backhander off Tyler Kennedy’s skate beat Rask. Kennedy was credited with the goal the as the Sharks tied the game up at 2-2, less than five minutes into the frame. On their next power play, Wingels redirected a shot by Matt Irwin and gave San Jose their first lead of the evening. The lead didn’t last long. Not a minute later, Smith tallied his second goal on the evening on the next shift to tie things back up. Torey Krug put the Bruins back on top 4-3, but a penalty on Dennis Seidenberg put San Jose back on the man advantage where they had been successful all evening. Pavelski’s wrister found the back of the net on that power play to knot the game up at 4-4 before heading into the second intermission.

Heading into the final frame tied after an eventful second period didn’t slow the Sharks down. Kennedy, fresh off a stint on IR, gave San Jose the lead back in the start of the third, registering his second goal and giving the Sharks the 5-4 advantage. Pavelski added to the lead when he motored around Boston defenseman Dougie Hamilton and launched the puck past Rask, increasing the lead 6-4. Tomas Hertl added more cushion when he got possession of a rebound off the boards and chipped it past the beaten-up Rask to give San Jose the 7-4 decision.

So: Three home wins in a row, heading into a back-to-back roadie weekend against Calgary and Edmonton. The team must be feeling confident heading on the road, right?

“This team can easily string together eight or nine wins in a row,” Wingels said. “Why can’t this be the start of one of those streaks?”

Nieto scores game-winner with 11.5 seconds left as Sharks beat Flyers 2-1

Sharks Flyers

It’s not good when a team has home ice advantage, hosting a team on a losing skid, and yet you expect said home team to play down to the competition. So it really wasn’t much of a shock when the Sharks didn’t look ready to play in the first 20 minutes of their Tuesday night tilt against the Flyers.

What did come as a pleasant surprise however, was that San Jose not only tied the game up in the second period, but that they found the confidence in their game to pull out their second straight regulation win, only the second time this season that they’ve notched back-to-back victories in the regulated 60 minutes.

Matt Nieto, after not scoring a goal since the first game of the season, registered his second goal in two games –Tuesday’s being the game-winner coming off a sketchy rebound with 11.5 seconds left in the third period.

Head coach Todd McLellan said last weekend that the team’s gritty win over the Anaheim Ducks “epitomizes” Team Teal. After Tuesday’s 2-1 win, he admitted to the media that, while Tuesday’s wasn’t their best win, back-to-back victories builds up confidence: “It wasn’t ideal, it wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.”

Suffice to say that San Jose didn’t look “pretty” in the least during that first frame. James Sheppard drew a bad interference call, which gave way to Sean Courtier’s goal on the power play to give Philadelphia the 1-0 advantage in the first stanza.

But unlike so many of their contests against sputtering teams during this campaign, San Jose turned their game up a few notches in the second period. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who got dinged by the puck on the first period penalty kill, was set up for the wrist shot high over goaltender Steve Mason’s block to knot the game up 1-1.

Perhaps it wasn’t so much that San Jose was able to tie the game up in that second 20 minutes, but that they skated better. In addition to being scored on, the Sharks were outshot 16-6 in the first frame. They came out in the second much more aggressive, however, and outshot Philly 13-6. They also outhit the opposition 38-27 on the evening.

“We weren’t very good in the first period, I think that was obvious,” McLellan continued. “But we stuck with it, and got a little better as the night went on. Good to see those results.”

The big result came from sophomore forward Nieto — a hard-working sort who has battled to score more this season, but hasn’t been able to find the back of the net. With just 11.5 seconds left and the game still held to a stalemate, he got hold of a Tommy Wingels rebound and beat Mason for the game winner. Add that to chipping in the empty netter at the end of Saturday’s game against Anaheim, and the kid has two goals in two games.

“Last game I got the empty netter,” Nieto said to the media afterwards, “and even though it doesn’t seem like much, it was a huge confidence builder.”

The building of confidence appears to be the name of the game for San Jose right now. We’ll see if they can use that to their advantage this Thursday, the last game of this homestand, against the Boston Bruins.

Sharks break losing streak with aggressive 6-4 victory over Ducks

Apparently, the Ducks need to come into town every time the Sharks need to snap a losing streak.

San Jose took all of their talk about being “a better team” than their four straight losses showed and put a competitive and aggressive product out on the ice Saturday night. Logan Couture tallied two goals despite being hospitalized earlier in the day, Matt Nieto scored his first goal since the season opener in LA and the Sharks nabbed their first lead in four games as they defeated the division rival Ducks, 6-4.

Not that the win didn’t come without its nerve-racking moments. San Jose entered the final period of regulation with a four-goal lead but looked a bit flat-footed, and allowed the Ducks to come within one goal of tying the tilt up late.

“Tonight kind of epitomizes our team,” head coach Todd McLellan explained afterwards. “We come out and we do exactly what we want to do, we play with a straight forward mentality. We get a lead, and (then) we want to play a different game. We want to play a softer, cuter game if you will.”

A called timeout gave the Sharks the opportunity to regroup and get back into the game. Tommy Wingels relayed that the discussion during that timeout was to reestablish what they had done well in the first two frames. “(McLellan) just needed to say ‘lets get back to what we need to do.’ It was a great timeout. The guys fed off it well and that’s why we won.”

Couture got hold of a rebound and chipped it up past netminder Frederik Andersen gloveside, giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead — their first lead in 259:05 minutes of play.

Unfortunately the lead didn’t last very long. Hampus Lindholm’s slap shot through traffic was deflected by Matt Beleskey and went five-hole, tying things up 1-1.

On the Ducks first power play, Lindholm fumbled a pass. Couture nabbed it and went at Andersen alone to notch the shorthanded goal. Two goals in the first period? Not bad for a guy who was a game-time decision to play. Number 39 missed morning practice due to being sick at the hospital. When asked about his ill teammate getting the Sharks going with two goals, Patrick Marleau shrugged and smiled: “Sometimes, that’s when you have your best game.”

The scoring assault continued as Wingels deflected Marleau’s shot from the blue line to beat Andersen again and widen the gap to 4-1.

Tomas Hertl notched his fifth of season with a backhanded chip into Anaheim’s net, giving Team Teal a 5-1 advantage. With that goal, Andersen was taken out of the game for Jason LaBarbera.

Penalties peppered the second stanza, giving Anaheim four opportunites on the man advantage in that frame alone. The Sharks special teams was on point though, keeping the puck out of the net. Antti Niemi was particularly impressive — but that could have been due to the fact that he only had to make five saves through the first 20 minutes.

But Anaheim’s top players eventually broke through San Jose’s defense just before the second intermission as Corey Perry found the back of the net, closing the score gap 5-2.

San Jose skated into the third frame a bit sleepy — probably from those four times on the kill — and allowed Anaheim to notch another goal on a deflection by Perry just 29 seconds in to make the score 5-3.

Following a killer save off the pads by Niemi, the puck came back in front of the blue paint and Ryan Getzlaf wristed it in to cut the Sharks’ lead to an uncomfortable 5-4. “You know they’re not going to go away,” Marleau said of the opponent. “We got a little sloppy there, and they have the players that can capitalize. So that’s a good lesson.”

The last several minutes kept spectators on their seats as both teams racked up more chances. Anaheim had several chances to tie the game up, but the one goal lead held. The Ducks pulled LaBarbera at the end of the frame for an extra skater, leaving room when the speedy Nieto cruised up center ice to bury the empty netter with 50 seconds left to solidify the win. Not only was it the game-winner, but also Nieto’s first goal since the first game of the season. “Sometimes it takes a tap in or an empty netter, or something like that to get you going,” Wingels said.

The Sharks hope to carry the style of play they displayed on Saturday night through the rest of this homestand. They host the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 2. “We need to bottle that up,” Marleau said of the aggression in the Ducks’ matchup, “and use it against other teams.”

Sharks reach new level of frustration with 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames

For each game since the Sharks have returned to San Jose, a thought has come into my head: After one of these games, I will write a happy post-gamer.

With the arduous road schedule behind them and a few days of rest and practice between home games, Wednesday had the potential to be that night.

Heck, they even picked up steam in the first frame to keep up with the hot Calgary Flames club, making for one of the more visually-pleasing games San Jose has played, probably since their win over Tampa Bay. In the second frame, they got extra aggressive out on the ice, getting into multiple scuffles in front of Calgary’s net.

None of that helped them find the back of the net, and here we are after another dismal loss, as Team Teal fell 2-0 to Calgary on the eve of Thanksgiving.

“We want to win,” Joe Pavelski told the media afterwards. “We want to get out of this. It’s — the harder we try right now, the worse it’s going.”

To add to the Sharks exasperation on Thanksgiving Eve, they recorded some rather unflattering stats in the process. For starters, San Jose couldn’t solve Calgary netminder Karri Ramo, who recorded the Flames first shutout in San Jose since January 3, 2001.

“We had some opportunities to score, obviously,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “For whatever reason, they are not going in.”

A reason needs to be found, with how many shot attempts the Sharks are racking up. They outshot the opponent 32-19, recording more than ten shots every period for the third time this season. It was unfortunately also the fourth loss on the season when the Sharks have allowed 19 or fewer shots.

“We had some good looks, and maybe it didn’t feel as dangerous as it could’ve been at times and it’s just disappointing,” Pavelski explained. “So we’re probably not doing the right thing from guy to guy, and we’ve got to find a way.”

Antti Niemi had one of his better outings — perhaps he’s on the brink of another streak of hot starts, or maybe it was the threat of emergency backup goaltender Ryan Lowe having to come in for him should he have a godawful start, who knows. But he looked sharp between the pipes, up until Jiri Hudler notched Calgary’s first goal of the evening towards the tail end of the second frame. On the third four-on-four attempt of the evening, San Jose lost steam, and gave Hudler room to fire the puck past Niemi stick side to give the visitors the 1-0 lead. The Sharks themselves haven’t possessed a lead in 12 periods of play.

The home team came back onto the ice for the third frame with more vigor but couldn’t solve Ramos despite their efforts. Hudler notched his second goal of the night, an empty netter, to add extra sting to the Sharks defeat.

The Sharks busted out of their earliest slump of the season with a fight-laden tilt against the Anaheim Ducks down at the Honda Center that resulted in a victory. Maybe the Ducks coming into town this Saturday is a way to break out of this current funk. Forgive that sounding a bit too optimistic, but the Sharks can’t lose every game for the rest of the season.

Patrick Marleau, never one to really say anything negative even after a loss, told the media post game that San Jose’s current string of losses were “hopefully, like the big build up of a dam, and it’s going to break soon, and we’ll start getting on a winning streak.”

Early mistakes sentence Sharks to another shootout loss

The Sharks shootout loss to the Panthers on Thursday was deflating, but the result of Saturday’s tilt against the Coyotes was even more frustrating than that.

Team Teal outshot and outplayed the visitors from Arizona, coming from behind to tie the score up twice in one of their more sound games of the season. But mistakes early in the first frame would doom the Sharks as they fell in another shootout, 4-3.

“There’s really not a worse feeling than being a loser,” Tommy Wingels said bluntly. “Our next game here, we need to find a way to win.”

A big part of a winning formula will have to be minimizing mistakes on the blue line that put the visitors ahead 2-0 in the first 20 minutes. Head coach Todd McLellan elaborated on that.

“Too many mistakes defensively — lapses that cost us,” McLellan said. “But on the other end, when you get three (goals) you should be able to win. A lot of shots on goal, a lot of attempts… But at the end of it we weren’t detailed enough without the puck in certain moments of the game and (Arizona) got enough to win.”

Joe Pavelski, who scored the Sharks second game-tying goal in the third frame, admitted afterwards that the slow start hurt.

“We kept getting better as the game went on and we had our chances there in the end. We just have to find a way to win,” he said with a shrugged. “It’s still about managing the game in certain areas when the game’s tied late, and making that simple play.”

That simple play was needed at the end of regulation. San Jose created some of their best chances of the evening in the final minute of the third period, and made things interesting in four-on-four overtime, but couldn’t break the stalemate.

“They seemed to capitalize on our sloppiness,” Wingels said. “It’s kind of how our game is going right now. (We) need to earn those bounces for us, and it seems like more of them are going against us right now. And that’s just a lack of execution and sloppiness.”

Arizona’s first goal came on the power play, with Tomas Hertl in the bin for interference. Antoine Vermette nudged the puck and it trickled in through the five hole to put the Sharks down 1-0 just a little over six minutes into the premiere period.

A poor shift by Brent Burns led to a turnover in the neutral zone later in the frame, which resulted in the Coyotes second goal, putting the home team down 2-0.

Wingels was the one who got the Sharks on the board in the second period. On the penalty kill, Barclay Goodrow carried the puck up the side of the ice and made a pass to Wingels in front of the crease. Number 57 chipped the puck over netminder Devan Dubnyk’s leg for the shorthanded goal which cut the Coyotes’ lead in half. It was the Sharks first shorthanded goal of the season … the last shorty was scored back in March by none other than Wingels himself.

Andrew Desjardins notched his first goal of the season toward the end of the second stanza, picking up a rebound of Tyler Kennedy’s slap shot attempt and launching it behind Dubnyk stick side. Teams skated into the second intermission with the score tied up 2-2.

Arizona retook the lead 52 seconds into the third frame when Shane Doan poked in a loose puck in the blue paint.

On the Sharks next power play, with pressure on Dubnyk, Logan Couture passed the puck back to Burns whose sniper shot was deflected off Pavelski’s stick and into Arizona’s net to knot the game back up 3-3.

San Jose looked dangerous through the end of the third and into overtime, skating up into the crease to get the beat on Dubnyk. But the puck wouldn’t hit net until the shootout, when Vermette notched the lone goal for Arizona.

The Sharks will get a rare day off before resuming practice at the start of the week. Their homestand continues on Wednesday, November 26 when they host the Calgary Flames.

Sharks continue to flounder in homecoming against Panthers

The deflection off Nick Bjugstad’s stick 24 seconds into the first frame to give the Florida Panthers a 1-0 lead wasn’t the start to a homecoming that the Sharks had in mind.

Granted, Team Teal rallied late and were able to carry the fete into overtime thanks to a goal by Patrick Marleau that knotted the score up 2-2 with 33 seconds left in regulation. But despite playing their most aggressive hockey of the night in extras, the Sharks fell in their first game back in San Jose with a 3-2 loss to Florida. They salvaged a point in the standings, but that doesn’t take the sting out of the loss.

“The point’s great, but we’re not happy with where our game is at,” Tommy Wingels said. “That’ probably the biggest thing that we’ll take from tonight. We’re a better team than we showed. Guys, myself included, can bring a lot more. And need to bring a lot more if we’re going to have success.”

Head Coach Todd McLellan was understandably unimpressed about the way his team opened up in front of their home crowd, and he lamented the early goal with the media following the loss.

“When we look at the game — you get scored on in the first thirty seconds, in the first shot coming home from that road trip, we could have responded differently,” McLellan explained. “We were pretty good through about 36 minutes and then they scored (again) and then I thought after, well into the third period that we were on our heels.”

San Jose played deflated through the second intermission and well into the third period.

“Maybe the fear of losing crept in a little bit,” McLellan said. “Got desperate at the end and scored.”

The Sharks did put up a fight after getting down early, outshooting the visitors 12-6 in the first frame despite not finding the back of the net. They were finally rewarded for their efforts on their first power play attempt of the evening during the second stanza. There was chaos around the blue paint as San Jose sent a flurry of shots at Roberto Luongo. Then, with the netminder sprawled out after blocking a shot by Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture picked up the loose rebound and chipped it into the back of the net. The goal not only tied the game up 1-1, but ended Couture’s eight-game goalless drought.

But Bjugstad struck again on Florida’s second attempt on the man advantage with a snipe past Niemi’s stick side, allowing the Panthers to regain the lead.

The “desperate” play that McLellan attributed to Marleau’s goal turned into a vicious penalty kill that took up almost two minutes of overtime play, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the box for high-sticking just before regulation ended. While it kept the Panthers from scoring again, the Sharks couldn’t beat Luongo during four-on-four and went into the shootout. Three rounds later, it was the visiting team that skated into their dressing room the victor.

What makes this loss a bit different form others during this early season, is that the Sharks don’t have to pack up to head on another road trip. Thursday’s game kicked off a homestand that will actually give the team some at-home practice time.

Any consolation in getting to have an actual practice on Friday instead of having to hit the road?

“We’ve got work ahead of us, that’s pretty obvious,” McLellan said flatly.

Sharks return home, look to rid themselves of less-than-flattering reputation

The lofty and unendurable stint of 16-of-21 games away from San Jose ended on the sourest of notes on Tuesday. Not that it was any big surprise. It’s sad, really, that it was expected that the Sharks would flounder — no fish pun intended — to the Sabres in a 4-1 bout that made you want to hide your face under a heavy blanket and not watch.

San Jose facing Buffalo is the hockey equivalent of Tim Lincecum facing Paul Goldschmidt. Well, except for the fact that Goldschmidt is a legit baseball player and the Sabres are a bottom-of-the-barrel hockey outfit. Yet, the Sharks still manage to lose to them in a glorious fashion, and last night’s defeat dropped their all-time record in Buffalo to 1-15-1.

Yes, the refs in Tuesday’s game were hellacious. But even if you take away the two disallowed goals, San Jose still would have lost.

Now the diabolical roadie that seemed to never end is finally over, and San Jose will play 21 of their next 30 games on SAP Center ice. So that means the Sharks can finally start getting their act together, right?

Wait, the Sharks host the Panthers on Thursday. Yet another terrible team for San Jose to play down against.

And there we go again, expecting them to flail against a bad team.

Well jeez, doesn’t that make the Sharks a bad team?

They sure didn’t look like a bad team when they beat the Lightning last week. Plus, a few players performed well despite losses: Joe Thornton is on a seven-game points streak (four goals, four assists) for example. The penalty kill has been pretty darned effective as well, killing off 14-of-15 attempts in their last six games.

But that success isn’t carrying to the rest of the team. San Jose’s defense has looked terrible outside of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun. Outside of that snipe of a goal Tuesday night, Brent Burns has been a mistake magnet on the ice. Logan Couture’s assist on SJ’s only goal versus Buffalo was his first point in a six-game stretch.

We’ve talked about it so much already in this first part of the season, and sadly in prior seasons as well: The Sharks aren’t lacking skill, but are missing a consistent killer drive that would help them decimate a weaker opponent. Think back about the victories against Tampa Bay, or down in Anaheim. Or even better, the first game of the year in LA when they embarrassed the Kings. it’s downright mystifying that San Jose — with its mix of seasoned veterans and hungry rookies — can’t bottle that up and spread it out over a couple games.

With a nice long stretch of home games, there’s no excuse for San Jose not to get to the bottom of what drives them to play down to lesser opponents. Not looking like an AHL product when they host the Panthers on Thursday is a good time to start ridding themselves of their rep, which is currently that of a team that can’t close out the league’s worst.

On the bright side, at least they don’t have to play Buffalo anymore this season.

Grosenick’s shutout sets up a happy ending for Sharks’ incredibly long road trip

Words and reason seem to be few and far between when speaking of how the Sharks played on this lengthy stint on the road.

They come from behind to claim victory one night, then dig themselves into too deep of a hole the next. They play down to lowly teams, then bottle up all of their post-loss aggression to do well against superior franchises. With how up-and-down the Sharks’ lengthy road stint has been, anything was possible headed into Sunday’s tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes. But I’m pretty sure nobody expected rookie goaltender Troy Grosenick to pitch a shutout in his NHL debut, leading Team Teal to a 2-0 victory.

San Jose’s starters didn’t look sharp — especially in the first frame — against the Hurricanes on Sunday, which made rookie Grosenick’s shutout even more glorious, putting him atop the list of Sharks’ youngsters that will hopefully be taking over the team in the future. The Worcester Sharks product turned away 45 attempts in North Carolina in his first start since being called up to fill the injured Alex Stalock’s spot. His sprawling saves made all the difference for the fact that the ‘Canes basically owned the Sharks for the better part of 60 minutes.

So now, as the historically long road trip draws to a close we wonder: Can the rest of the team take the fuel from the rookie’s performance and close out the road trip on a high note? Was the shutout by Grosenick a turning point in the Sharks’ early season irregularities?

The Sharks have more winning components on their team than, say, the Florida Panthers, yet they were edged out 4-1 in a bout where they never found their sea legs. The following day, I suggested that they have a repeat performance of their rebound game in Anaheim against the Ducks. Interestingly enough, Team Teal skated to a 2-1 victory over Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team far better than the Panthers’ club.

What is it with this team? Sure, we watch sporting events for the thrill of not knowing how they are going to end. But the inconsistency in San Jose’s play from night to night is something to marvel at. What is it that keeps this team from consistently playing up to their full potential?

Now to be fair, they have played 15 of their first 20 games on the road — the longest stretch in league history. Perhaps you can credit the wear and tear of life on the road to the offense’s collective sluggishness. Even with Tomas Hertl’s first period goal and Joe Thornton’s empty-netter with 7.3 seconds left to play, San Jose is darn lucky that Grosenick owned Sunday’s game. Granted, they picked up their game in the last half, despite still being outshot 45-19.

What would do the team some good is to end this roadie on a high note, as they close out their travels this Tuesday before finally returning to the Tank. For any other team, Tuesday’s tilt might seem to be a shoe-in win. Except the Sharks are headed to Buffalo for a rematch with the Sabres–and the Sharks put on one of their most embarrassing performances in the Saturday matinee loss.

But with a win thanks to one of the younger set, can the Sharks ride that to a win in Buffalo? And heck, did Sunday’s game garner Grosenick another start in the near future? Given the Sharks up-and-down play, we might not know those answers until puck drop in Buffalo on Tuesday.