It was a line that summed up last night’s game and this season. When asked what the Sharks needed to change about their play after a 5-4 loss to the Hurricanes, Logan Couture deadpanned: “We’re an inconsistent team this year. We need to fix that going forward.”
It wasn’t as if San Jose didn’t try to stage a comeback against the streaky Carolina team. San Jose’s young starters carried most of the weight, with Chris Tierney notching two assists on Tomas Hertl’s two goals, and Couture himself scored the tying goal for the Sharks in the third frame of Saturday night’s tilt. The Sharks went from trailing by two goals to being tied with the ‘Canes within an 82-second span.
But an “unlucky bounce” on an Andrej Sekera go-ahead goal with just over four minutes left to play zapped the energy back out of the Sharks and led to their downfall.
“I don’t know if we deserve to be in it at that point in the game,” Couture admitted when asked about the jolt of energy in the third, “But we found a way to get back. It’s tough when you get a bounce like that with four minutes left, you kind of get what you deserve, though. That’s the way this game works.”
For Todd McLellan it wasn’t the late goals by Carolina that led to the Sharks’ loss, but the lack of energy earlier in the game. “We were on our heels to start with, and that shouldn’t happen,” he said of the inconsistency. “But I didn’t think it was our first period that cost us, it was our second period.”
The Sharks were in fact only down 1-0 headed into the second frame, but a pair of goals — including one on the power play — was what McLellan thought did the team in.
“The first goal was one that we can’t allow, and the second goal is one that we can’t allow. They got the power play goal, which we didn’t tonight.”
Carolina got to work at the very end of the first frame when the puck bounced off the back boards and was loose right next to the left bar. Eric Staal squeaked the rebound past an unaware-looking Antti Niemi. Carolina added to their lead in the second when Andrej Nestrasil caught Niemi napping and gave the Hurricanes the 2-0 advantage.
The only glimmer of hope San Jose had in the second frame came from its young third line. Tierney made a brilliant play as he fell onto his knees behind the net, feeding the puck to Hertl who was in front of the blue paint. Number 48 beat Cam Ward with a flip of the puck to cut the visitors lead to 2-1. Unfortunately the excitement from the goal was silenced by Carolina’s power play. A bad hooking penalty called on Matt Nieto wound up in the back of the Sharks net when Elias Lindholm’s shot through traffic — which went through Mirco Mueller’s legs — hit the back of the net to give Carolina a two-goal advantage.
Hertl’s deflection of a Scott Hannan shot beat Ward to open up the third frame and close the gap to 3-2. 82 seconds later, Couture slapped the puck through traffic to tie it.
“Chris in particular was good tonight, “McLellan said, “He had a lot of fire in his game.”
When asked about how the younger set contributed to the team’s third period boost, Tierney added humbly: “I think we just tried to create energy out there. Play in their end. We’re going to get more ice if we’re not stuck in (the other team’s) end the whole game.”
Sekera’s go-ahead goal with 4:40 left in regulation took some of the wind out of San Jose’s sails. Eric Lindholm notched an empty-netter with 1:50 left made it 5-3 and the seats at thee Tank began to clear. The Sharks offense finally got a bit of veteran help with Patrick Marleau’s goal at 19:05, but San Jose didn’t have time to find the equalizer.
Another disappointing and “inconsistent” loss, and of course it comes before a the Sharks host a tough team. They will get one day to find some sort of consistency before a rematch with the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
“We have a stretch run here where we going to need to win a lot of games,” said McLellan. “And we’ve got some big games coming up.”
The Sharks’ woes on Saturday were punctuated by the loss of one of their top defensemen. Media and viewers alike were thrown for a loop just before puck drop when it was announced that Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a late scratch after being healthy at the morning skate. While the word at the start of the tilt was that Vlasic wasn’t “feeling well,” McLellan said post game that he was scratched an hour before the game due to an “upper body injury.”
Whatever the reason, his presence was missed both on the ice and one the bench.
“It was tough, “Scott Hannan admitted. “We didn’t know we were going to lose him until the last second there … He’s a tough guy to lose.”
No elaboration on Vlasic’s condition, or a time table for his return, was given as of the end of the game Saturday night.