There is no way to sugarcoat it: The Sharks’ 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars was ugly and uninspired. Even if you take away the victory for the Winnipeg Jets officially knocking Team Teal out of the playoffs partway through the first frame in San Jose, Monday night’s performance wasn’t just a disappointing singular game, but a reminder of how difficult the season as a whole has been.
Cue up Logan Couture for the line that summed it all up. “It sucks, there’s nothing else you can really say.”
But the resounding theme following the final home game of the up-and-down 2014-15 campaign was not just how disappointed the Sharks were with themselves. What seemed to bother them the most was how poorly they played at home over the whole season, and how it let down their fan base.
“We love playing here, and we weren’t good enough here,” Joe Pavelski said with a sigh. “We appreciate what (the fans) do for us. Obviously we want to be better. We expect more out of ourselves. Ultimately we play a game because we love it, but we love our fans too and we love this city. We want better for them, and for us.”
The subpar play at home — where they finished the year 19-17-5 — is what cost the Sharks their playoff hopes, Todd McLellan said. Even though their opponent, the Stars, were also officially out of the playoffs with the Jets winning over the Wild in Minnesota, it wasn’t enough.
“This building, for years and years, was a pretty sacred place to play as a home team. And we just didn’t have that this year, here in our own building. Even tonight, as we’re going out for the beginning of the game, both teams were aware of what the score was in Minnesota, and the ramifications are of that. We win the draw in the opening faceoff, then we end up playing in our end and it’s in our net first shift. So that doesn’t help at all.”
In fact, things were bad right from the drop of the puck. Dallas’ Colton Sceviour beat Alex Stalock 28 seconds into the game to put the Stars on the board 1-0. On the next faceoff, Mike Brown (pictured above) dropped his gloves and tangoed with Antoine Roussel. The early fisticuffs spurred a string of penalties on the home team that put them on the kill four times in the first frame alone. Barclay Goodrow’s hit on Tyler Seguin invoked a full-on scrum against the boards, sending 89 to the bin for elbowing. The Stars capitalized on the resulting power play with a bouncing goal that was credited to Patrick Eaves to increase the deficit to 2-0 and bring out the jeers from the home crowd.
San Jose’s penalty troubles continued into the second frame. Dallas capitalized on a five-on-three when Brent Burns went to the box at the tailend of a penalty on Pavelski. Jamie Benn notched the power play goal to put the Sharks in the hole 3-0.
The one gleam of light in those first 40 minutes came from Joe Thornton’s power play goal that brought the sellout crowd to its feet. The Sharks could have gotten back into the game after that goal, except they couldn’t buy a goal after that. The next marker in the third frame was when Benn notched his second of the night to increase the lead 4-1. With two minutes left in regulation, Ryan Garbutt easily chipped the puck over Stalock and into the net to solidify the 5-1 fate.
It’s another sad finale on home ice. Except unlike the season-ender last year to the LA Kings in Round 1 of the playoffs, San Jose has to hit the road for two more games to end the regular season. What’s the team going to do with two tilts left that don’t lead to more hockey? Play with pride, Couture insisted, no matter how difficult the notion of not making the playoffs is.
“As hockey players, you want to give yourself the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We aren’t going to have that chance this year,” said Couture. “Especially with the way last year ended, it’s very, very disappointing.”
“You go throughout the season,” Pavelski explained, “but if it comes and you don’t get to play for something, it’s tough. It really is. All we can do is work for these next couple games, and we’ve got to be better. We’re still competitive. We still want to play. We should have had a better performance than we did today.”