Another game, another thrilling second period effort from the Sharks. They out-shot and out-played the visiting New York Islanders, cutting into a two-goal deficit thanks to a sneaky marker from Joel Ward that just barely beat netminder Thomas Greiss five-hole.
Yet, like in previous tilts, the Sharks had difficulty carrying that momentum into the third frame. 45 seconds in, Johnny Boychuk beat Alex Stalock from the blue line, a goal one of my colleagues aptly called “flabbergasting.”
San Jose rallied to put the puck in the net one more time, and battled to tie the game. Despite coming within one goal again thanks to a Brent Burns slap shot, Team Teal inevitably fell 4-2.
I used the term “discombobulated” to describe the first period. Really, any synonym along those lines could sum up the Sharks’ entire last homestand. After winning just one in four games, something’s got to give with these guys.
“We’ve got to fight through it,” Joe Pavelski insisted. “We’ve got to work our way out of it. And I don’t know when it’s going to come, but we’re close.”
“Talking ‘bout Starts”
Sure, you’re tired of talking about how San Jose needs to get a jump on teams sooner. Heck, they’re tired of talking about it too. “We want to get a better start, and it just doesn’t happen,” Pavelski said with exasperation.
The Sharks’ top line started off the game with a strong first shift, but a break down shortly after left New York’s John Tavares open to get the jump on Martin Jones 36 seconds in.
San Jose quickly found themselves in a 2-0 hole 3:30 into the opening frame, to a team that had last five of their previous six games and was averaging two goals a game. That was all it took for Jones to be pulled from the game in place of Stalock.
After the first period, I asked a couple of the grizzled vets up in the press box if they had ever seen a goalie pulled quicker than three minutes into a game. Nobody could think of a player off the top of their heads with an exit faster than Jones’.
“We needed a momentum change,” Jones said matter-of-a-factly after the game. “I mean, it’s not fun getting pulled, but I don’t know if I was surprised.”
Despite not tallying a win for some time, I’ve thought that Jones has been playing well and not getting enough offense in front of him. He even said after the game that he was feeling good out on the ice, even without the best results. “Obviously I want to be better and contribute more,” Jones said. “It is frustrating … Just got to make sure that I stay with it.”
On Tuesday, DeBoer wasn’t going to wait to see if Jones dug out of the hole. “You leave him in there, he could have battled through it,” the coach explained of the decision to pull the starter so early. “It’s 2-0, and we’re trying to get a reaction out of the team, so we made that decision. Unfortunately the other guy let in one the same way.”
The latter part of that quote refers to Stalock giving up the third goal, after what had been a strong backup performance. San Jose had momentum built after the Ward goal. Letting the opposition go up 3-1 so early in the third was certainly a “back-breaker.”
“You can give up one bad goal in this league and recover,” DeBoer said. “But you can’t give up two and expect to win.”
And then, there’s the power play
It’s hard to pinpoint which is more frustrating in the Sharks’ game right now: Starting a game on their heels, or going seven straight home games without a goal on the man advantage.
San Jose had two opportunities on the power play early in the game, but was stumped by Greiss. DeBoer said those goals — or lack thereof, really — have been the difference-makers on the current homer.
“Power play goals in any of these games would be a difference,” he said. “We’re working on that. Obviously not happy about where it’s at.”
Good things—including a roadtrip?
The final game of the homestand wasn’t all doom and gloom. San Jose created a flurry of chance at the tail end of the third in an attempt to try and tie things up 3-3, before Tavares broke down the ice to bury an empty-netter and solidify the 4-2 fate.
Typically, heading on the road doesn’t seem so inviting after losing at home. Not to mention that Team Teal is scheduled to duel some heavy competition, starting off on Friday when they visit the Detroit Red Wings. But, maybe in this instance, taking their current frustration on the road will produce positive results?
“Sure, I guess so,” Ward said with a shrug. “We’ve got a good group in here. It’s just one or two little lapses that have been hurting.”
DeBoer agreed that things are on an upward trend. “We’re starting to get healthier — get some bodies in there where I think we can play an effective game. We did for long stretches tonight. We’ve just got to stick with it.”