From the moment Antti Niemi stopped a scary breakaway by Alex Ovechkin in the first few minutes of play, you knew that the Sharks tilt with the Capitals was going to be a doozy.
It was without a doubt a better, more consistent effort from San Jose than they had put on the ice in their last couple of games. They were faster and more physical in the bout with the tough visitors from the East. They rallied out of an early deficit thanks to back-to-back goals from Brent Burns in the second frame. Heck, they didn’t get down when Mirco Mueller got tangled up with a linesman and Washington was able to capitalize — see what I did there — and knot up the score in the third. Their strong effort and contribution from multiple players made it even harder to swallow when Joel Ward buried the puck in overtime to give the Caps a 5-4 victory.
Logan Couture summed up the Sharks’ effort: “I thought it was better. But we still didn’t get the win.”
Yes, another loss stings. But Team Teal had plenty to be happy with from their improved performance, as Todd McLellan pointed out afterwards.
“I thought our upper end skill played very hard tonight,” he said. “Competed hard, and played hard, hard minutes. So it’s really disappointing that we didn’t get the win after that effort. But if we continue to get that (effort) from everybody we’re going the right way. What’s important now is that we don’t slip back.”
McLellan acknowledged that San Jose is giving up too many goals, and it’s playing a role in their most recent defeats. “We aren’t going to win games giving up four or five goals. Defended well, (but) some unfortunate breaks.”
Jay Beagle got the scoring started with a rebounder on Niemi’s glove side put Washington up 1-0 with four minutes and change left in the opening frame.
Burns scored two goals within 43 seconds of each other to open up the second stanza taking San Jose out of a 1-0 hole and putting them ahead 2-1. Mistakes made the lead brief. Joe Pavelski went to the box for high-sticking and Washington capitalized with a power play goal of their own to knot the game back up 2-2. San Jose’s second line chipped in using speed to get the puck into Caps territory. Couture got the feed from Matt Nieto wrapped the puck in right up against the goal and just barely flipped it between the bar and Holtby’s block to put San Jose back on top 3-2.
The Sharks maintained a pace in the third frame until the linesman got in the way of Mueller defending Beagle, who skated around to punch the puck past an outstretched Niemi’s right skate. Capital John Carlson added insult to injury, beating Niemi up high to give the visitors the lead back 4-3. But pressure the other way from the Sharks’ top line proved positive as Joe Thornton went top shelf on Holtby to snarl the scoreboard back up again 4-4 and carry into overtime. Four-on-four play looked like it would carry into a shootout, but Ward was left all alone in front of the crease and had plenty of time to fire the puck past Niemi and give the Caps the victory.
A deflating end to a hard-fought game, getting only one point in the standings instead of two. Even though Thornton shrugged and said afterwards: “We played well enough to get two tonight, to be honest with you I thought … We competed hard for a full sixty minutes, which is a good sign.”
A game to build off of though as the team heads down to Arizona to take on the Coyotes? “It’s crunch time,” Pavelski said. “Losing gets old real fast. We want to play in that second season, and to do that we have 25 games left.”
— San Jose is now 23-10-1-1 all-time against Washington.
— Brent Burns scored his 13th and 14th goals of the season 22 seconds apart and had a game-high eight hits. He has scored two or more goals five times in his NHL career.
— Joe Thornton scored his 12th goal of the year. With the goal and an assist on Burns’ first goal, Thornton has moved past Paul Stastny for sole possession of 36th place on the NHL’s All-Time Points List with 1,241.
— With the primary assist on Couture’s goal and the second assist on Burns’ first goal, Matt Nieto earned his 10th and 11th points as a helper this season for his first multi-point game of this campaign and the fifth in his NHL career.