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.”