Todd McLellan didn’t want to say it was a lack of “passion” that doomed the Sharks to another home loss on Monday night. But there was really no other way to describe the team’s 5-2 defeat to the New Jersey Devils.
“I’m concerned about our drive right now,” he said. “The life that we bring to the rink and to the games. I don’t know if you want to call it ‘passion.’ Just that internal drive per person isn’t where it needs to be right now.”
Not that one could blame him for his concern. The Sharks bettered their start from Saturday’s game by taking an early lead in the first frame on Monday, but an inability to score on the power play and difficulty keeping the momentum going doomed them to their eighth home loss.
“There wasn’t a lot of good in our game,” McLellan said. “This might sound strange, but the power play was the best part of our game, and we gave up a shorthanded goal and didn’t score.”
San Jose went on the power play four times, three of them in the third frame alone. Not only were they unable to find the back of the net, but they surrendered a shorthanded goal to Jacob Josefson — the Devils’ fifth and final goal of the night, no less.
“Those are the moments that it’s got to happen,” Joe Pavelski said of the lack of scoring on the man advantage. “It can’t get away from us towards the end.”
So what exactly is keeping the Sharks from keeping that momentum up, and keeping that “internal drive” going? When asked that by the local media, Pavelski wasn’t sure how to answer.
“Where we are at right now, we want to start trending upwards, and we’re not, we’re just staying level,” he finally concluded. “We need these games, we need to play better. And that’s the bottom line.”
It didn’t help that the meltdown on defense continued. Brent Burns made three trips to the penalty box, including a minor for a check to Tim Sestito’s head that left the winger lying on the ice for a good minute, and led to Mike Cammalleri’s power play goal at the end of the second frame. Justin Braun left the game that same period with what McLellan said was an upper body injury, and is expected to be “out for a while.”
Forward Tommy Wingels also left the game with an upper body injury during the third period and is expected to miss time, putting another hole in the Sharks’ already-jumbled offensive lines.
“It’s not just the defensmen, it’s the low forwards as well,” McLellan said of the team’s collective woes. “The ability to take care of rebounds, take care of bodies, box out, control sticks — it’s not where it needs to be.”
Pavleski opened up the scoring after snagging the puck from former Shark Scott Gomez and lining it past Corey Schneider’s glove side to put Team Teal on the board, 1-0. Alex Stalock looked strong between the pipes, but the defense in front of him lost steam. New Jersey put a fleury of shots on net before Jordin Tootoo was able to poke the puck past Stalock and knot things up. Not a minute later, Gomez got his revenge by taking the puck from Brenden Dillon behind San Jose’s net and feeding it to Steve Bernier, another ex-Shark, who pitched in his own rebound to give the visitors the lead.
San Jose’s defense appeared to clean up their act in the second stanza when Burns created an odd man rush. Tyler Kennedy found Nieto and No. 83’s snap-shot eluded Schneider’s block. But the 2-2 tie didn’t stick, as Burns’ third trip to the penalty box — following his elbow making contact with Sestito’s head — resulted in Cammalleri’s power play goal that gave the Devils a 3-2 lead headed into the second intermission.
San Jose power play did in fact look dangerous in the third, but didn’t produce any goals. New Jersey’s power play was able to put one in the bank, with Travis Zajac for the goal to put them up 4-2. San Jose had yet another chance on the man advantage later in the period, but Jacob Josefson with the short-handed goal handed the Sharks their 5-2 fate.
Clearly San Jose has a handful to work on in tomorrow’s practice. “We can only go up from here,” Nieto sighed. “We really have to come together as a team and get it done.”