The Sharks may have rolled through the first five games relatively unscathed, but Tuesday night’s battle with the Anaheim Ducks was nowhere near easy. The Sharks took the game to overtime thanks to a five-holey-roller from Logan Couture in the waning moments of the third, and even with a win in the shootout, this is certainly not a win the Sharks deserved.
You had to wonder when the Sharks’ #QuestForSix(StraightWins) would fall on hard times, and though it looked like an easy win was on its way after a first period goal from Joe Pavelski, the second period had just about everything collapsing for San Jose. The Ducks scored two goals in a span of 1:59 — the first came when Francois Beauchimen threw a puck at Douglas Murray in front of the net and it skirted past Niemi. Dan Boyle was out with the flu, and after he continued in his efforts to score on his own goal against the Canucks, someone had to step up in his absence.
The next goal came in the midst of defensive chaos and confusion, something we saw from the Sharks too much Tuesday night. It was by far the worst period they’ve played, at least since the opening 20 minutes of the season.
By the start of the third, the Sharks were being outshot 21-10 and creating no pressure to speak of. The loss of Boyle was a shocking insight to what life without him would be like. They had no transition game whatsoever, the defensive lines were shaken-up and suspect and the power play (0-2) was left wanting.
Nick Petrecki was thrust into his first NHL start in Boyle’s place. He was initially set with Douglas Murray, until about five minutes into the first period when it became clear that the pairing was a disaster waiting to happen. Petrecki’s play made Matt Irwin’s performance this season even more spectacular. The rookie fanned on several shots and showed some very poor judgement on defense. Boyle had better get healthy soon — San Jose simply doesn’t have the depth to lose anymore defensemen. Both Brent Burns and Jason Demers were skating for an extended period of time at practice today, but neither are in playing shape yet and when they will be is still anybody’s guess.
– My three stars for the game are: The post, the crossbar and Antti Niemi. The goalie made 28 saves, including 19 through the first 30 minutes. Just how spectacular he was became clear in the overtime period, when he made a sprawling save on a Corey Perry shot that would have signified game over. He had a little help from the goalpost as well though (it was a lot of help against the Canucks, too).
– Scott Gomez and Brad Stuart worked as a beautiful two-person screen on Couture’s game-tying goal. It was pretty much all on Gomez. His entry and drop pass was impressive, and maybe it’s confirmation bias, but he remains a standout player on an otherwise unimpressive bottom line of forwards.
– Todd McLellan did a little bit of line shifting midway through the second period tonight, swapping Martin Havlat and TJ Galiardi on the second and third lines. By the end of the third, it looked like Gomez was skating on the second line, though the changes were coming so sporadically it was hard to tell. McLellan probably won’t leave Scott Gomez on the fourth line with Adam Burish and Andrew Desjardin too much longer; Gomez has shown some impressive playmaking ability and it feels wasted on a line with grinders.
– Dave Jackson — the same referee that nearly drove Ryane Clowe mad Sunday night — was back at The Tank to officiate this game, and to say he made some questionable calls (and no calls) would be a monstrous understatement. The most egregious came on Patrick Marleau near the end of the second period. Marleau drove the net and stopped short of Jonas Hiller, only to be pushed lightly from behind by a Duck. He was called for goaltender interference.
– Fun fact of the day: Michal Handzus was 50% in the shootout coming into this game, and it only got better with his bar-down shootout goal that represented the game-winner. Niemi looked as poised as I’ve seen him against Bobby Ryan and Perry, but he got a little help from the crossbar (second star) on the game-clinching save.