Sharks limp in to Big D for another test


Sharks limp in to Big D for another test

March 15, 2011

SHARKS (39-23-8) vs.
DALLAS (37-24-8)

Coverage begins at 5 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

DALLAS (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks have a rather tenuous lead in the Pacific Division. They certainly won't be able to hold that lead if they keep playing anything like they did the last time they hit the ice.

The Dallas Stars know they can't afford too many more losses if they hope to catch San Jose.
RELATED: NHL Conference standings

Two of the teams vying for the title in the tightly-packed Pacific square off Tuesday night in Dallas, where the Stars can pull within two points of the Sharks with a fifth victory in six meetings against their division rivals.

San Jose (39-23-8) seemed to be pulling away in the Pacific on March 3, when it stretched its winning streak to eight by beating Detroit. That victory - the Sharks' 17th in 20 games - gave them a six-point division lead.

What was the NHL's hottest team has cooled down over the past 10 days. San Jose is 1-2-2 in a five-game stretch that began when it fell 3-2 to Dallas (37-24-8) on March 5, with Monday's 6-3 loss at Chicago its first defeat by more than one goal since Jan. 13.

WATCH: Highlights -- Chicago 6, Sharks 3

"If I was going to sum up the game: They skated and we glided," coach Todd McLellan said.

"We were looking for a win the easy way. I don't know why we chose that route tonight, but it's not the recipe we've followed for success."

Los Angeles and Phoenix are three points behind the Sharks for the division lead, while Dallas sits four points back. Both the Kings and Stars have one game in hand.

Dallas could have gone into Tuesday's game with a chance to pull even had things gone differently Sunday against Los Angeles. Jamie Langenbrunner tied the score with 43 seconds left, but the Kings' Michal Handzus scored with 20.8 seconds remaining to deal the Stars a tough 3-2 loss.

RELATED: Handzus' last-minute goal stuns Dallas

It was Dallas' first regulation defeat following a 6-0-2 stretch, but coach Marc Crawford didn't sound overly concerned.

"It was a well-played game, very much like a playoff game with the hitting and the intensity," Crawford told the NHL's official website. "We're going to be better for this. We just have to again not be disparaged by it and even though it is disheartening, we have to move forward from it."

Each of the four meetings in this season series has been decided by one goal, including a shootout and a 4-3 San Jose overtime victory Dec. 16 at Dallas, thanks to Logan Couture's power-play tally. That's the Sharks' only win in their last five tries against the Stars.

Perhaps Dallas' biggest edge has come with the man advantage. The Stars have gone 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) on the power play in the season series, while Couture's overtime winner was San Jose's only success in 16 chances (6.3 percent).

The Sharks are 30-9-3 when they score a power-play goal and 9-14-5 when they don't.

San Jose scored the game's first goal Monday before a five-goal second became its undoing in Chicago. Getting an early lead on Dallas could prove critical. The Stars are an NHL-best 28-3-2 when scoring first, and a conference-best 22-1-1 when leading after one period.

The Stars have scored nine power-play goals and four shorthanded goals in their last nine games against the Sharks. ... The Sharks have lost three straight games (0-1-2) for the first time since their six-game losing streak January 3-13. ... As a team, the Stars have had single-digit penalty minutes in three consecutive games for the first time since January 14-18. ... The Sharks have allowed multiple power-play goals three times over their last four games, after doing so just twice over their previous 28 games. ... The Stars and Sharks are two of the three teams (Blackhawks) to have four different skaters with at least 21 goals apiece this season. ... With two assists last night in Chicago, Patrick Marleau reached 400 assists for his career -- making him the second skater to ever dish out 400 assists in a Sharks uniform. Joe Thornton passed the 400-assist plateau for the Sharks last Thursday against the Canucks.

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant drove to Oracle Arena for his Warriors debut Tuesday night, walked in feeling good and quickly got quite the horrific surprise.

The San Antonio Spurs started knocking on the door to the place and didn’t stop until they owned it.

The Spurs barged in and took what they wanted, everything from points and rebounds to wine and shaving cream. And the Warriors, as if bound and gagged, mostly watched helplessly in taking a 129-100 beating.

“A nice little slap in the face,” Steph Curry summarized.

“We got punched in the mouth,” Draymond Green acknowledged before adding the real takeaway line, “which I don’t know if it was quite a bad thing for us.”

This brutal flogging ends talk of a historically great start resembling that which the Warriors managed last season in winning their first 24 games. This puts to rest any cloak of invincibility for which they might have been being fitted, whether in their minds of those of their fans.

The Warriors were mugged on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 54-35, with San Antonio snatching 21 on offense and turning them into 26-4 advantage in second-chance points. The bigger, slower Spurs even outscored the Warriors 24-20 on the fast break.

“I’m sure we’ll be motivated for our next game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I think our guys were embarrassed. I know I was.”

If embarrassing seems a bit strong, this surely was nothing less than a night of utter public humility. The curtain came up on opening night and there was CEO Joe Lacob shifting and twisting in his courtside seat, like a man getting teeth extracted without anesthesia, watching his Dream Team was destroyed.

“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously,” Kerr said.

“The first game, you want to come out and protect your home court with the energy of the home opener to live throughout the game,” Curry said. “And we didn’t do anything to let that happen.”

Curry's numbers were not awful, at least not in the grand scheme of things. He posted 26 points, four assists and three rebounds – but added four turnovers.

And Durant, who started the game 4-of-4, delighting a crowd that had visions of 3-pointers raining from above, also submitted a glossy stat line, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

But the Warriors were dragged across their own floor. Oracle Arena has been their sanctuary for two full seasons, during which they posted a 78-4 record.

The best they can do now is 40-1.

“No one is satisfied with the way they played tonight, especially myself,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “In the long run, this will benefit us. It’s a long season, and not everything is going to be perfect from the jump.”

So, no, the season is not over. Not even close. Remember, LeBron James’ debut with the Miami Heat six years ago ended with an 88-80 loss, followed by seven more losses in the next 16 games.

But it’s always alarming when someone storms into your house, looks you in the eye and takes what they want.

Opening night for the Warriors delivered a painful reminder that regardless of how imposing they might be or how many All-Stars are on the payroll, nothing will be given. Effort and desire, as they discovered, can be more than a great equalizer.

The Warriors now know that victory is not preordained, that if they want the glory and the spoils they believe to be theirs, they will have to prove it. Every night.

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

SAN JOSE – Prior to the season’s start, Marc-Edouard Vlasic mentioned that the Sharks’ blue line group might not get the league-wide respect it deserves due to it only having “one offensive defenseman.” He was, of course, referring to Brent Burns.

Through the first six games, that was the truth. Burns entered Tuesday night’s action with nine points, tied for the league lead in scoring, while the other five Sharks defenseman had just three assists – combined.

For at least one night, though, it wasn’t Burns who was the offensive hero. That honor went to Vlasic, who seized a loose puck in the neutral zone in overtime against Anaheim, raced ahead towards goalie John Gibson on a partial breakaway, and finished off a beautiful goal in giving the Sharks a much-deserved 2-1 win at SAP Center.

“Put my head down, breakaway, cut across and I was able to put it in,” said Vlasic, who had the presence of mind to use his skate to keep a backchecking Corey Perry from knocking the puck away. 

Pete DeBoer said: "He's got some speed when he wants to use it, and he's a big game player. That's what he does. Those guys find another level at key times, and he's one of those guys.”

The goal served as poetic justice in that the Sharks were the much better team throughout three periods. San Jose held a 35-20 advantage on the shot clock but only managed one goal, a power play marker by Joe Pavelski in the first period. Chris Wagner answered that late in the second period, despite San Jose registering 15 of the 20 shots in the middle frame.

DeBoer rearranged all four of his forward lines after the Sharks were shut out in Detroit on Saturday, and the Sharks looked much more dangerous despite just the single lonely marker before overtime.

“There’s a lot of good little things that we did well,” Pavelski said. “We were on the attack, felt like we were on the inside. We just weren’t cashing in or getting that bounce.”

Couture said: “We created some chances. We could have had a couple. Each line played pretty well.”

DeBoer, too, liked what he saw from his new combos.

“If we keep playing like that, it's going to come,” he said. “But, it was a nice response game after the Detroit game.”

Perhaps the most consistent part of the Sharks’ game through seven games has been their penalty kill. San Jose fought off all three Ducks advantages, including a brief five-on-three in the first period shortly after Pavelski had opened the scoring.

Micheal Haley took exception to a high hit by Clayton Stoner on Patrick Marleau, and dropped the gloves with the Anaheim defenseman. He was issued an instigation minor to go along with a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct, and one minute and 24 seconds later, Tomas Hertl was busted for a faceoff violation.

Couture, Burns and Paul Martin worked to nullify the two-man advantage, and the Sharks proceeded to kill the remaining time on the Hertl penalty, too.

“It was an important time of the game with a one-goal lead,” said Martin Jones, who made seven saves on the PK and 19 total.

Penalties like Haley’s, where he was sticking up for a teammate, are also easier to get up for according to the goalie.

“I don't think he was expecting to get an instigator call on that one, but yeah, we'll kill that off, for sure,” Jones said. “Hales is a good team guy to go out and do stuff like that."

San Jose is 18-for-22 on the penalty kill overall, including a third period kill of a Joe Thornton holding-the-stick minor at 4:09.

“We’ve allowed [four] goals against, but they were unfortunate bounces or really nice shots from them that we could do nothing about,” Vlasic said. “Penalty kill has been good. Guys have been bearing down, blocking shots when we need to.”

The Sharks will remain at home where they will host the rebuilding Blue Jackets on Thursday and Predators on Saturday. After an odd training camp with many players missing and a tough five-games-in-eight-days road trip after the home opener, they’ll get a chance now to enjoy a much more normal day-to-day routine, with practice.

Tuesday’s win could serve as a solid foundation on which to build.

“That was definitely one of our better games this year,” Couture said. “It was good from basically start to finish.”

Especially the finish.