McLellan: 'We were sloppy'
SAN JOSE – An unmerited match penalty to Andrew Desjardins was probably the turning point in the Sharks’ 5-3 loss to Chicago. But, it certainly wasn’t the only reason that the surging Blackhawks escaped the Bay Area as the only NHL team still without a regulation loss.
Sloppy play in the defensive zone, including Jonathan Toews’ stripping of the puck from Douglas Murray, and a continually ineffective power play also played major roles in the Sharks losing their third straight game after seven wins to start the season.
Todd McLellan said Desjardins’ ejection for a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Jamal Mayers, “had a huge impact. I thought there were other turning points. We were sloppy. Our back end was stripped of pucks a number of times, which was disappointing. We were on the power play twice, and took penalties.
“Were we sharp enough to win? I don’t know. But, that certainly was a turning point.”
Desjardins’ penalty was rescinded after the game, but that was of no use to the Sharks by then, who have scuffled in the last week after dominating the start of the season. It looked like a game with the NHL-leading Blackhawks might provide a remedy to their recent sickness, as the Sharks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with four completely new forward lines. Joe Pavelski’s goal at 2:54 was followed by Tommy Wingels’ first tally two and a half minutes later, and the Shark Tank was rocking.
Instead of clamping down defensively, though, the Sharks started to play just as undisciplined as the Blackhawks. In less than 90 seconds, four goals were scored – three by Chicago, and the first period ended in a 3-3 tie.
“Sloppily played by both teams. I don’t know if we’re seeing effects now of a lot of games early in the year, but I didn’t think our team was very sharp,” McLellan said.
The second period exploded midway through when Desjardins ran over Mayers, was jumped by Duncan Keith, and sent to the locker room to ponder what he had done (or in this case, didn't do).
“That doesn’t help a team that’s played a lot of hockey that needed that player, and should have been on the power play for four minutes,” McLellan said.
The first of Patrick Kane’s two goals held up as the game-winner. It came when, in McLellan’s view, the Sharks should have been on an extended man advantage.
Although, it’s hard to say if that power play would have even changed the outcome. The Sharks took another 0-fer on Tuesday, and have just one power play goal in their last five games. They were 0-for-3 against Chicago, and two power plays were cut short when the Sharks were sent to the box for infractions themselves.
“We’ve just got to get some more shots to the net. Get some more traffic. I think we’re kind of looking for the pretty play right now,” Joe Thornton said.
If there was one major positive in the game, it was the play of third liners Wingels and Michal Handzus. The pair entered the game without a goal between them, as the Sharks have continually been searching for offense from depth players. In the first nine games, only five Sharks forwards had found the back of the net.
Wingels, in particular, was impressive. The Chicago-area native went top corner on Corey Crawford for his goal in the first period, and patiently waited for Handzus to get open later in the frame before setting him up for the Sharks’ third goal.
“It feels good as a line to get a couple goals. But, I think we’ll both tell you we’d rather take the win tonight,” Wingels said. “Hopefully, it gets us going and we can contribute more moving forward here.”
Thornton said: “It’s nice to see those guys going. If they keep it up, we’re going to win some hockey games.”
Those positive feelings would have meant much more if the Sharks held on for the win. Instead, Murray took too long to advance the puck from deep in the defensive zone, and Toews and Kane took advantage of it in breaking the 3-3 deadlock.
“It just can’t happen. I thought I had him on my back. He picked my pocket,” Murray said, adding, “I thought I had more separation than I did.”
McLellan said: “When we look at his game tonight, he’d love to have that play back. Slow, got stripped, and it’s in our net. I’m talking about one moment. He’s a big part of our team, and will continue to be.”
The Sharks will welcome a rare three-day break before they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday afternoon. Wednesday is an off day, and practice resumes on Thursday.
“We need to rest. Mentally, we weren’t sharp. Physically, some guys need some rest,” McLellan said.