Disastrous road trip ends with a loss


Disastrous road trip ends with a loss


ST. PAUL Thankfully, mercifully, finally, the Sharks nine-game road trip has concluded.

But, not before yet another disheartening loss to a team that isnt likely to make the playoffs, and a scary moment in which coach Todd McLellan collapsed after getting hit with a stick behind the bench.

Matt Cullen and Jed Ortmeyer scored late in the third period as the Minnesota Wild came from behind to beat the Sharks at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, 4-3. Brent Burns had given the Sharks the lead with a power play goal earlier in the period, breaking a 2-2 tie, but the team could not hold it.

San Jose finished with just five out of an 18 possible points (2-6-1), in what can only be deemed a catastrophic trip that saw the club lose what looked to be, at one time, a rather comfortable lead in the Pacific Division. The Sharks remain in seventh place in the Western Conference with 71 points (32-22-7), perilously close to falling out of the top eight. They are just three points ahead of Los Angeles and Colorado, which are currently tied for ninth.

Were aware of it. Its not good, Dan Boyle said.

Jamie McGinn said: Its going to be a long flight home.

Theres more bad news. The Sharks lost dynamic winger Logan Couture in the third period, after Greg Zanon hit him early in the final frame. Couture also absorbed a jarring hit from Kyle Brodziak in the first period, prompting a visit the Sharks locker room before he emerged to start the second.

The team is calling it a lower-body injury, and there was no more detail provided.

Early in the second, just after the Wild tied the game at 2-2, McLellan was struck in the head by the stick of Marco Scandella after the Wild defenseman collided near the bench with McGinn. McLellan had to be helped to the locker room after he had trouble staying on his feet moments after taking the shot.

McLellan was alert while being attended to by doctors, and remained in his office at the Xcel Energy Center to watch the duration of the game.

I could tell I hit something pretty hard, but I didnt know what it was, Scandella said.

Assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft took over from there, and Shaw met with the media after the game.

I saw Scandella come into the boards and I saw our guys kind of push him out, he said. Then I looked and Todd was trying to compose himself and stay upright, and you could tell he was in some discomfort. I just kind of grabbed him.

McLellan was well enough to fly home with the team, but did not speak with the media.

After Brent Burns gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead with a power play goal at 8:45 of the third period, Cullen and Ortmeyer scored on deflections just 72 seconds apart. Cullen got his stick on a point shot by Scandella at 14:33, sending a bouncing puck past Thomas Greiss, while Ortmeyer deflected a shot by Jared Spurgeon at 15:47.

Minnesota scored three of its four goals on deflections, including Nick Schultzs power play goal early in the second, when his blast from the point hit Patrick Marleaus stick before sailing over Greiss right shoulder at 1:43 of the second.

They did a good job of getting shots through from the point and getting good sticks on them, said Greiss.

Shaw said: Things that you do to score goals these days in the league is you put pucks to the net. People in and around the net, if you cant control a body, you want to control a stick as best you can. We werent able to do that.

The Sharks came out like gangbusters to start the game with some revamped forward lines to take a 2-0 lead.

Just 1:22 into the game, Tommy Wingels scored on a nice feed from behind the net by McGinn. Less than two minutes later, Joe Thornton cleaned up some garbage in front of the net and the Sharks had a two-goal cushion just 3:21 into the game.

The top scoring lines included Thornton with Torrey Mitchell and Joe Pavelski, McGinn with Marleau and Wingels, and Benn Ferriero with Couture and Clowe.

Minnesota responded midway through the first, though. Cal Clutterbuck skipped an awkward shot on net that appeared to fool Greiss at 9:13.

After Schultzs game-tying goal and McLellans accident early in the second, the Sharks seemed to lose some steam. At least, thats how Shaw saw it.

I did think we were on our heels for a little bit, Shaw said. It was just an emotional moment for everybody to have that go on.

McGinn said: Its tough. Its such a freak accident, you dont want anything like that to ever happen, and to happen to a head coach it was definitely a curve ball thrown at us during the game. Things like that happen in a hockey game and you have to respond well.

The Sharks return home on Tuesday to open a four-game homestand with the Philadelphia Flyers, and are desperately looking for answers.

Nobodys feeling sorry for us, thats for sure, Thornton said. Weve just got to work our way out of this.
Odds and ends: The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Greiss made 22 saves, while Niklas Backstrom had 25. Patrick Marleau had two assists, while Brent Burns had a goal and an assist against his former team. The Sharks won 36 of 58 face-offs.

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

SAN JOSE – In an important rebound performance, the Sharks handled the Winnipeg Jets fairly easily in a 5-2 victory at SAP Center on Monday afternoon. They put an end to a stretch of losing five of seven (2-4-1), and have now won three of their last five (3-2-0). Here are the three main points we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Third line leads the way

We focused on Joel Ward in our primary game recap yesterday, as Ward’s performance and the play he made on the second goal stood out. But Ward’s linemates Timo Meier and Chris Tierney also put an end to lengthy scoring streaks, as Meier got a goal for the first time in 13 games and Tierney got one for the first time in 14 games.

All three players had two points, with a goal and an assist each, while Tierney and Ward were each a plus-three (Meier was a plus-two).

“Obviously for a forward you want to score goals but sometimes you just have to be patient,” Meier said. “It’s my first season in the NHL and [I’m trying to] stay patient, work hard and just keep going and do the little things right. I know it will build up to success if I do the little things right.”

Tierney was in need of a strong game maybe more than anyone else, as he continues to fill in on the third line for an injured Tomas Hertl, who still has no official timeline to return. Tierney had just one point, an assist, since scoring that goal against the Senators on Dec. 14 headed into Monday.

He liked the way his line was working.

“Both those guys on the wing are big heavy guys,” he said. “They get in the corners, they win puck battles. They go to the net hard, they get pucks out of our own end. It’s pretty easy.”

Here’s one stat we missed on the postgame sheet, too: Ward was a perfect nine-for-nine in the faceoff circle.

2 – Don’t underestimate the goaltending

While everyone got a laugh at Martin Jones’ failed try at an empty net goal in the closing seconds, Jones was as important a player the Sharks had on Monday. The Sharks looked like they were taking some time to get into the game, perhaps unaccustomed to the early start, and Jones made some point-blank saves to keep it scoreless before Ward’s shorthanded score. 

"They came out ready to play,” Pete DeBoer said of the Jets. “The first five minutes Jonesy made some big saves, allowed us to kind of get our legs going. And then I thought we really started to play.”

On the other end, goalie Michael Hutchinson wasn’t nearly as sharp. He was off his angle on Ward’s goal, and on Brent Burns’ power play goal, he failed to read the shot going wide and it deflected in off of the back of his skate. 

I tweeted before the game that it seems like there are more NHL teams than usual that are dealing with goaltending problems these days. In fact, the Jets got so desperate after Monday’s game that they recalled former starter Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL. The Sharks clearly don’t have that problem, so long as Jones remains healthy. Jones’ importance to this team simply can’t be overstated, and it was proven again on Monday.

3 – Slowing down the Jets

Several players spoke about how the Sharks were able to slow down the Jets, who possess some pretty speedy players, after that initial push. Winnipeg beat the Sharks twice last season in three meetings.

“I just thought once we got pucks in [deep], [we had] some poise to hold on to it and make plays, just slow them down a little bit.” Ward said. “They’re a fast team obviously, really good on transition. If we could play in their end a little bit and frustrate them a little bit mentally, we’d get some chances.”

Jones said: “I think after the first 10 minutes we really started taking over the game. We did a good job slowing them down. They’re a really fast team with some good forwards. We did a great job through the neutral zone, kind of eliminating their speed.”

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Joel Ward has been in the league long enough to know that the Sharks got outworked and outhustled in their decisive loss to the Blues on Saturday.

That could be why he put his body on the line in the second period against the Jets on Monday afternoon at SAP Center. Ward hustled to a loose puck along the wall with the Sharks holding a slim 1-0 lead and slipped it ahead to Chris Tierney, before getting absolutely plastered by Mark Stuart on a hit as big as you’ll see in today’s NHL.

While Ward was sluggish to get up as a result of his head bouncing off the ice surface, Tierney gave it to Timo Meier, who finished off a breakaway goal early in the second period.

While he was seeing stars from what he called a “clean hit,” Ward also heard the goal horn.

“I tried to get the puck out, obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

What happened was a 5-2 Sharks win, two days after one of their worst performances of the season, a 4-0 home defeat to St. Louis. San Jose withstood an early push by the visiting Jets but took over the game in the second period, particularly after Ward’s sacrifice.

"That's the commitment we talk about,” Pete DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play, [Meier] scores the goal. We need that. Joel's a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That's what it's going to take at this time of year in order to have success."

In a rare afternoon start, the Sharks looked sleepy in the beginning. The Jets were the better team for the first few minutes, but Martin Jones made sure they didn’t get on the board. He made a key stop on a Shawn Matthias one-timer just 1:29 into the first period, and then bailed out David Schlemko on a defensive zone turnover a few minutes later, again denying Matthias.

The Sharks went to the penalty kill after Schlemko’s cross-checking minor at 11:39, but Ward scored 15 seconds after that, picking the corner over Michael Hutchinson for a pretty shorthanded marker. He correctly read a Justin Braun clearing attempt, when Braun rimmed it past Dustin Byfuglien, who couldn’t keep it in at the blue line. 

After that, “just kind of saw glove side and fired it there as quick as I could,” Ward said.

That led to a dominant second period for San Jose. Along with Meier’s goal, Brent Burns scored on a power play and the slumping Jets were noticeably deflated from there.

Jones said the Jets “came out real hard,” but, “that’s pretty much all [my teammates] needed from me today. You can’t really ask for much more than that from the guys. They put up five, and slowed down a pretty fast team.”

Tierney said: “Joner did a great job of keeping us in it and not giving up a goal there and putting us behind. After that, we kind of got it going a bit and started playing our game.”

There was even some late comedy. Trailing 4-1 at the time, Jets coach Paul Maurice decided to take Hutchinson out for an extra attacker. Jones noticed the empty net and was lining up a shot after he retrieved a dump-in. It didn’t go more than a foot in front of him, though, as Mark Scheifele blocked it and slipped it into an empty net.

Jones could be seen grinning through his mask, while Tierney said he was “laughing on the bench.”

“That’s the first time I’ve tried [shooting at an empty net], and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

In total, Monday's result offered quite the change in mood from Saturday’s whipping.

DeBoer said: “I don't think anyone in our room was happy with how last game went. It was a good bounce-back game."

“It was definitely good today to rebound, and get back to winning,” Ward said.