McLellan: Sharks take 'strides forward'

March 9, 2012, 4:26 pm
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DALLAS The Sharks probably deserved a better fate in Thursday nights loss to Dallas, and thats something that hasnt been true in some of the teams earlier and numerous defeats over the last five weeks.

Its probably why the head coach remained optimistic after the game, in which his team fell to four points back of the division lead after seemingly having it under control before a stretch of 13 losses in 17 games. (Although, some would say, McLellan doesn't have much choice this late in the season).

We took strides forward again, to where weve been and to where were going. Were climbing the hill, McLellan said. Were not there yet, but I thought we had a pretty good effort, and did a lot of things well for most of the game.

We had our opportunities in overtime with the power play. That was a little disappointing we only got two or three shots off. We could have had better looks there. When it gets to the shootout, its anyones game.

Hes right, in that the Sharks played their best game since, quite possibly, the 5-3 win over Chicago on Feb. 10 in what was their final game before the disastrous nine-game road trip sent the team on a downward spiral it has yet to fully recover from.

Other than the first five minutes, and last two minutes, the Sharks generally out-skated, out-chanced and outplayed the Stars. If not for Kari Lehtonens superb goaltending, San Jose could have had a comfortable lead at either of the first two intermissions.

Scoring chances were virtually non-existent in the first three games of a recent homestand, but the Sharks showed signs of generating more offensively against Edmonton in Tuesdays 3-2 shootout loss. That carried over into Thursdays game.

There was some good out there. There definitely was some good out there. Its tough to accept that when you dont get the two points and lose in a shootout both times, said Joe Pavelski, who scored late in the third period, but just missed on a glorious chance in front of the net in overtime.

There will be some nights coming up where those will go in, and well have plenty to win, McLellan said of the chances. Weve got to keep that part of it up, continue to work on our defensive game and go from there.

What also was encouraging to the coach is that some of his star players returned to the scoresheet. Pavelski and Marleau both ended five-game goalless droughts, while Joe Thornton had three assists after getting just one in the previous four games.

Were going to get it done with them. We wont without them, McLellan said of his big boys, before adding: We got some offense from some unusual suspects. Jim Vandermeer last game, Torrey Mitchell has been able to contribute. When you do it that way, you have a better chance of winning.