Niemi falters as Sharks lose in overtime

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Niemi falters as Sharks lose in overtime

BOX SCORE
TAMPA They say its better to give than it is to receive, but dont tell that to the San Jose Sharks, who received Lightning forward Dominic Moore in a pregame trade before giving away two points to struggling Tampa Bay in a 6-5 defeat on Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Careless plays with the puck, particularly in the third period, and a bad night for goaltender Antti Niemi were the biggest culprits in this one.

NEWS: Sharks get forward Moore from Tampa Bay

Leading 4-3 after the second period, a pair of preventable goals allowed the Lightning to take a 5-4 lead in the third.

After a defensive zone faceoff loss, the Sharks somehow lost track of Steven Stamkos in the slot and the leagues leading goal-scorer sent a laser past Niemi at 2:44. It was Stamkos second of the night and 39th this season.

A bad sequence of events for Justin Braun gave the Lightning the lead back. The defenseman tried sending the puck up the ice from his defensive zone, but it was intercepted leading to a rush back the other way. St. Louis found himself with the puck in the corner, and swept it in off of Braun at 8:01.

It went off my shaft, took a bad bounce, and ends up in the net, Braun said. It happens. I probably shouldnt be that close to the blue paint, but youve got to learn from it.

Tommy Wingels tied it on a two-on-one rush with just over five minutes to go in regulation, but St. Louis tapped in a backhanded pass from a driving Victor Hedman to give the Sharks their second loss in three games on their season-long nine-game road trip (1-1-1).

That as poor as weve played around our net, a visibly displeased Todd McLellan said afterward. Our net play was just atrocious, starting with the goaltender, and then the defensemen and the forwards. It was very, very poor. Im really disappointed in our group. Were much better than that, and have got to fix it.

While the two goals in the third period and the overtime winner cant be placed entirely on Niemis shoulders, the Sharks goaltender was not good through the first two periods and didnt manage to make any big saves when the club needed them the most.

The Sharks fell behind 3-2 in the second period when Steve Downie scored a soft goal on Niemi, throwing the puck towards the net from a bad angle and seemingly catching the Sharks goaltender off guard at 14:08. Late in the first period, Teddy Purcell slid one inside the far post at 19:35 of the first period on a power play to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead on another stoppable shot, and Niemi allowed a bad rebound to Stamkos on Tampa Bay's first goal.

In total, Niemi allowed six goals on 25 shots in suffering the fourth loss in his last five starts.

He wasnt any good. I protect him and a lot and talk about the team. He has to be better. Flat out, has to be better, McLellan said.

It got really hard at the end of the second, giving up the soft goal and trying to get back in the game, Niemi said, likely referring to Downies goal.

McLellan wasnt letting the rest of the team off the hook, though, either.

They scored four goals on net play: rebounds, picking up the garbage, wraparounds, jams. Thats our d-men, thats our low forwards. So, everybody has some responsibility, but Nemo knows he has to be better, said the coach.

The Sharks poured 50 shots on goal, their highest total since they managed 52 on opening night against Phoenix.

Obviously we didnt play well enough in our own end. We turned pucks over and had a lot of d-zone breakdowns, but we created enough offense, I think, to win that game, said Logan Couture, who finished with a goal and an assist.

One more reason the Sharks struggled defensively was that they were forced to play most of the game with just five defensemen. Douglas Murray was struck with a puck in the throat area just four minutes into the game, and taken to the hospital for precautionary observation. His status for the remainder of the road trip is unclear.

NEWS: Murray taken to hospital for precautionary observation

I thought we managed it well, especially in the second period, when the changes are even tougher. And then we get out in the third period and decide we want to get in a track meet with five defensemen, McLellan said.

After Downies goal gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead, the Sharks scored a pair of goals in succession to take their first advantage since Couture opened the scoring with a power play goal at 1:16 of the first.

Wingels drove hard behind the net and tried a wraparound that deflected out to Marc-Edouard Vlasic in front, and Vlasic made no mistake in depositing his fourth goal of the year at 14:37, just 29 seconds after Downies goal.

An unlikely scorer put San Jose ahead just over a minute later. Jamie McGinn fired a wrist shot on net that Dwayne Roloson kicked right back out to Colin White, and White registered his first goal as a Shark and first in 148 games. Whites previous goal came against the now non-existent Atlanta Thrashers on Dec. 28, 2009 while he was still with the Devils.

Michal Handzus seventh goal of the season at 1:44 of the second re-tied it at 2-2.

The Sharks and Lightning announced a trade between the two clubs immediately before the game. San Jose acquired forward Dominic Moore, who was most recently the Lightnings third line center, as well as a seventh round pick in 2012 in exchange for a second round pick in 2012. Moore did not play, instead going home to pack for the remainder of the Sharks road trip.

McLellan was informed just before the game about the trade, and the players didnt find out until afterward.

Asked about Moore, Couture said: Grit, got some playoff experience. He was big for them last year in their playoff run. Hes going to help our team. I havent met him yet, but hes definitely going to help us.
Odds and ends: The Sharks won 36 of 66 faceoffs. Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe tied for a game-high six shots apiece. San Jose was 1-for-2 on the power play while Tampa was 1-for-1. Despite his goal, Colin White was a -3, and was on the ice for four of the Lightnings six goals. Dan Boyle played a game high 30:37.

Sharks win 'ugly' vs Avs as they fight through brutal schedule

Sharks win 'ugly' vs Avs as they fight through brutal schedule

SAN JOSE – Playing their fifth game in eight days thanks to the condensed (some would say foolish) NHL schedule this season, perhaps it’s not all that surprising that the Sharks looked like they hit a wall on Saturday night at home against Colorado.

Still, this was the Avalanche, who have been far and away the NHL’s worst team for the past six weeks. Even a subpar effort should be enough.

And, it was. The Sharks got a power play goal by Joel Ward and another from their fourth line, while David Schlemko pounced on a rebound in overtime to push the Sharks to a 3-2 win.

It was an uninspiring victory, but a victory nonetheless.

“Two points is what was the important thing,” Ward said. “It wasn't our best, but we found a way."

Joe Pavelski said: “We had some moments where we were good. Some that we could have been better. It’s a game right now that you’ve got to really stick to your foundation, because there’s a lot of games in a lot of nights here.”

Coach Pete DeBoer, who has skillfully managed his veteran team’s rest since taking over at the start of last season, wasn’t all that critical of the Sharks’ effort, either, even though they made life far too easy on rookie goalie Spencer Martin making his NHL debut.

To DeBoer, the Sharks may be in the midst of their toughest stretch of games on the calendar. By the time they host the Oilers on Thursday in the final game before the All-Star break, San Jose will have played seven games in just an 11-day span.

“I feel the fatigue, and I haven't played a game. I'm just coaching,” he said. “We found a way to win. It was ugly, but we found a way."

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect from the Sharks’ perspective is that their fourth line continues to make an impact, scoring a goal for the third straight game. Ryan Carpenter got on the scoresheet for the second straight, floating a puck towards the net that was redirected by Melker Karlsson. It gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead with five minutes to go in the second period.

“I think we fit pretty good together,” Karlsson said of playing with Carpenter. “Good centerman, good guy. It’s fun.”

Pavelski said: “You can see [the fourth line is] playing with confidence. They’re playing hard. They’re in on a lot of pucks, and giving us energy that way, and they’re getting rewarded.”

The game-winner was a simple one from Schlemko’s perspective. He hopped over the boards, slithered towards the crease, and stickhandled in a Logan Couture rebound for his second goal of the season.

“The rebound came right to me and I just had to tap in,” Schlemko said. “I’ll take those any day.”

While the Sharks were fighting through some physical and mental sluggishness, Colorado looked better than a team that hasn’t won a regulation game in a month and a half. Playing in front of a goalie making his first NHL start likely had something to do with that, as they tried to give Martin an honest effort.

Nathan MacKinnon was particularly effective, generating a game-high seven shots and setting up Colorado’s first score. Just before that goal that was finished off by Mikhail Grigorenko, MacKinnon breezed through the neutral zone untouched, and Pavelski mentioned that area of the game as a troublesome one for his club.

“Whether they were good in the neutral zone or we weren’t as sharp – that wasn’t a very strong point of our game, I don’t think. Turned over a few too many pucks,” he said.

The Sharks will have a better idea of what to expect headed into Monday’s rematch in Denver. Whether they have their legs back by then is uncertain.

“It was hard from an energy point of view for us today,” DeBoer said.

Instant Replay: Schlemko's OT goal lifts Sharks past Avs

Instant Replay: Schlemko's OT goal lifts Sharks past Avs

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – David Schlemko’s overtime goal gave the Sharks a 3-2 win over Colorado on Saturday at SAP Center.

Trailing 2-1 after two, the Avalanche tied it midway through the third period. Some sloppy play by the Sharks’ top line led to Francois Beauchemin powering in a slap shot through Martin Jones at 10:24.

San Jose got the extra point in the standings, though, when Schlemko found a Logan Couture rebound at 1:18 of overtime. It was his second of the season.

The Sharks’ won their fourth straight, and sixth out of their last eight (6-2-0). Colorado lost its fifth in a row, and is just 2-15-0 in its last 17. The Avalanche have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

The teams conclude their home-and-home in Denver on Monday. The Avalanche are the only Central Division team that the Sharks play just twice this season.

The Sharks opened the scoring on the power play in the first period. Vlasic swung the puck down low to Joe Thornton, who found Joel Ward in front at 5:36.

Colorado tied it in the second, courtesy of Mikhail Grigorenko. After Nathan MacKinnon sped through the neutral zone past Brent Burns, he cut to the net and pushed it towards the goal crease, where deflected to Grigorenko’s stick for an easy tap in at 10:30.

Another goal by the fourth line put the Sharks back on top. Ryan Carpenter, playing in his third straight game since getting recalled earlier in the week, had time and space in the faceoff circle to direct a shot towards the net. Linemate Melker Karlsson got his stick blade on it, redirecting it through Spencer Martin at 15:01.

It marked the third straight game that a Sharks fourth liner has scored, including Carpenter’s goal against Tampa Bay on Thursday and Tommy Wingels’ score in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

San Jose improved to 19-3-0 in its last 22 home games against Colorado, and 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings overall.

Colorado fell to 5-1 in overtime. The Sharks are 5-2.

Special teams:
San Jose scored a power play goal for the third time in the last four games, finishing 1-for-3. It was Ward’s first goal with a man advantage this season.

The Sharks were not shorthanded for the duration of a game for the first time this season.

In goal:
Jones had struggled in the first game back after taking the previous one off, going just 1-5-0 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. He made 31 saves

Martin was making his NHL debut, and allowed three goals on 30 shots. The former third round pick in 2013 was recalled due to starter Semyon Varlamov’s groin injury. In 27 games for AHL San Antonio, he is 15-9-2 with a 2.62 GAA and .915 SP.

Lineup:
Matt Nieto was playing his first game as a visitor. He was claimed by the Avalanche on Jan. 5 after getting waived by San Jose, and finished with two shots on goal.

Timo Meier missed his second straight game, and is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Up next:
The Sharks have just three games left before the All-Star break next weekend. After Monday’s game in Colorado, their only visit to Pepsi Center this season, they visit the Jets on Tuesday and host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.