Niemi falters as Sharks lose in overtime

Niemi falters as Sharks lose in overtime
February 17, 2012, 3:14 am
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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.