Sharks hit low point with 6-3 loss to Columbus

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Sharks hit low point with 6-3 loss to Columbus

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS Now may be a good time to hit the panic button.

Four unanswered goals in the first period by the NHLs worst team paced the Columbus Blue Jackets to a comfortable 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.

In what has to be considered the nadir of their season, the Sharks lost their fourth straight first time for the first time this year, and are just 1-4-1 on what is turning into a nightmarish nine-game road trip.

All of us realize what were in for right now. Its pretty much square one, Joe Thornton said. Weve pretty much hit bottom now, and now well just hopefully dig our way out of it because were definitely in a race now to get into the playoffs.

It was a night to forget for the starting goaltender, too. Antti Niemi was pulled just in the first period after allowing three goals on just 11 shots, and saw his team lose for the ninth time in his last 13 starts (4-8-1).

When asked if this was the low point for the team, Niemi said: For sure, for me at least. Not getting too many points right now.

Jeff Carters hat trick in his 500th career NHL game led the way for lowly Columbus, which had its largest goal output of the season.

San Joses lead in the Pacific Division is gone. Phoenix defeated the Kings 5-4 in a shootout to draw even with the Sharks atop the division with 69 points. While the Sharks are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, the streaking Coyotes are 8-1-1.

Thornton was unusually candid after the game regarding the team's effort.

You can talk so much, but really its up to that individual to come out and perform. Thats what why we get paid is to perform every night, Thornton said. For whatever reason, everybodys not on board. Weve got to get on board, and Im sure were going to see a lot of video tomorrow. Weve got to get some wins now.

I dont know if some guys really understand where we are at this point in the season and how the season is dwindling quickly, Todd McLellan said. Other teams are playing well. You cant just come to the rink and wear the jersey. You have to find a way to contribute. Theres been a few that havent lately, and that will be my job tomorrow.

The Blue Jackets scored three goals or less in their previous 14 games, but managed to score four in the first period alone against an unfocused and at times lethargic Sharks team that was coming off of a good effort in a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Sunday.

R.J. Umberger got it started when he was left completely alone in front of the net to deposit the rebound of a Grant Clitsome shot just 4:55 into the game. Niemi mentioned he thought he had the puck frozen under his glove and was expecting a whistle that never came.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Joe Pavelski for snowing the goaltender led to the first of two power play goals for Carter, when the Blue Jackets sniper fired it past Niemi at 6:51.

It put us on our heels and we never got it back, said Pavelski, who also gave the impression that he didnt agree with the penalty.

Rick Nash made it a 3-0 game at 15:18, skating from the boards to the slot and ending Niemis night by beating him to the glove side.

Thomas Greiss relieved Niemi and surrendered Carters second with a man advantage at 19:30 of the first. A shot by Vinny Prospal deflected off of Brent Burns stick and then Jamie McGinns skate before Carter tapped it in to make it 4-0.

San Jose made it at least somewhat interesting in the second period with a pair of goals just 26 seconds apart. Colin Whites shot off of Thorntons skate at 5:11 made it 4-1, and a Logan Couture wrist shot from the faceoff dot over Masons near shoulder brought the Sharks to within two goals.

An undisciplined penalty to Ryane Clowe at 7:37, though, essentially sealed the Sharks fate. Clowe disagreed with a cross-checking call and slammed the door to the penalty box, earning a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct on top of the original infraction. The Blue Jackets capitalized on the back-end of the double-minor when David Savards blast deflected in off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 10:59.

I was upset because they called a penalty. It was a bad call on the penalty so I got upset, said a visibly annoyed Clowe.

It was Columbus third power play goal of the night, and second on an avoidable penalty to Clowe, who was sent off for roughing late in the first leading to Carters second goal.

Weve got two situations to deal with, and Ill talk to Clowie about it tomorrow, but frustration seeps through a little bit there, McLellan said. He was sent a message and wasnt put back on the ice for a little while, but in the same breath he does take care of his teammates.

When mentioned that the team took some undisciplined penalties, Thornton said: They know. They cant be doing that kind of thing and it cost the team, is the bottom line tonight. Were in that game and a couple unfortunate penalties like that put you behind the eight ball, and they score.

Right now, as fragile as the team is, we cant take the undisciplined penalties.

Carter completed the hat trick at 1:26 of the third after a defensive zone breakdown by San Jose led to Nash finding Carter in the slot for another easy conversion.

It was just one of a number of defensive zone miscues for the Sharks, who surrendered six goals for the second time on this trip. San Jose lost to Tampa Bay in overtime last Thursday, 6-5.

Youve got to play with some intensity, and, fear is not the word, but youre got to be ready to go. Youve got to sense some urgency and get in there and create a little bit more, Pavelski said. We do that at times, and get our chances and we havent scored on them early enough.

With that, weve got to defend better.

Coutures second of the night, a deflection on the power play, made it 6-3 at 8:35 and capped the scoring.

The Sharks may have lost newcomer Dominic Moore. Moore did not come out for the start of the second period due to an unspecified injury, but was seen walking to the team bus after the game.

San Jose will be looking for wins in Toronto, Nashville and Minnesota before hosting Philadelphia on Feb. 28.

Odds and ends: Torrey Mitchell was a healthy scratch for the second time this season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic played with a full cage after taking a puck to the face in Detroit on Sunday. Joe Thorntons goal was his 600th point as a Shark. The Sharks finished 3-1-0 against Columbus in the season series. Steve Mason finished with 38 saves, while Greiss allowed three goals on 24 shots and took the loss.

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

SAN JOSE – It took overtime for the Sharks to surpass the worst team in the NHL, but the points are valuable any way they come in the second half. Here are our three takeaways from the 3-2 victory on Saturday night…

1 – Top guys struggle, but depth comes through

It wasn’t a very good night for the captain’s line, which was particularly sloppy on Colorado’s tying goal in the third period. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic weren’t much better, as the former was caught out of position a couple times, and the latter was tagged with six giveaways.

But those guys have been playing the bulk of the minutes lately, so they’re allowed to have an off night. At least, that’s how Pete DeBoer saw it.

“We've ridden our big guys pretty hard,” DeBoer said. “They played some tough minutes with some of the opponents we played this week, in L.A. and on and on. Tonight's a night you're looking for your depth guys to step up and give you some energy, and I thought we got that."

The Sharks’ fourth line was probably its best from start to finish, including Melker Karlsson’s goal, from Ryan Carpenter.

“[Tomas] Hertl's missed 30 games, so we needed somebody to come in and help us out in that area, and he's done that,” DeBoer said of Carpenter.

2 – Making it too easy on Martin

Spencer Martin was making his NHL debut in difficult circumstances, playing in front of what has been an incredibly loose team in its own end against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But, the Sharks made it easy on him most of the night.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a tremendous game, told the Denver Post that he thought Colorado was the better team.

“Tonight, we outplayed them,” he said. “We outplayed the team that went to the (Stanley Cup) Finals last year, and there were some bright spots for us. We have to climb out of this hole and have a good last 30, 40 games here and go into next season feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

They’ll get another chance against the Sharks on Monday at Pepsi Center as the teams conclude their two-game season series. San Jose will try and give the Colorado goalie, whoever it is, a more difficult time.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski said. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

Schlemko said: “We just didn’t have as much grind time in the o-zone as we usually do. If you’re not playing in their end you’re usually playing in your end.”

3 – Ward gets another on the power play

Joel Ward’s resurgence continues, as the forward again found a way to contribute on the scoresheet. His first period power play goal was one of the easier scores he’ll have, on a nice setup by Joe Thornton.

“[Thornton] had it behind the net and came around the side, and sent it to me on the far side, so it went in,” Ward said.

The 36-year-old Ward has nine points (3g, 6a) in his last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the last time he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 20, he had just nine points in 31 games on the season.

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.