Sharks stonewalled at home, fall 1-0 to Sabres

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Sharks stonewalled at home, fall 1-0 to Sabres

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE Its an unfamiliar situation for the San Jose Sharks to be fighting and clawing to stay in the top eight in March.

So unfamiliar, in fact, that you have to wonder if the team itself even realizes where it stands after a lackluster, lethargic and languid effort for the first half of a 1-0 shutout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at HP Pavilion.

Sure, the Sharks showed up late in the second period and then in the third, even outshooting Buffalo 17-5 over the final 20 minutes. But the fact it took so long, after the shorthanded coaching staff had to juggle its top lines, and against an opponent that was playing in its second of back-to-back games, likely left the 100th consecutive sellout crowd shaking its collective head as it filed out of the arena.

Drew Stafford scored late in the first period and Ryan Miller made it hold up, and the fading Sharks will have gone more than a month without back-to-back wins by the time they host the dangerous St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

We definitely poured it on, said Joe Thornton of the third period. You want it for 60 minutes, but Miller is a world-class goalie. Whatever he sees he usually stops, and I dont think we had enough traffic in front of him tonight.

You obviously want to control the momentum for all 60, but I dont think its going to happen. Its just how you recover from when you lose the momentum, Brent Burns said.

The Sharks finally awoke towards the end of the second after generating few prime scoring chances through the first half of the game. By then, Miller was settled in and confident.

Matt Shaw, once again filling in for a concussed Todd McLellan, said: I thought we started slow in the first period, got better in the second, and then really played well in the third. At that point Miller was feeling it, and we really struggled to beat him.

They didnt beat him at all, in fact, despite plenty of late chances. The Sharks reunited top line of Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski had long stretches in the Sabres zone looking for the equalizer in the final frame. During one lengthy shift in the offensive zone, Miller stopped Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic wrist shots, able to track the puck through traffic.

Later, TJ Galiardi led a three-on-one rush up the ice after Antti Niemi held the fort in front of the net on the other end during a scramble in front. Galiardi tried feeding Daniel Winnik at the last second, but Millers poke check prevented a shot on goal.

With 7:38 to go in the third, Miller was shaken up after getting plowed into by teammate Patrick Kaleta. He eventually got to his feet to finish off his fifth shutout of the year, turning away all 39 Sharks shots.

Obviously hes a great goalie, and one of the best for a reason, Burns said.

The Sharks havent won consecutively since Jan. 31 Feb. 2, and blew an opportunity to retake the Pacific Division lead after the Phoenix Coyotes lost to Calgary earlier in the night.

RELATED: NHL standings

Buffalo took a 1-0 lead on Staffords goal. After a soft neutral zone giveaway by Burns, Tyler Ennis skated the puck into the Sharks zone. Ennis found Stafford to his right, and Staffords blast from the faceoff circle deflected off of Niemi and in at 18:51.

Despite the turnover, Burns was one of the more effective players for the Sharks throughout the night, including drawing a holding call on Ville Leino late in the second period. The Sharks failed to take advantage of that opportunity to tie it before the intermission, though.

Thats hockey. Its a mistake. What do you do? You get by it, Burns said of the turnover. I think when you play a little bit more of an aggressive style, you push it. Its going to happen.

Shaw said: A low scoring game you always look at the one mistake. He played excellent, you have to give him a lot of credit for that.

Ryane Clowe, who scored the only goal in Tuesdays 1-0 win over the Flyers, had a pair of good chances early in each of the first two periods. A charging Clowe was stopped on the doorstep just 1:18 into the game on a pass from Thornton, and Miller got his glove on Clowes tip try on a nifty feed from Tommy Wingels about a minute into the second.

Similar chances. One was one my forehand, one was on my backhand, Clowe said. The first one was a good chance, but Miller was kind of over there before I got the puck. I didnt really have much of an opportunity to really put it anywhere, but it was a great play by Joe.

The second one, I felt like I had him beat.

The Sharks nearly tied it on the power play late in the second with Leino in the box.

Miller misplayed the puck in front of his own net, and Clowe tried sliding it in from the slot. Miller made the save and managed to deny Thorntons rebound attempts in front, aided by the net coming off of its moorings while the puck was still loose.

San Jose was once again without leading goal scorer Logan Couture, still suffering the effects from an apparent knee injury suffered on Sunday in Minnesota. The Sharks did welcome back newcomer Dominic Moore, though. The recent acquisition from Tampa Bay played in just his third game as a Shark and first at home after missing four games with a lower body injury. Moore skated as the third line center between Galiardi and Torrey Mitchell to start the game.

The Sharks fell to 33-23-7, and remain in seventh place in the West. We didnt get any points. Its a step back for us, said Thornton.

There isn't much room behind them.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi stopped 18 of 19 shots. ... The Sharks were 0-for-2 on the power play and killed off all three Sabres power plays. ... Todd McLellan missed his second game with a concussion. Douglas Murray remains out with a fractured Adams apple. Andrew Desjardins and Benn Ferriero were the scratches for San Jose. ... Buffalo is 5-0-2 in its last seven games.

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.