Sharks limp in to Big D for another test


Sharks limp in to Big D for another test

March 15, 2011

SHARKS (39-23-8) vs.
DALLAS (37-24-8)

Coverage begins at 5 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

DALLAS (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks have a rather tenuous lead in the Pacific Division. They certainly won't be able to hold that lead if they keep playing anything like they did the last time they hit the ice.

The Dallas Stars know they can't afford too many more losses if they hope to catch San Jose.
RELATED: NHL Conference standings

Two of the teams vying for the title in the tightly-packed Pacific square off Tuesday night in Dallas, where the Stars can pull within two points of the Sharks with a fifth victory in six meetings against their division rivals.

San Jose (39-23-8) seemed to be pulling away in the Pacific on March 3, when it stretched its winning streak to eight by beating Detroit. That victory - the Sharks' 17th in 20 games - gave them a six-point division lead.

What was the NHL's hottest team has cooled down over the past 10 days. San Jose is 1-2-2 in a five-game stretch that began when it fell 3-2 to Dallas (37-24-8) on March 5, with Monday's 6-3 loss at Chicago its first defeat by more than one goal since Jan. 13.

WATCH: Highlights -- Chicago 6, Sharks 3

"If I was going to sum up the game: They skated and we glided," coach Todd McLellan said.

"We were looking for a win the easy way. I don't know why we chose that route tonight, but it's not the recipe we've followed for success."

Los Angeles and Phoenix are three points behind the Sharks for the division lead, while Dallas sits four points back. Both the Kings and Stars have one game in hand.

Dallas could have gone into Tuesday's game with a chance to pull even had things gone differently Sunday against Los Angeles. Jamie Langenbrunner tied the score with 43 seconds left, but the Kings' Michal Handzus scored with 20.8 seconds remaining to deal the Stars a tough 3-2 loss.

RELATED: Handzus' last-minute goal stuns Dallas

It was Dallas' first regulation defeat following a 6-0-2 stretch, but coach Marc Crawford didn't sound overly concerned.

"It was a well-played game, very much like a playoff game with the hitting and the intensity," Crawford told the NHL's official website. "We're going to be better for this. We just have to again not be disparaged by it and even though it is disheartening, we have to move forward from it."

Each of the four meetings in this season series has been decided by one goal, including a shootout and a 4-3 San Jose overtime victory Dec. 16 at Dallas, thanks to Logan Couture's power-play tally. That's the Sharks' only win in their last five tries against the Stars.

Perhaps Dallas' biggest edge has come with the man advantage. The Stars have gone 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) on the power play in the season series, while Couture's overtime winner was San Jose's only success in 16 chances (6.3 percent).

The Sharks are 30-9-3 when they score a power-play goal and 9-14-5 when they don't.

San Jose scored the game's first goal Monday before a five-goal second became its undoing in Chicago. Getting an early lead on Dallas could prove critical. The Stars are an NHL-best 28-3-2 when scoring first, and a conference-best 22-1-1 when leading after one period.

The Stars have scored nine power-play goals and four shorthanded goals in their last nine games against the Sharks. ... The Sharks have lost three straight games (0-1-2) for the first time since their six-game losing streak January 3-13. ... As a team, the Stars have had single-digit penalty minutes in three consecutive games for the first time since January 14-18. ... The Sharks have allowed multiple power-play goals three times over their last four games, after doing so just twice over their previous 28 games. ... The Stars and Sharks are two of the three teams (Blackhawks) to have four different skaters with at least 21 goals apiece this season. ... With two assists last night in Chicago, Patrick Marleau reached 400 assists for his career -- making him the second skater to ever dish out 400 assists in a Sharks uniform. Joe Thornton passed the 400-assist plateau for the Sharks last Thursday against the Canucks.

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.


Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.