Highlights: Sharks' nine-game win streak over Canucks snapped
Antti Niemi, who started for the 15th time in 16 games, has a 4.09 goals-against average and .842 save percentage in his last four games. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – Defensive misplays and more soft goals allowed by goaltender Antti Niemi continued in a 4-2 Sharks loss to Vancouver on Thursday night at SAP Center.
The Sharks dropped their fourth in a row (0-1-3), and lost for just the second time in regulation in falling to 10-2-4. Their nine-game winning streak over Vancouver (10-5-2), dating back to the start of the 2013 season, is history.
A late first period goal by Chris Higgins after a horrible turnover gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead at the break, and the Sharks sleepwalked though their worst period of the season in the second.
On the game-changing goal, Alex Burrows intercepted Jason Demers’ soft cross-ice pass to Scott Hannan in the Sharks' defensive zone. Burrows managed to get the puck to Higgins, who chipped it over Niemi’s shoulder at 18:55.
Vancouver took that momentum into the second, outshooting the Sharks 17-5 in the middle frame and increasing its lead. Kevin Bieksa’s point shot went in off of Zack Kassian’s skate at 5:22 to make it 4-2, chasing Niemi.
Niemi, who started for the 15th time in 16 games, has a 4.09 goals-against average and .842 save percentage in his last four games. He was pulled for the first time this season.
A wild first period began with as strange a goal as you’ll see. Joe Thornton dumped the puck towards the end boards from the offensive blue line, and then it bounced off of the back of the goal, popped into the air, and deflected in off of Roberto Luongo’s back just one minute and 17 seconds after the opening faceoff.
The Canucks quickly responded. Bieksa forced Tyler Kennedy into a defensive zone turnover, leading to a Brad Richardson goal at 4:28. Less than five minutes later, Mike Santorelli charged untouched to the front of the net to deposit a Higgins rebound to give Vancouver its first lead.
Mike Brown ended a 35-game goalless drought when he blew past Bieksa and deposited a pass from James Sheppard at 10:45 to tie it at 2-2, before Vancouver took over.
The Sharks and Canucks conclude their season series on Nov. 14 at Rogers Arena. San Jose won the first two games by identical 4-1 margins, with both coming in the first week of the regular season.
Special teams didn’t play a factor, as the Sharks and Canucks each went 0-for-3 on the power play.
In its last five games, San Jose is just 2-for-20 with a man advantage.
Niemi allowed four goals on just 13 shots to suffer his fifth loss (9-2-4). Stalock stopped all 21 shots he saw in his second appearance of the year.
Luongo, who allowed seven combined goals in a pair losses to the Sharks earlier this season, made 22 saves to pick up his ninth win (9-4-2). His best stop came on a Logan Couture redirection midway through the third.
Joe Pavelski played after missing Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s morning skate for personal reasons.
Matt Irwin was scratched for the third straight game. James Sheppard returned from a one-game absence in place of John McCarthy, who had played the previous seven straight.
A five-game road trip begins on Sunday in Winnipeg, and continues with stops in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Chicago. It is the longest road trip remaining on the 2013-14 calendar.
San Jose returns home to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 21.