Niemi falters as Sharks lose in overtime

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Niemi falters as Sharks lose in overtime

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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.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.