Poor start dooms Sharks in another road loss

675028.jpg

Poor start dooms Sharks in another road loss

BOX SCORE
RALEIGH If any further proof was needed that an NHL team cant play just 20 minutes and win, look no further than the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks match against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, Carolina, on Friday night.

Check that the team that's now tied for worst, as the Hurricanes beat the Sharks 3-2 at the RBC Center to gain two points and match Buffalo's total of just 55 this season.

Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, only to surrender it in the third thanks to goals from Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. But Jussi Jokinens deflection in the high slot with 8:05 remaining in regulation sent the Sharks to their fifth loss in the last seven games (2-4-1).

We obviously would have liked to come out a lot better than we did instead of starting down 0-2, said Patrick Marleau.

Marleau actually had a couple great chances to tie it late. His wrist shot from the circle with 2:15 was denied by Justin Peters, though, and the Hurricanes rarely used backup did the splits to deny Marleau once again with about a minute left and goaltender Thomas Greiss pulled for an extra attacker. Marleau gloved an airborne puck at the side of the net and quickly placed it on the ice, but that gave Peters just enough time to do the splits and make an impressive pad save.

It was the start, though, that did the Sharks in.

I thought we lacked a lot of energy and jump and determination in the first two periods, Todd McLellan said. We didnt win a lot of races to pucks. We didnt establish body position around them. They were bigger and stronger than we were, quite frankly.

Then, all of a sudden in the third period, we found it. Its a little disappointing. I thought if we were going to fade we were going to fade in the third period due to fatigue, but that desperation has to be there earlier.

McLellan is referring in part to San Jose having a kink thrown into its travel plans late on Thursday night after a 6-5 overtime loss in Tampa Bay. The Sharks were unable to fly out that night as originally planned, instead arriving in Raleigh the day of the game around 11:00 a.m.

The team was naturally not going to use that as an excuse, though, and lost for the third time in four games on its season-long nine-game road trip (1-2-1). The Sharks are just 6-7-5 in their last 18 road games.

After those two generally lethargic periods, a goal by Boyle brought the Sharks to life early in the third. After San Jose brought the puck into the offensive zone, it pinballed around a bit among the Hurricanes defensemen and popped out to Boyle in the high slot. Boyles low wrister through traffic got through Peters at 1:26.

I was just trying to put it to the net for a rebound and it snuck its way through, Boyle said.

Newcomer Dominic Moore wasted no time in making an impact by setting up the tying goal by Burns less than three minutes later. Moore originally fed Ryane Clowe for a shot in front of the net that was stopped by Peters, and the puck bounced behind the net. Moore stayed with it and sent a backhand to Burns for a one-timer at 3:52 to make it a 2-2 game.

The game-winning goal came at 11:55 of the third, when Jokinen deflected a hard slap shot from the point by Jamie McBain.

We were actually in real good position. The guy had the stick out above us and it was hard to get control of that, McLellan said.

In fact, none of the three goals the Hurricanes scored could be placed on the shoulders of Greiss, who made 22 saves and lost for the first time since Dec. 3 vs. Florida (4-1-1).

First, a hard forechecking Hurricanes team forced Boyle into a turnover behind the net. The puck ended up on the stick of Jeff Skinner, who was parallel with the goal line, but slid a hard, low shot towards the net that bounced in off of Boyles skate at 7:31.

Another fluky goal, said Boyle, who accidentally scored on Thomas Greiss back on Feb. 2, as well.

A power play goal at 10:34 made it a two-goal cushion. Jamie McGinn went off for a retaliatory roughing penalty, leading to the man advantage. Carolina showed good puck movement and the result was a slam-dunk goal for Justin Faulk on a pass through the slot by Jiri Tlusty in which Greiss was defenseless.

Otherwise, Greiss was solid.

In fact, McLellan left open the possibility he could start on Sunday in Detroit, saying: Well have to sit down and determine who starts next, but that wont happen tonight.

Regular starter Antti Niemi has been hot and cold in the past month, hitting a low point with his performance against the Lightning on Thursday.

Peters, making his first start since Jan. 7 at Nashville and just third this season, had 35 saves.

Moore, acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday started as the third line center in place of Michal Handzus, who was bumped to the fourth line, between McGinn and Torrey Mitchell before McLellan started drastically shuffling his bottom three lines in the second period.

Weve got to be real happy with his play, McLellan said of Moore.

As for the line shuffling: We didnt have much going, so we decided to start flipping guys around.

It seemed to work in the third, but it was too little too late. Now, San Jose will try to avoid its third straight defeat at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon, where the Red Wings have won an NHL record 22 straight games with their 2-1 win over Nashville on Friday.

It sucks losing three out of four, and now we go into a hot building in Detroit, where it doesnt get any easier, Joe Thornton said.

Odds and ends: Brad Winchester and Andrew Desjardins were the scratches for the Sharks, while Jim Vandermeer returned in place of Douglas Murray, who sat out after taking a puck to the throat on Thursday. Jason Demers remained out with a lower body injury. The Sharks won 39 of 71 faceoffs. Tommy Wingels, Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a team-high five shots apiece. Carolina had 18 blocked shots to the Sharks 10.

NHL Gameday: Sharks look to rebound from 'crap' performance

hockey-generic.jpg

NHL Gameday: Sharks look to rebound from 'crap' performance

Programming note – Sharks-Predators coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-25-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Predators: 37-25-11, 85 points, 4th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The freefalling Sharks will again try to put an end to their losing streak in their only visit to Nashville tonight. Friday night’s unsightly 6-1 loss in Dallas, their fifth straight in regulation, was surely their worst game of the season. Their typically strong defensive game handed the Stars all kinds of opportunities that they cashed in on.

“Uncharacteristic missed coverage," Pete DeBoer said of the Stars' third goal in which Jamie Benn was left uncovered, "but [I] think that you could say that about six of the goals – breakaways, two-on-ones. Just, crap. Not very good.”

Despite having a nine-point lead on the division on the morning of March 15, the Sharks are now tied in points with Anaheim (San Jose owns the tiebreaker, so is still officially in first place). The Ducks are idle Saturday, but Edmonton, two points back, is hosting putrid Colorado.

Nashville is 5-1-0 in its last six games, and 6-1-0 in its last seven at home.

***The Sharks have managed just five goals over their five regulation losses. Two of those scores have come on the power play, including one on a five-on-three; Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s goal against St. Louis deflected in off of a Blues player, and one of Patrick Marleau’s two markers in Minnesota on Tuesday came in large part to a miscommunication between Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Suter.

They are simply not generating anything lately.

“Some teams are doing a good job of taking some of our plays away, but it’s on us as players,” Joe Pavelski said. “You’ve got to win some battles, you've got to create some energy, some speed throughout the team. It’s hasn’t been one guy. It’s been all of us. We’re in this together. We’ll change it as a group."

***There was no morning skate on Saturday, so no word on whether Vlasic would be in the lineup after he took just one shift in the third period on Friday before departing.

The Sharks are 2-3-1 in the six games Vlasic has missed this season, including Tuesday in Minnesota when he was out with the flu. Just one of the two wins came in regulation (Jan. 7 against Detroit).

If he’s out, Dylan DeMelo will presumably draw back in on the third pair.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Tomas Hertl. It didn’t take long for Hertl to be bumped up to the Joe Thornton line after Friday’s game started to go sour. In the first period, Hertl looked like one of the few Sharks players actually performing decently, and he finished with a team-high four shots on goal. He remains without a point in his last 11 games, though.

Predators: James Neal. The Predators forward has goals in each of his two games against the Sharks this season, and is third on the Predators with 21 overall. After scoring in three straight games from March 11-16, Neal hasn’t found the scoresheet in his last three.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Marcus Sorensen – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones (likely starter)
Aaron Dell

Predators
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala – Calle Jarnkrok – James Neal
Colin Wilson – Colton Sissons – Craig Smith
Cody McLeod – Vern Fiddler – Austin Watson

Romas Josi – Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin – Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne
Jusse Saros

INJURIES

Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (possible lower body) and Melker Karlsson (lower body) are questionable.

Predators: Mike Fisher (lower body) is questionable.

QUOTEABLE

"The nice thing about this is we get to go back at it again tomorrow. There’s going to be no excuse for not playing hard tomorrow.” – Brenden Dillon, after Friday night’s loss in Dallas

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

DALLAS – In just two-and-a-half weeks, the Sharks will have the opportunity to defend their Western Conference title when the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.

(Take a deep breath. They won’t fall out of playoff position.)

Still, it’s a terrible time for them to be playing their worst hockey of the season, and going through the foulest stretch of coach Pete DeBoer’s two-year tenure.

The Sharks were flat-out embarrassed by the Stars on Friday night in their fifth straight regulation defeat, 6-1 in Dallas, showing no signs of life for the duration. Not even a verbal tongue-lashing from their normally reserved head coach in full view of the cameras in the second period got their motors going.

How do you explain this one, Joe Pavelski?

“I don’t know, good question,” said the captain. “There’s a commitment that needs to be there to win in this league right now consistently. Right now, we’re searching for that.”

DeBoer, too, was puzzled.

“You have a handful of those a year where nothing goes right and nobody’s got any kind of legs or energy,” he said. “It was one of those nights. I don’t have an explanation for it. I felt we prepared the right way the last couple days. I thought we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then, the puck dropped and everything went bad.”

It was evident early that the Sharks were off, as they couldn’t figure out a way to get the puck through the neutral zone for the first several shifts and didn’t register a shot on goal until 7:17 into the first period. The first of three Adam Cracknell goals – yes, Adam Cracknell – had them trailing 1-0 after the opening frame.

Traditionally, the Sharks would have found a way to jolt themselves to life at the intermission, as it was so plainly obvious that they didn’t seem focused or driven over the first 20 minutes.

This was a game, too, in which they were healthier, getting Jannik Hansen back in the lineup, and more rested than the Stars, who were playing their second game in as many nights while San Jose was coming off a rare two-day break. Furthermore, the Sharks have seen a nine-point lead in the Pacific Division evaporate to just two points headed into Friday’s action. Motivation should have been easy against a team that shut them out on Monday, to boot.

But the mental mistakes to start the second were even worse. Brett Ritchie was left alone by Brenden Dillon for a goal just 1:58 into the middle frame, and at 5:19, Brent Burns was caught staring at the puck off of a faceoff as Jamie Benn got free in front of the net to push the Dallas lead to 3-0. DeBoer's timeout and screaming session after that third goal did nothing, as Dallas got two more goals off of the rush and another on a breakaway by Cracknell after a gift turnover by goalie Aaron Dell before the night was through.

“That’s a month worth of mistakes in one night, so hopefully we get it out of the system,” DeBoer said.

The defensive miscues should be easily correctable, according to Dillon.

“If you look at a good chunk of those goals, we kind of know whether it was d-zone coverage, or off the rush, or just communicating with one another,” he said. “Stuff that’s not like us. I think if we watched the other 70 games this year, those kind of things don’t happen.”

Of course, the defensive errors become all the more glaring when a team isn’t scoring, either. The Sharks managed just one Joe Thornton power play goal, and have just five total goals in their last five games.

That part of their game wasn’t any better against Dallas than their defense, as Kari Lehtonen had a relatively tranquil evening.

“We have a lot of guys that are going through some tough times right now and struggling to get on the scoresheet,” Logan Couture said. “We're going to need all of those guys to bring more. That's from our top guys, including myself and on down. We need to do more offensively. Score goals, and do more defensively, as well.”

They have just eight more games to figure it all out.

“It’s not ideal, by any means,” Dillon said. “I think it’s maybe a bit of a wakeup call for us. … You can’t take a night off and you have to be emotionally invested. You’ve got to take every shift as hard as you possibly can.”

* * *

DeBoer had no update on Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who didn't play in the third period. The defenseman was seen leaving the dressing room under his own power, but looked to be walking a bit gingerly.