Poor start dooms Sharks in another road loss


Poor start dooms Sharks in another road loss

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.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.

Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.

While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.

Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.

General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.

There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve). 

Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.