Red Wings down Sharks 3-2, extend home win streak to 23

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Red Wings down Sharks 3-2, extend home win streak to 23

BOX SCORE

DETROIT In what was a much improved effort than their previous two losses to a pair of struggling teams, the San Jose Sharks showed up on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, trying to put an end to the league-leading Red Wings NHL record home winning streak.

It didnt happen. Drew Miller had a goal and assist while Henrik Zetterberg and Darren Helm also scored in a 3-2 Detroit win, sending the Sharks to their third straight loss (0-2-1), fourth in five games on their current road trip (1-3-1), and sixth in the last eight (2-5-1).

And, even though the game could have easily gone the other way, with the calendar now showing late February the time for moral victories is over.

Its not a win. When you dont win a game youre frustrated, and were on a three-game losing streak right now, Logan Couture said. It isnt the time to do that. Teams are closing in and the playoff spot is getting tighter and tighter. This is obviously a tough rink to play in, but we need to start winning some games.

The level of desperation was completely opposite when compared with losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina earlier in the week, in which the Sharks seemed to lack focus and were generally not sharp.

Todd McLellan said: Were much happier with the effort, but its still a loss. We cant get caught up in satisfaction points. Points are points. But, the effort, commitment level to doing it the right way, to playing hard, to sacrificing, all went up from the last two games.

That includes goaltender Antti Niemi, who was publically challenged by McLellan following a 6-5 overtime loss to the Lightning in which he allowed six goals on 25 shots. Goaltender was much sharper, McLellan said.

San Jose (31-19-7, 69 points) still has the Pacific Division lead, but is just two points ahead of the surging Phoenix Coyotes (the Sharks have two games in hand).

Calgary and Los Angeles are tied for eighth in the Western Conference with 65 points apiece.

Its getting dicey.

We need wins. I know were first in our division right now but that doesnt mean much when youre only a few points out of the playoffs, Ryane Clowe said. Were looking for wins, not so much good efforts, but getting the points in the bag.

For the Red Wings, their record now stands at 23 wins in a row on home ice. The Sharks are one of just two teams to beat the Red Wings in their own building in regulation this season, back on Oct. 28, 4-2. Since a loss to Calgary on Nov. 3, though, Detroit is unbeaten.

The Sharks outshot the Red Wings 25-16 through two periods and had the better of the scoring chances up to that point despite trailing, 2-1.

Detroit held the territorial advantage to start the third, though, and got a key insurance goal from Helm. Miller gained control of the puck and brought it into the zone before finding Helm in the slot for a one-timer at 7:01.

Patrick Marleau brought the Sharks back to within 3-2 with less than five minutes to go. Ian White turned the puck over to Brent Burns at the point, and Marleau cleaned up the garbage in front of the net after Burns shot.

That was as close as the Sharks would get.

According to Clowe, the third period was a lot different of a period than the second when we had them hemmed in and had some chances. I dont know if fatigue played factor, and I dont think thats an excuse, but it was tough to give up that third one.

Injuries may have also played a part.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was hurt early in the third, when he was struck in the face with the puck after a slap shot by Ian White deflected off of Dan Boyles skate. Vlasic, who was standing in the slot in the defensive zone, immediately crumpled to the ice and was bleeding heavily as he was helped off of the ice. He didnt return.

Vlasic was unavailable after the game, but McLellan was told the puck hit Vlasic kind of in the nose after it glanced off of his visor.

Moments after Vlasic went down, Joe Pavelski dove in front of a slap shot by Nicklas Lidstrom and was struck in the side of the helmet. Pavelski later returned after passing some concussion tests in the locker room.

You have to have trust in that system that hopefully nothing bad will happen, Pavelski said.

There was more. Colin White also missed a stretch of time after getting hit with a shot himself. That put the Sharks down two defensemen, and the club ran out of gas, but got it back at the end of the night, and couldnt find a way to get the third, McLellan said.

Zetterberg put Detroit on the board when he cut to the slot untouched and lifted a backhander through traffic and past Niemi at 6:30. The puck may have deflected on its way towards the net.

I saw it too late, Niemi said.

Detroit took that lead into the second period and increased it thanks to some fortunate timing. Johan Franzen stepped out of the penalty box as his hooking minor expired, and just as the Red Wings gained possession of the puck in their defensive zone. A three-on-two rush was the result, and Miller put in the rebound of a Justin Abdelkader deflection midway through regulation.

The Sharks didnt fold though, and outplayed the Red Wings for most of the second. Jason Demers, returning from nine-game absence with a lower body injury, was stopped by Joey MacDonald six minutes into the period when Demers had an open look from the circle.

MacDonald gloved a wrist shot from Couture on the power play just before Millers goal, and later robbed Joe Thornton on the doorstep after a nice pass through the slot from Burns. Burns also had a great chance himself after a strong move at the point resulted in a two-on-one rush with Jamie McGinn.

The Sharks were finally rewarded on the scoreboard with a power play goal at 14:33 when Couture got his stick on an airborne puck that was bouncing around the crease after Boyles shot from the high slot.

A short review confirmed the goal, as it looked like Thornton may have tapped it in with a high stick, but the video showed no conclusive evidence to overrule the call on the ice. Couture later said that after it hit his stick, Abdelkader put it in his own net.

San Jose drastically shuffled up its forward lines to start the game. Thornton played with regular winger Pavelski and Tommy Wingels, while Couture lined up with Clowe and Marleau. Newcomer Dominic Moore was between McGinn and Michal Handzus, while the fourth line was Andrew Desjardins, Brad Winchester and Torrey Mitchell.

The Sharks visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, looking for a season sweep of the NHLs worst team.

Odds and ends: John McCarthy was reassigned to Worcester before the game as Demers was taken off of injured reserve. The Sharks were 1-for-4 on the power play, and killed off all three Detroit advantages. MacDonald made 31 saves. Douglas Murray missed the game with a fractured Adams apple, and an update is expected within the next day or two, according to Todd McLellan. McLellan said after the game that hed like to see the Red Wings win the rest of their home games during the regular season. Why? Then the odds go against you, he quipped.

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

SAN JOSE – There are no glaring holes for the San Jose Sharks to fill ahead of next week's NHL trade deadline on March 1.

Still, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is a notorious tire-kicker, and he’s surely working the phones these days to see if there’s anything out there that could help his hockey club, which has a comfortable five-point lead on the Pacific Division midway through its bye week.

“We’ll see, but we do feel really good about this group,” Wilson told CSN earlier this month. “We believe in our players and we believe in our guys on the Barracuda, because they’ve earned that.

“Having said that, our history speaks for itself. If there’s a way to help this hockey team or add something, we’ve always done it, and we’ll always explore it.”

So, what might the Sharks be exploring? There are two areas that make the most sense – a backup goaltender, and a scoring winger.

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No question Aaron Dell has exceeded expectations in his first NHL season. He’s 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in 12 games, and his .953 even-strength save percentage is tops in the league among goalies that have played at least 10 games.

Still, it’s unknown if Dell would be able to handle the day-to-day grind, if anything were to happen to Jones. Even in the minors last season when he earned the number one job with the Barracuda, he wasn’t playing three and four games a week due to the AHL’s Pacific Division having fewer games than the rest of the league. He’s also not been overly tested at the NHL level – of Dell’s 10 starts, only one has come against a team currently in playoff position, and the Calgary Flames are only barely in the second Wild Card spot.

There are some goalies thought to be trade bait as pending unrestricted free agents. They include Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavalec, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, or Philadelphia goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. All could likely be gotten for some combination of young players and/or draft picks.

But is it worth it for the Sharks to make a move for a player that might not even be needed in the postseason? According to one NHL analyst, the Sharks should just take their chances with the inexperienced North Dakota product.

“I probably wouldn’t put a whole lot of resources in [finding a backup goalie],” NBCSN analyst Keith Jones told CSN on the latest Sharks Insider Podcast. “If Martin Jones was injured you’d have a real problem, it would be tough to find a goalie to replace what he brings to the table. I know they tried James Reimer last year, and the book is out on him. … I’m not sure that that’s a major upgrade on Aaron Dell.”

That said, Keith Jones would like to see Martin Jones – who’s on pace to play 69.5 games – get more time off after the schedule resumes. That means increased playing time for Dell.

“I think you might just want to take a chance with your backup a little more frequently,” Jones said. “You may want to sacrifice a few games along the way. [Dell] gains some experience, and Jones gets some rest.”

The impression here is that the Sharks will probably stick with Dell. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has been nothing short of glowing in his reviews of Dell lately, as well he should be. The goalie has earned his place on this team, and none of the other goalies that the Sharks could acquire would be obvious upgrades at this stage of the season.

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A much stronger case can be made that the Sharks are in need of another scoring winger. 

While the offense has been more dangerous in recent weeks than it was over the first half of the season, it still doesn’t look as effective as it was last season going into the playoffs, when it finished fourth in the league. Yes, the power play has been relatively power-less, but there’s more to it than that.

Mikkel Boedker has been a disappointment after signing a four-year deal as a free agent, and was benched yet again on Sunday. Joonas Donskoi, still out with what looks like a shoulder injury, hasn’t taken that next step after his strong playoff run last season. Joel Ward is off his scoring pace from last year. Patrick Marleau has been outstanding, but remains streaky. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier have done some nice things as rookies, but neither of them has “arrived” yet, to borrow a word commonly used by DeBoer. Nikolay Goldobin failed in his two-game tryout last week, too.

Finding a winger to play on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line should be a priority, as DeBoer has tried seven different wingers there this season without finding a permanent fit. 

Among the veterans that could be available are Dallas’ Patrick Sharp or Patrick Eaves, Arizona’s Shane Doan, Colorado’s Jarome Iginla, Detroit's Thomas Vanek, or even Vancouver’s Alex Burrows or Jannik Hansen, if the club is looking for a more agitating type.

Sharp is perhaps the most intriguing name on that list. Although he’s been hurt off and on this season and his numbers are down on a bad Dallas team, he’s a veteran scorer that has won three Stanley Cups as part of Chicago’s dynasty. He’s an obvious upgrade over the players that have rotated through the Thornton line.

Bringing in one of those aforementioned forwards would require some salary cap juggling (especially Sharp, who carries a $5.9 million cap hit) and perhaps a salary from the current roster going the other way, as the Sharks don’t have a whole lot of room right now. But it’s worth exploring, as a consistent offensive attack should be this team’s biggest worry right now with seven weeks until the postseason.

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If the Sharks don’t make a move, DeBoer and company are still confident with the team in the dressing room. After all, most of those players were a part of the team’s run last season, when the Sharks were just two wins from capturing the Stanley Cup.

“For us, it’s not whether a piece comes in or whether we don’t bring any pieces in, I think we’re confident in our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s about us…playing to our identity for as long a stretch as is possible, because that’s what wins in the playoffs. Whether we don’t do anything or whether a piece comes in here, I don’t think that mindset changes.”

Justin Braun said: “Management is going to do what they’re going to do, but if they don’t do anything, we have confidence with everyone in here to get the job done.”

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

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USATSI

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

SAN JOSE – Despite what was technically their sixth loss in the last eight games, the Sharks seemed to put more stock in the point they gained in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins on Sunday night at SAP Center, rather than the one they left on the table.

They have that luxury. 

The Sharks will enter their bye week five points ahead of Edmonton and Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and figure they’re due for some time off after a short summer followed by a World Cup for some, and a brutal condensed NHL schedule for all.

“[We’ve] showed up and played hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve been in a lot of games. Games we’ve lost, we’ve battled. There hasn’t been any cheat in [our] game. Defensively, we’ve been strong. There’s a lot of good areas in our game that we like right now.”

Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a Bruins team had was coming off of its own bye week, the Sharks fell behind 1-0 on a first period goal by Ryan Spooner, but notched a Patrick Marleau equalizer in a second period in which they outshot the Bruins 16-9. An evenly played third period gave way to overtime, where Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway to give the Bruins their fourth straight win since changing head coaches.

The Sharks spoke before the weekend about finishing the final two games strong before the respite. They ended up gaining three of four points, including Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona, and were pleased with their effort against the Bruins as they capped off 10 games in 20 days since the All-Star break.

“It was an important push into this break,” Pete DeBoer said. “To go in up [five points] on the next closest team is a real testament to our group.”

Paul Martin said: “I thought we played pretty well, considering the back-to-back with some travel, and a team that was waiting for us.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Martin Jones, who was one of a number of Sharks players that was looking particularly fatigued lately. The goaltender entered the game with a 1-0-2 record, 4.46 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in his last four starts, including getting pulled after the first period in Boston just 10 days ago.

Jones was impressive, though, making a vital pad stop on the dangerous David Pastrnak in front of the net midway through the third period to keep it a 1-1 score.

“It was a good game. Two teams playing hard,” Jones said. “We can take a lot of positives from that one. It was a good hard game, just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Overtimes have been an issue lately, though. The Sharks have lost their last four games decided during the three-on-three, all coming within the last two weeks. As satisfied as they are with their cushion in the division, it could have been cushier.

Against the Bruins, Tuukka Rask denied Brent Burns on a two-on-one in overtime, and Marchand scored off of the ensuing faceoff, blowing the zone past Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and corralling a long toss from Torey Krug before sliding it home.

“We get to overtime, shootouts – we expect to get that extra point,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t found it lately. We’ll just keep looking for it.”

DeBoer said: “The points are critical, they’re valuable. I don’t read a lot into [overtime decisions], we’ve won our share over the time I’ve been here. We had a chance to win tonight, too. … I concentrate on the effort, and I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Being focused and energized, as they have been most of the season to this point, shouldn’t be a problem when the season resumes next Saturday in Vancouver. The Sharks are in prime position to win their first division title since 2010-11, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a distinct possibility.

Losing six of eight won’t be nearly as acceptable coming out of the break as it apparently is going into it, but that’s not something to worry about now, even after another defeat. 

“There are some games you wish you could get back and get those points, but we’re still in a good spot,” Marleau said.