Sharks blow late lead, fall to Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime


Sharks blow late lead, fall to Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime


CHICAGO One of the strongest aspects of the Sharks game this season has been their ability to win faceoffs. But in a 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago on Sunday night at United Center, that may have been what cost them the extra point in the standings.

At least, thats how Joe Pavelski and Todd McLellan saw it. Pavelski lost a key defensive zone draw that led to Andrew Brunettes tying goal at 18:54 of the third period, before Patrick Sharp won it in overtime.

We cant lose the faceoffs at the end like that, said Pavelski, whose team lost the battle in the circle, 15-10, in the third period.

It sounds like such a little thing, but believe me, its a big factor when you think about it, said McLellan.

The Sharks entered the game second in the league at winning draws, at 53.8 percent, and had won the faceoff battle in 11 straight games. In the third period, their inability to win draws may have been the result of being worn out by playing their third game in four nights, while Chicago had been off since Thursday.

Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, the Blackhawks controlled play in the Sharks zone for most of the final 20 minutes and overtime, outshooting them 21-4 in the process. That was a complete opposite of the first two periods in which San Jose held a 33-13 advantage in shots.

I think it was pretty evident one team had played three games in four nights and the other one was fresh, said McLellan. We ran out of gas a little bit in the third.

Antti Niemi made some key saves in holding the fort for most of the final frame, including a brilliant pad stop on Hossa with about 15 minutes left.

But, the Blackhawks tied it when Brunette deflected a blast by Hossa from the point with 1:06 remaining and goaltender Ray Emery pulled for an extra attacker.

Sharp gave the Blackhawks the extra point with just 33.2 seconds left in overtime. Again it was Hossa with the primary assist, as he blasted it towards the net from the top of the circle with Sharp in position on Brent Burns to tip it in.

Hossa shot it on the ice, I got a stick on it and it bounced up, and their guy was the first there to the puck, said Niemi.

The loss put a damper on some noticeable improvements to the Sharks game as compared to some of their recent efforts, including back-to-back shutouts on the road to Los Angeles on Nov. 28 and St. Louis on Saturday night. For one, the power play, although it didnt convert, looked much improved.

In the first period, Patrick Marleau had a couple good looks at the side of the net, and Emery made a quick glove save on a laser from the stick of Pavelski.

Tonight our power play was definitely more dangerous and created good momentum, said Pavelski.

Even so, the Sharks are mired in a 1-for-27 slump over their last eight games, and didnt have any power plays after the first period.

The penalty kill was also better, going 3-for-3 in killing one Blackhawks power play in each of the three frames.

I think we played a pretty good game, especially the first two periods, said Niemi, who fell to 4-2 in his career against Chicago. I think we did lots of good things that we can take from this game tonight. I think we worked very hard tonight, and our penalty killing was pretty good, too.

I liked a lot of things about our game tonight, said McLellan. Its something we can build on. We played against a very good team and played very well for two periods.

The Sharks took an early lead thanks to Jamie McGinns fourth goal in the last six games. Michal Handzus threw a soft backhand towards the net, where McGinn whacked it through Emery after a couple tries at 16:25.

The Blackhawks tied the game in the second but not for long.

Niklas Hjalmarssons blast was deflected on its way to the net at least twice, including off of Marcus Kruger, who was credited with his third goal at 7:53 of the second period.

Just one minute and 45 seconds later, the Sharks fourth line generated a goal after providing good energy throughout the first two periods. Brad Winchester found Braun at the top of the circle, and the defenseman's wrister got nothing but net for his first this season.

San Jose continued to pressure.

On a two-on-one rush, Jason Demers skated the puck towards the net and tried sneaking it through the near post, but Emery made the pad save. With less than five minutes remaining, Martin Havlat got the puck alone in front of the net on a nice feed from Logan Couture, but Emery denied his attempted deke with a low pad stop, keeping Chicago in the game long enough for them to tie and eventually win it.

The shots were totally lopsided for the first two periods, and playing last night you wouldnt think so, said Thornton.

From there, though, the Blackhawks took over territorially in winning their sixth game out of eight.

We played well. We really did, said Thornton. We played 59 solid minutes and we probably should have had the two points. If we continue this, thats a pretty good team over there that we did a pretty good job against, and thats a good sign.

Odds and ends: Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) remained out. Defenseman Matt Irwin, recalled from Worcester earlier in the day, was a healthy scratch along with Frazer McLaren. ... Andrew Murray returned to the lineup after a two-game absence.

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

SAN JOSE – Just like his longtime teammate and fellow pending unrestricted free agent Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau said on Monday that he would like to return to the Sharks next season.

“Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option,” Marleau said. “A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

When asked if there have been any talks yet about an extension, Marleau said: “Not really, no.” Marleau, who was actively exploring his options to leave the Sharks early in the 2015-16 season, would be eligible to sign with another team on July 1.

The 37-year-old forward said he still feels like he has “at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

“I still think I can contribute and play,” he said. “Until I think I can’t do that anymore, I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Marleau has spent his entire 19-year NHL career with the Sharks. He’s the franchise leader in just about every offensive statistical category, including games played (1,493) goals (508) and points (1,082). Marleau became just the 45th player in NHL history to reach 500 career goals on Feb. 2 in Vancouver. In 82 games this season, he posted 27 goals (third on the team) and 46 points (fifth).

He was asked what it would mean to spend his entire career in San Jose.

“There’s only a few people who have ever done that in their careers,” he said. “That’s something special.”

If Marleau wants a multi-year contract, which is likely, it could make it tricky for Doug Wilson to keep him, though. Players such as Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are due sizable raises in their next contracts, as both will enter the final year of their current bargain deals in 2017-18.

Wilson called it “a priority” to get Jones and Vlasic signed before training camp. He can begin talks on July 1, per NHL CBA rules.

“Certainly Martin Jones is everything we expected him to be, and he’s crucial,” Wilson said. “Marc-Edouard Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league. You saw what he did against one of the top players in the league (Connor McDavid). Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world. 

“Both of them are extremely important to get under contract, and we can start those discussions in the next little while.”

Both Jones and Vlasic indicated they would like to stay in San Jose past next season, too, and it’s conceivable that the combined price tag for those players will be somewhere in the $13-$15 million range. Both made just a combined $7.25 million in 2016-17 ($4.25 million for Vlasic, $3 million for Jones).

“Oh, absolutely,” Jones said, when asked if he could see himself with the Sharks long term. “I love it here. The guys are great. It’s a lot of fun coming to the rink every day. City has been great. The fans are awesome, and we have a great team. I’m excited.”

Vlasic said on March 14 that he would like to play his whole career with the Sharks, and confirmed that sentiment again on Monday, although the timing of an extension gets seemed of little importance to the 30-year-old.

“When it happens it will happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s July 1 or during the season,” he said.

The Sharks also have several pending restricted free agent forwards this summer in Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. It’s likely that they’d prefer to keep all of those players, and some multi-year contracts could be the result. Other players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc showed flashes of becoming solid NHL contributors, too.

Along with the salary cap (still yet to be revealed), Thornton’s future, and which player the Sharks lose in the upcoming expansion draft, there are plenty of factors both sides need to weigh before any decision on Marleau gets made.

“[Marleau and Thornton] have been cornerstones of this franchise for a long time, not only as players, but as people,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of variables that go into that decision, and the first one is me sitting down and talking with both of them. We haven’t had a chance to do that, so we’ll get there.”

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

SAN JOSE – There was finally some clarification on Monday on what Joe Thornton was playing through, as the Sharks gathered one final time at their practice facility before the offseason.

And, it was significant, as the 37-year-old was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” in his left knee, according to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I don’t know if the injury report has come out yet, but I’ve never seen a player play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said. “Basically, his knee is floating there. It was as courageous an effort, him doing what he did, as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton was scheduled to have surgery on the knee later on Monday afternoon, according to general manager Doug Wilson. Prior to that, the longtime centerman met with the local media.

"I'm going to go see the doctors right after this and see what they say,” he said. “So, I'll know more about it today. I just know it was pretty sore playing."

Wilson said: “I’ve been in the business a long time. To see a player play with that type of injury tells you everything you need to know about him.”

As for a timeframe for Thornton to return, Wilson said: “Don’t know. We’ll know after [surgery].”

Thornton, an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last 12 seasons with the Sharks, said that he would like to return.

"Yeah, I want to come back. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team and I think I'm a little bit older and I realize how good this team is,” he said. “Of course I'd like to [return]. But, we'll have to see. I'm sure we'll be talking. But right now I haven't been a dad for a long time. I need to turn into a family man for a couple months."

Thornton said there have not been any talks yet about a contract extension.

“I just wanted to focus on hockey this year,” he said. “There's no hurry, but yeah, I want to be back. This team is a real talented team, and I love playing here."

Wilson said: “We have lots of time … We’ve got four-and-a-half months until we’re back at it.”

Thornton, who has been downplaying the injury since it occurred on April 2 – including when he said three days later that there was “no doubt” he would return for the playoff opener, and then missing the first two games of the first round series with Edmonton – struck the same tune on Monday when asked what he had to go through to suit up.

"Just the normal stuff that hockey players deal with,” he said. “It was just unfortunate, the time of the year, that it happened three games before the end of the season and the playoffs [and] you’ve got to deal with something like that. 

“Hockey players are a different breed. There's probably five or six guys that had to deal with different stuff. But it is what it is. I'll go get it checked out today, and go from there."

Although Thornton’s was the most severe, there were other Sharks playing through injury as is commonplace at the end of any NHL season. 

Tomas Hertl suffered a broken foot in the same game as Thornton on April 2 in Vancouver, while forward Patrick Marleau had a broken thumb. Logan Couture played through a mouth injury that he has already revealed will require extensive dental work this summer, while Joonas Donskoi separated his left shoulder twice over the second half of the regular season.