Sharks can't hold lead, fall in OT to Nashville 4-3

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Sharks can't hold lead, fall in OT to Nashville 4-3

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE Even after blowing a two-goal third period lead, the Sharks were still in prime position to beat the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

On a Sharks power play with regulation time winding down, Joe Pavelski found himself alone with the puck, staring at a wide-open net. He quickly fired, only to be denied by the speedy right pad of Pekka Rinne with less than 30 seconds left in the third period.

That save allowed the Predators to prevail in overtime, 4-3, when David Legwand scored his second goal of the night on a backhanded feed from Francis Bouillon.

From what I saw, it was open, said Pavelski, who scored his ninth goal of the season in the second period. I couldnt really get it up at the time, just tried to get it on net. A few inches over, its in, but hes big and makes those saves pretty often. Its tough.

While Rinne was busy being his typical spectacular self, Antti Niemi, who was pulled just 2:07 into Thursday night's match against Pittsburgh, struggled for the second straight game. He surrendered back-to-back goals by Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Suter in the third period, and a 3-1 Sharks lead was history.

First, Predators defenseman Shea Weber floated a wrist shot on net, and Niemi allowed it to sneak through his five hole after it was deflected on the way. Hornqvist, who originally got a piece of the shot, was there to knock it in at 2:57.

A power play goal was the equalizer, when Patrick Marleau was in the box on an interference minor. Suters wrist shot from the high slot found daylight over Niemis right shoulder, on what was a very stoppable shot with 14:02 left in regulation.

Niemi admitted he was a bit disoriented just before Suter gained possession.

I lost the pass a little bit from the boards, he said. It took awhile to find the puck, then when I found it, it was already on the way. A little late there.

The loss cant be pinned entirely on Niemi, though.

The Sharks seemed to be in command when Logan Couture chipped in a lively bounce off of the back boards on a planned play when Pavelski fired it into the zone. A rare misplay by Rinne, who was caught leaning the wrong way as if to play the puck behind the boards, seemed to indicate it was San Joses night despite what was otherwise a strong performance by the goaltender.

The Predators turned up the energy on the forecheck, though, and the Sharks were suddenly on their heels. Hornqvists goal, his sixth in the last five games, was the turning point.

They are a very persistent team. Thats a quality that they have, said Todd McLellan. They werent going away, and we talked about it between periods. That second goal changed the tide.

We were up 3-1, and right after the third goal we kind of stopped playing, said Marty Havlat. They were the better team in the third period. They kept battling and kept putting pucks behind us and forechecking us, and we were a little slow with the passes and werent that sharp after our third goal, the way we wanted to be.

The loss was especially disheartening in that the Sharks achieved a strong start after a brutal first 20 minutes against the Penguins. They outshot the Predators 18-7 and dominated territorially, even though they couldnt solve Rinne, who made some key saves on Brad Winchester, and then Marleau and Dan Boyle on a Sharks power play.

If you give that start to us night in and night out, were going to win a few games in the first period, said Pavelski.

The effort tonight was much better than it was against Pittsburgh, said McLellan, who appeared much more annoyed after Thursdays win than he did the loss to Nashville. A couple mistakes led to goals. I think we can clean that up.

The Predators got the games first goal early in the second. A shot from the point by Legwand was headed wide of the net, but it bounced off of Torrey Mitchell and behind Niemi at 1:02.

The lead didnt last, as the Sharks tied it on a highlight-reel passing play. After Joe Thornton fought to bring the puck into the zone, he found Couture in the faceoff circle. Couture gathered the puck, spun around and whipped a backhanded pass through the slot to an open Pavelski, whose one-timer sailed past Rinne at 4:40.

A power play goal gave San Jose its first lead of the game. After a scramble in front of the net the puck ended up on the stick of Havlat, who roofed it over a fallen Rinne, who had lost track of the puck.

It was Havlats first goal as a Shark.

Its nice to get a goal, but unfortunately it didnt help to win the game, said Havlat. Id rather not score and win the game.

San Jose went to the power play with 1:04 remaining in regulation, when Jonathon Blum was called for hooking. After Rinnes save on Pavelski, it carried over to overtime, but San Jose was unable to generate any more prime scoring chances.

It cost them, when Legwand got position on Pavelski in front of the net, and ended it at 2:53.

We needed on one the power play there at the end and got a couple good looks, but didnt get what we wanted, said McLellan.
Odds and ends: The Sharks fell to 3-5 when allowing the first goal of the game. Colin White was back in the lineup after he was a healthy scratch on Thursday. He was paired with Justin Braun as the teams third defense pair. McLellan generally stuck with the line combinations that the team was practicing the last two days. Thornton was between Couture and Pavelski, while Marleau skated with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell. Havlat was with Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn. The Sharks were 35-for-58 in the faceoff circle.

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

DALLAS – Injured Sharks forwards Jannik Hansen and Melker Karlsson both returned to the ice for Thursday’s practice in Dallas, in what Pete DeBoer called “a good first step” in their recoveries.

The coach left open the possibility that one or both could play against the Stars on Friday night, even though neither was skating on a set line for practice.

“We’ll have to wait and see how they feel [Friday] morning and what the recovery is,” DeBoer said. “I’m not prepared to say they’re in tomorrow, but it’s a good sign they’re on the ice and participated.”

Hansen has been out for the past two games since getting a stick in the head from defenseman Brandon Montour on Saturday against Anaheim. 

“Took a couple days [off] to make sure everything was aright,” Hansen said. “Getting better, back on the ice today.”

Officially, it’s an upper body injury. When pressed if it was a concussion issue, Hansen said: “I don’t know. It’s tough to say to begin with, but obviously you do all the precautionary things that [are] involved now.”

Although he has just one assist in his first six games with the Sharks, Hansen seemed to spark the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, as the line generated one even strength goal in each of the first four games Hansen played.

Karlsson has missed the last six games with a lower body injury. He has 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games with a plus-nine rating.

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The lines remained the same for Thursday’s practice. Patrick Marleau was with Thornton and Pavelski; Logan Couture centered Joel Ward and Mikkel Boedker; Tomas Hertl was between Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, while the fourth line sweaters were worn by Chris Tierney, Micheal Haley, Timo Meier and Danny O’Regan.

San Jose stayed over in St. Paul on Tuesday night and flew to Dallas on Wednesday morning on their day off.

The Wild game, a 3-2 loss, was the Sharks’ fourth straight. They’ve generated just four goals over that span.

That game also capped off a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Sharks, who now have just a two-point lead on Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division – a lead that was nine points before the losing streak began.

Was the day off good?

“Yeah. We’ve been kind of struggling scoring goals, so just to kind of relax yesterday and then kind of get back and refocus today,” Thornton said. “But sometimes you just need a little time away from the rink. I think yesterday was needed.”

DeBoer said: “I think our group is pretty mature. I don’t think we’re overeating to the situation. No one’s happy we’ve lost a few, but we also know that we’ve done enough good things that we could have won two or three of those games. We’ve just got to stick with it, clean up a couple things, and score some goals.”

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Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic skated after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. Tierney missed Monday’s game in Dallas, also due to illness.

Is that all gone now?

“Knock on wood. Nothing today. Hope so,” DeBoer said.

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

ST. PAUL – On paper, Timo Meier’s production after he was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda on Feb. 16 was down. The former first-round pick had just six points (3g, 3a) in 14 games, and was scoreless in his last five, a far cry from what he was doing there earlier in the season and way off his numbers in juniors.

But at just 20 years old, Meier is still in the learning phase of his professional career. And as impressive as the Barracuda have been this season, they’re still playing in a developmental league, first and foremost. Meier got a chance to work on some of the aspects of his game he needed to work on.

“It was obviously hard going back,” said Meier, who has three goals and two assists in 28 games, before Tuesday’s game in Minnesota. “Sometimes you go back there and you try too much, but they told me to work on some things in my game, and I tried to do that.

“For me, going down there it was all about learning stuff on the ice, off the ice. … It’s my first year [in pro hockey], so as a young guy you want to learn and listen to the coaches, too. Just get better.”

Coach Pete DeBoer went into pretty good detail on what the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft needed to do with the Barracuda, and what he needs to show now that he’s back in the NHL.

“I think with a lot of big, talented young guys, they have to realize when they can make an extra play with the puck and when they have to chip it in,” DeBoer said. “They’re so used to dominating at the levels they’ve been at for so long, that [it’s] easier said than done. It’s habits you have to learn, and you don’t learn unless you’re doing them on a consistent basis.”

Meier’s shot selection, too, is something that needed some improvement, according to the coach. While the power winger might be generating plenty of shot attempts, no doubt pleasing the advanced stats crowd, there’s more to being an effective forward than running up numbers on the Excel spreadsheets.

“You don’t want to shoot [just] to shoot up here, or to just get shots on net. You’re not scoring on NHL goalies like you are on junior goalies from 30 or 40 feet out,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to pick your spots. Sometimes you have to look for a better play than a shot.”

Meier said: “It’s a really tough league. As a young guy coming in, sometimes you’ve got to stay patient, too, try not [to do] too much. … Sometimes I tried [to do] a little too much.”

Meier has been in the Sharks’ lineup for each of the last two games. He started on the fourth line before getting bumped up to Tomas Hertl’s third line on Monday in Dallas, and returned to the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Micheal Haley for Tuesday’s tilt in Minnesota. He is scoreless with two shots on goal over those two games.

He could be a temporary fill in for Jannik Hansen, who remains out with an upper body injury but could potentially return before the end of the road trip this weekend. Or, perhaps Meier does enough to stick around for the stretch run and the playoffs. There would seem to be an opportunity to push someone else out of the lineup, as the Sharks’ depth scoring has been a season-long problem.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, getting that chance again later on in the season,” Meier said. “I want to put it all on the ice, leave it all out there and just make the best out of every shift I get. Play my game, play within my strengths, [do] the things that got me here, and I’m sure I’ll be successful like that.”