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.

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

NHL Gameday: Sharks go for fifth straight win in only visit to Colorado

Programming note – Sharks-Avalanche coverage starts today at 6:00 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 29-16-2, 60 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Avalanche: 13-29-2, 28 points, 7th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Tonight’s game is the second of a home-and-home for the Sharks and Avalanche, after San Jose’s 3-2 win in overtime at SAP Center on Saturday, and the final game of the season series. David Schlemko got the deciding score 1:18 into the extra frame, as the Sharks improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight against Colorado.

The Sharks have won four straight, while Colorado, just 2-14-1 in its last 17, has lost five in a row. The Avs have not won in regulation since Dec. 11 at Toronto.

***Colorado will reportedly give rookie Spencer Martin his second straight start after he made 27 saves in his NHL debut against the Sharks on Saturday. 

Martin Jones is tied for third in the NHL with 24 wins, and is 5-1-0 in his last six starts.

***Four of the Sharks’ last six games have been decided by one goal, including three in a row. San Jose is 16-10-2 in one-goal games – the second most one-goal wins in the league, and the most one-goal losses in regulation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Kevin Labanc. The Sharks rookie has hit a bit of a wall since bursting onto the scene, going without a goal for the last 10 games. Coach Pete DeBoer said recently that he had a talk with the rookie about maintaining a high level of play, and Labanc has been more noticeable in his last two games, recording an assist in each. The 21-year-old has 14 points (7g, 7a) in 34 games this season.

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. No forward was more effective for Colorado on Saturday against the Sharks than MacKinnon, their lone All-Star, who recorded a game-high seven shots and set up the tying goal in the third period. The first pick in the 2013 draft has 10 points (7g, 3a) in 10 career games when opposing San Jose, and is Colorado’s leading scorer with 32 points (11g, 21a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

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

Martin Jones 
Aaron Dell

Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen – Nathan Mackinnon – Mikhail Grigorenko
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Matt Nieto
Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne

Francois Beauchemin – Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin – Nikita Zadorov
Patrick Wiercioch – Eric Gelinas

Spencer Martin (starter)
Calvin Pickard

INJURIES

Sharks: Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (lower body) and Rene Bourque (lower body) are day-to-day. Semyon Varlamov (groin) and Erik Johnson (broken fibula) are out.

QUOTEABLE

“I felt we did a pretty good job in our end, [but] we probably played there a little too much. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to coming out of our end or through the neutral zone. There’s going to be games like that and it’s good to find a way to win.” – David Schlemko, after Saturday’s win

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

Three takeaways: Sharks make life easy on Avs rookie goalie

SAN JOSE – It took overtime for the Sharks to surpass the worst team in the NHL, but the points are valuable any way they come in the second half. Here are our three takeaways from the 3-2 victory on Saturday night…

1 – Top guys struggle, but depth comes through

It wasn’t a very good night for the captain’s line, which was particularly sloppy on Colorado’s tying goal in the third period. Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic weren’t much better, as the former was caught out of position a couple times, and the latter was tagged with six giveaways.

But those guys have been playing the bulk of the minutes lately, so they’re allowed to have an off night. At least, that’s how Pete DeBoer saw it.

“We've ridden our big guys pretty hard,” DeBoer said. “They played some tough minutes with some of the opponents we played this week, in L.A. and on and on. Tonight's a night you're looking for your depth guys to step up and give you some energy, and I thought we got that."

The Sharks’ fourth line was probably its best from start to finish, including Melker Karlsson’s goal, from Ryan Carpenter.

“[Tomas] Hertl's missed 30 games, so we needed somebody to come in and help us out in that area, and he's done that,” DeBoer said of Carpenter.

2 – Making it too easy on Martin

Spencer Martin was making his NHL debut in difficult circumstances, playing in front of what has been an incredibly loose team in its own end against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But, the Sharks made it easy on him most of the night.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had a tremendous game, told the Denver Post that he thought Colorado was the better team.

“Tonight, we outplayed them,” he said. “We outplayed the team that went to the (Stanley Cup) Finals last year, and there were some bright spots for us. We have to climb out of this hole and have a good last 30, 40 games here and go into next season feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

They’ll get another chance against the Sharks on Monday at Pepsi Center as the teams conclude their two-game season series. San Jose will try and give the Colorado goalie, whoever it is, a more difficult time.

“When we’re on our game, we’re making it tough with grind time and traffic at the net, some chances,” Joe Pavelski said. “Tonight we didn’t have as many as we could have had. We’ll try to find a little bit more for next game.”

Schlemko said: “We just didn’t have as much grind time in the o-zone as we usually do. If you’re not playing in their end you’re usually playing in your end.”

3 – Ward gets another on the power play

Joel Ward’s resurgence continues, as the forward again found a way to contribute on the scoresheet. His first period power play goal was one of the easier scores he’ll have, on a nice setup by Joe Thornton.

“[Thornton] had it behind the net and came around the side, and sent it to me on the far side, so it went in,” Ward said.

The 36-year-old Ward has nine points (3g, 6a) in his last 13 games. To put that in perspective, the last time he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 20, he had just nine points in 31 games on the season.