Sharks' comeback falls short in 4-3 loss to Blackhawks

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Sharks' comeback falls short in 4-3 loss to Blackhawks

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CHICAGO The Blackhawks top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg apparently didnt get the memo regarding how tight the Sharks' defense had been of late.That trio teamed up for five points, including a goal by Toews that put Chicago ahead to stay in the second period, in a 4-3 Blackhawks victory over the Sharks on Sunday night at the United Center.Oh, and they combined for no less than 17 shots on goal as the Blackhawks outshot San Jose for the game, 40-24.Just about every time they were on the ice, if they werent creating a scoring chance right away, they were holding onto the puck waiting for something to open up.

They are quick, smart players, said their former teammate, Antti Niemi. They can shoot or pass, so you have to be ready for anything.Too much, hows that? Todd McLellan said, when asked what he saw from Toews, Kane and Stalberg. Their big boys had the puck the whole night. They are a tough enough group to play against when youre managing the puck properly, but when you turn it over as many times as we didI dont know if the puck had a Blackhawk logo on it, we thought we had to give it back to them.The Blackhawks had 16 takeaways half by the top line.Toews go-ahead goal started with a misplay by Niemi. The Sharks goalie went behind the net to play the puck, but instead it ended up in the corner on Kanes stick. Kane threw it to the front of the net and Toews got the tip of his stick on it to redirect the puck into the open net before Niemi could recover at 7:06 of the second period. That made it 3-2, Chicago.Just a quick play. Couldnt get back, Niemi said.The goal was especially demoralizing in that the Sharks had erased a 2-0 deficit to tie the game early in the second on goals from Joe Pavelski and Jamie McGinn. Pavelski tipped in a wrister towards the net from Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 1:42, and McGinn wrapped the puck around and was able to beat Corey Crawford on a goal that Crawford should have stopped just 26 seconds later.I think I just surprised him going far side. I just jammed it in the net, said McGinn.The Sharks had been outplayed to that point and were fortunate to be at 2-2. That was the moment they needed to seize momentum.It didnt happen.Instead, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville called a timeout and saw his club control play for just about the rest of the period, while taking back the lead in the process. In fact, the Sharks went over 10 minutes in the second without a single shot.We had full momentum after making it 2-2. Its a good call by their coach to call time out and settle things down, but we had to take the opportunity and pounce on them right away, McGinn said. I didnt think we did that, and they got the next goal and that was key.McLellan said: We established ourselves to get back in the game, and then we gave it right back to them. It was an uphill battle from there that we werent coming back on.Although San Joses four-game road trip ended with a thud, it was just their second loss in regulation in the last 16 games (10-2-4) and ended a streak of seven games with at least a point in the standings.Weve been playing well, Joe Thornton said. Well put this behind us, and it was a good road trip.The Sharks even had a great chance to steal a point in the end. Andrew Shaw gave Chicago a two-goal cushion early in the third to make it 4-2, but Tommy Wingels first career NHL goal with less than five minutes left brought the Sharks back to within one.Niklas Hjalmarsson was called for hooking with 1:07 left in regulation, giving the Sharks a 6-on-4 advantage with Niemi pulled for an extra attacker. They couldnt capitalize, though, and finished 0-for-3 on the power play.The Blackhawks stormed out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals late in the first.Dave Bolland got it started, firing home a wrist shot past Niemi on a feed from behind the net. Niemi had trouble tracking the play behind him, giving Bolland just enough daylight to get his 13th of the season at 18:01.Chicagos top line struck for the first of its two goals with less than 20 seconds left in the period. Stalberg caught Brent Burns flat-footed in the slot and directed in a Toews pass to give the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.You come back into your zone and you stare at the puck against this team, youre in trouble, McLellan said. The puck-carrier seldom does the damage. Its who hes dishing it off to, and we just stared at the puck, and they had a number of chances off of it.Niemi finished with 36 saves in suffering his eighth defeat, but had perhaps his best stop of the year midway through the first. He lunged across the crease to rob Kane from firing it into an open net on a nice feed through the slot by Toews, snagging it with his glove and freezing play.It comes so quick that youre almost not sure if youre going to make the save, Niemi said. You just reach and realize its in the glove. It felt great.Kane, who has just two goals in his last 17 games, looked dumbfounded that the puck didnt hit the back of the net.Crawford finished with 21 saves to record the win, as Chicago has won two of three from the Sharks. They meet for the fourth and final time this regular season on Feb. 10 at HP Pavilion.The Sharks host Calgary on Tuesday.Odds and ends: The Blackhawks won 58 percent of faceoffs (33-24). Brad Winchester fought for the second time in as many nights, taking on Sean ODonnell in the first period. Ryane Clowe removed the cage he had been wearing the past two games. Did the training staff agree to let him do that? No, not really, he said. The Blackhawks had just one power play, which they did not score on. Torrey Mitchell had two assists.

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?