Sharks get right before break, shut out Flames

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Sharks get right before break, shut out Flames

BOX SCORE

CALGARY On a night when goaltender Antti Niemi stopped every shot he faced, including several with his glove, it was the hand-eye coordination of Benn Ferriero that keyed the end to the Sharks' losing streak.

Ferriero slickly grabbed an airborne puck in the crease, placed it on the ice, and whacked in the only goal of the game in a 1-0 Sharks win on Tuesday night over the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

I used to play baseball when I was younger, Ferriero said. I just tried to settle it down as fast as I could, and throw it in the empty net.

Dan Boyle began the frantic sequence of events, when he tossed the puck towards goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff from the point. It bounced off of Kiprusoffs pad and Logan Couture got two whacks at it, the second of which deflected into the air.

Ferriero found himself standing in the crease behind a fallen Kiprusoff when he snagged it with his right hand. The goal came at 11:35 of the third period.

Benny has a knack around the net, Todd McLellan said. "Hes the benefactor of loose pucks laying in there. Tonight he went into the blue paint and found one.

For Ferriero, it was his sixth goal of the year as he continues to get key minutes on the teams second line, mostly with Couture and Patrick Marleau. The Sharks remain down two of their top six forwards with Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat out for and indeterminate period.

That makes it all the more essential for a guy like Ferriero to get on the scoresheet.

Its definitely important, Ferriero said. Playing on the second line and getting minutes like that, youre expected to produce.

On the other end, Niemi made 25 saves in recording his third shutout and first since Jan. 12 at Winnipeg. It was an important victory for him after two subpar efforts in losses to Ottawa and Vancouver in which he surrendered four goals apiece, several of which were stoppable shots.

When asked if the win was key for him on a personal level, Niemi said: For sure, after a couple games giving up one or two bad goals. Huge for me.

McLellan credited backup Thomas Greiss for assisting Niemi in what was a bad stretch. Greiss played in Saturdays 2-1 loss in Edmonton, the third straight game he surrendered just a single goal.

I thought Thomas Greiss allowed Niemi to be the goalie he was tonight. What I mean by that, Thomas threw a pretty good game in Edmonton. It gave Nemo a day or two work on his game without having to worry about playing, McLellan said. He obviously polished it up.

The win ended San Joses three-game losing streak in what was their final game before the All-Star break, and was they're first regulation victory since Jan. 14. The Sharks (27-14-6, 60 points) are the Pacific Division leaders, two points better than Los Angeles with three games in hand on the Kings.

RELATED: NHL standings
It also allows them to enter the break on a win, rather than what would have been a season-high four-game winless streak.

It makes the break a lot more fun. Now we can enjoy the break, get away from it, and it was very important to get in here and win tonight, Joe Thornton said. It was a good road win.

That was a gutsy effort from us tonight, shorthanded and missing some bodies and playing three games in four nights on this Canada trip, which is tough to do, Couture said.

After a generally sleepy first 40 minutes, things finally opened up in the third period and the teams traded some excellent scoring chances.

Calgary had the better of the opportunities early. Just 20 seconds after the faceoff, Mikael Backlunds wrist shot from the slot was snagged by Niemi. Later, Alex Tanguay broke in behind Justin Braun and tried going to his backhand, but Niemi patiently sealed off any open space in making the stop.

Pavelski nearly put the Sharks ahead on a couple tries. First, he wheeled around and slid a backhander from the slot towards Kiprusoff, but the Flames goalie kicked it away. Pavelskis knuckle-puck slap shot midway through the third confused and beat Kiprusoff, only to ring off of the post.

Thornton wasnt sure why the games pace picked up after a somewhat sleep inducing first two periods.

Both teams just trying to get some offense going, perhaps, he said. It was a tight-checking game all game, except for the third, and it just opened up."

Calgary had the better energy at the outset, and although Niemi wasnt tested much, he made a nice left pad stop on Tom Kostopoulos with about 2:20 remaining in the period.

The Sharks had the best chance, though, later in the frame when Patrick Marleau came charging in after Coutures deflection attempt popped into the air. Kiprusoff managed to keep it out with his stick, though, and the game remained scoreless.

A shift by the Sharks top line in the Calgary zone late in the first resulted in a hooking call to Olli Jokinen at 19:46. That power play carried over into the start of the second period, and was great chance for the Sharks to get the momentum. Instead, the top power play unit fumbled with the puck and there were no real scoring chances while Jokinen exited the box with no harm done.

Jokinen would have given the Flames the lead in the second were it not for a heads up play by Douglas Murray. A blast by Jarome Iginla missed wide but rebounded off of the backboards towards Jokinen. Murray managed to get just enough of the puck to keep the Flames forward from depositing it into the open net.

Calgary managed just three shots in the second period, two of them coming on a power play with Jim Vandermeer off for interference.

Vandermeer was playing for the first time since Dec. 6, surprisingly lining up as a fourth-line forward while Andrew Murray was scratched.

The Sharks scored and surrendered just five regulation goals on their three-game trek through Canada that included stops in Vancouver and Edmonton (1-1-1).

The defensive part of our game weve been really happy with. Finding, some nights, enough offense to win, tonight being one of them, McLellan said. But, on a three-game road we only gave up five goals and go home .500. Weve got to find some scoring, weve got to get a little hungrier in and around the net, much like the winning goal tonight.

But, its nice to win the last one. It gives you a better feeling going into the All-Star break.

Odds and ends: The Sharks won 51 percent of the faceoffs (23-for-45). Joe Pavelski had a team-high five shots, while Calgarys Olli Jokinen had a game-high six. San Jose had 22 blocked shots to Calgarys seven. Antti Niemi has 16 career shutouts, 11 on the road.

NHL Gameday: Sharks face Preds, look to rebound from 'crap' performance

NHL Gameday: Sharks face Preds, look to rebound from 'crap' performance

Programming note – Sharks-Predators coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 42-25-7, 91 points, 1st Pacific Division
Predators: 37-25-11, 85 points, 4th Central Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The freefalling Sharks will again try to put an end to their losing streak in their only visit to Nashville tonight. Friday night’s unsightly 6-1 loss in Dallas, their fifth straight in regulation, was surely their worst game of the season. Their typically strong defensive game handed the Stars all kinds of opportunities that they cashed in on.

“Uncharacteristic missed coverage," Pete DeBoer said of the Stars' third goal in which Jamie Benn was left uncovered, "but [I] think that you could say that about six of the goals – breakaways, two-on-ones. Just, crap. Not very good.”

Despite having a nine-point lead on the division on the morning of March 15, the Sharks are now tied in points with Anaheim (San Jose owns the tiebreaker, so is still officially in first place). The Ducks are idle Saturday, but Edmonton, two points back, is hosting putrid Colorado.

Nashville is 5-1-0 in its last six games, and 6-1-0 in its last seven at home.

***The Sharks have managed just five goals over their five regulation losses. Two of those scores have come on the power play, including one on a five-on-three; Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s goal against St. Louis deflected in off of a Blues player, and one of Patrick Marleau’s two markers in Minnesota on Tuesday came in large part to a miscommunication between Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Suter.

They are simply not generating anything lately.

“Some teams are doing a good job of taking some of our plays away, but it’s on us as players,” Joe Pavelski said. “You’ve got to win some battles, you've got to create some energy, some speed throughout the team. It’s hasn’t been one guy. It’s been all of us. We’re in this together. We’ll change it as a group."

***There was no morning skate on Saturday, so no word on whether Vlasic would be in the lineup after he took just one shift in the third period on Friday before departing.

The Sharks are 2-3-1 in the six games Vlasic has missed this season, including Tuesday in Minnesota when he was out with the flu. Just one of the two wins came in regulation (Jan. 7 against Detroit).

If he’s out, Dylan DeMelo will presumably draw back in on the third pair.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Tomas Hertl. It didn’t take long for Hertl to be bumped up to the Joe Thornton line after Friday’s game started to go sour. In the first period, Hertl looked like one of the few Sharks players actually performing decently, and he finished with a team-high four shots on goal. He remains without a point in his last 11 games, though.

Predators: James Neal. The Predators forward has goals in each of his two games against the Sharks this season, and is third on the Predators with 21 overall. After scoring in three straight games from March 11-16, Neal hasn’t found the scoresheet in his last three.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Marcus Sorensen – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Joonas Donskoi

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

Martin Jones (likely starter)
Aaron Dell

Predators
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala – Calle Jarnkrok – James Neal
Colin Wilson – Colton Sissons – Craig Smith
Cody McLeod – Vern Fiddler – Austin Watson

Romas Josi – Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin – Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne
Jusse Saros

INJURIES

Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (possible lower body) and Melker Karlsson (lower body) are questionable.

Predators: Mike Fisher (lower body) is questionable.

QUOTEABLE

"The nice thing about this is we get to go back at it again tomorrow. There’s going to be no excuse for not playing hard tomorrow.” – Brenden Dillon, after Friday night’s loss in Dallas

 

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

Sharks blowout loss to Stars includes 'a month's worth of mistakes'

DALLAS – In just two-and-a-half weeks, the Sharks will have the opportunity to defend their Western Conference title when the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.

(Take a deep breath. They won’t fall out of playoff position.)

Still, it’s a terrible time for them to be playing their worst hockey of the season, and going through the foulest stretch of coach Pete DeBoer’s two-year tenure.

The Sharks were flat-out embarrassed by the Stars on Friday night in their fifth straight regulation defeat, 6-1 in Dallas, showing no signs of life for the duration. Not even a verbal tongue-lashing from their normally reserved head coach in full view of the cameras in the second period got their motors going.

How do you explain this one, Joe Pavelski?

“I don’t know, good question,” said the captain. “There’s a commitment that needs to be there to win in this league right now consistently. Right now, we’re searching for that.”

DeBoer, too, was puzzled.

“You have a handful of those a year where nothing goes right and nobody’s got any kind of legs or energy,” he said. “It was one of those nights. I don’t have an explanation for it. I felt we prepared the right way the last couple days. I thought we felt pretty good about ourselves. Then, the puck dropped and everything went bad.”

It was evident early that the Sharks were off, as they couldn’t figure out a way to get the puck through the neutral zone for the first several shifts and didn’t register a shot on goal until 7:17 into the first period. The first of three Adam Cracknell goals – yes, Adam Cracknell – had them trailing 1-0 after the opening frame.

Traditionally, the Sharks would have found a way to jolt themselves to life at the intermission, as it was so plainly obvious that they didn’t seem focused or driven over the first 20 minutes.

This was a game, too, in which they were healthier, getting Jannik Hansen back in the lineup, and more rested than the Stars, who were playing their second game in as many nights while San Jose was coming off a rare two-day break. Furthermore, the Sharks have seen a nine-point lead in the Pacific Division evaporate to just two points headed into Friday’s action. Motivation should have been easy against a team that shut them out on Monday, to boot.

But the mental mistakes to start the second were even worse. Brett Ritchie was left alone by Brenden Dillon for a goal just 1:58 into the middle frame, and at 5:19, Brent Burns was caught staring at the puck off of a faceoff as Jamie Benn got free in front of the net to push the Dallas lead to 3-0. DeBoer's timeout and screaming session after that third goal did nothing, as Dallas got two more goals off of the rush and another on a breakaway by Cracknell after a gift turnover by goalie Aaron Dell before the night was through.

“That’s a month worth of mistakes in one night, so hopefully we get it out of the system,” DeBoer said.

The defensive miscues should be easily correctable, according to Dillon.

“If you look at a good chunk of those goals, we kind of know whether it was d-zone coverage, or off the rush, or just communicating with one another,” he said. “Stuff that’s not like us. I think if we watched the other 70 games this year, those kind of things don’t happen.”

Of course, the defensive errors become all the more glaring when a team isn’t scoring, either. The Sharks managed just one Joe Thornton power play goal, and have just five total goals in their last five games.

That part of their game wasn’t any better against Dallas than their defense, as Kari Lehtonen had a relatively tranquil evening.

“We have a lot of guys that are going through some tough times right now and struggling to get on the scoresheet,” Logan Couture said. “We're going to need all of those guys to bring more. That's from our top guys, including myself and on down. We need to do more offensively. Score goals, and do more defensively, as well.”

They have just eight more games to figure it all out.

“It’s not ideal, by any means,” Dillon said. “I think it’s maybe a bit of a wakeup call for us. … You can’t take a night off and you have to be emotionally invested. You’ve got to take every shift as hard as you possibly can.”

* * *

DeBoer had no update on Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who didn't play in the third period. The defenseman was seen leaving the dressing room under his own power, but looked to be walking a bit gingerly.