Sharks hit low point with 6-3 loss to Columbus

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Sharks hit low point with 6-3 loss to Columbus

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS Now may be a good time to hit the panic button.

Four unanswered goals in the first period by the NHLs worst team paced the Columbus Blue Jackets to a comfortable 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.

In what has to be considered the nadir of their season, the Sharks lost their fourth straight first time for the first time this year, and are just 1-4-1 on what is turning into a nightmarish nine-game road trip.

All of us realize what were in for right now. Its pretty much square one, Joe Thornton said. Weve pretty much hit bottom now, and now well just hopefully dig our way out of it because were definitely in a race now to get into the playoffs.

It was a night to forget for the starting goaltender, too. Antti Niemi was pulled just in the first period after allowing three goals on just 11 shots, and saw his team lose for the ninth time in his last 13 starts (4-8-1).

When asked if this was the low point for the team, Niemi said: For sure, for me at least. Not getting too many points right now.

Jeff Carters hat trick in his 500th career NHL game led the way for lowly Columbus, which had its largest goal output of the season.

San Joses lead in the Pacific Division is gone. Phoenix defeated the Kings 5-4 in a shootout to draw even with the Sharks atop the division with 69 points. While the Sharks are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, the streaking Coyotes are 8-1-1.

Thornton was unusually candid after the game regarding the team's effort.

You can talk so much, but really its up to that individual to come out and perform. Thats what why we get paid is to perform every night, Thornton said. For whatever reason, everybodys not on board. Weve got to get on board, and Im sure were going to see a lot of video tomorrow. Weve got to get some wins now.

I dont know if some guys really understand where we are at this point in the season and how the season is dwindling quickly, Todd McLellan said. Other teams are playing well. You cant just come to the rink and wear the jersey. You have to find a way to contribute. Theres been a few that havent lately, and that will be my job tomorrow.

The Blue Jackets scored three goals or less in their previous 14 games, but managed to score four in the first period alone against an unfocused and at times lethargic Sharks team that was coming off of a good effort in a 3-2 loss to Detroit on Sunday.

R.J. Umberger got it started when he was left completely alone in front of the net to deposit the rebound of a Grant Clitsome shot just 4:55 into the game. Niemi mentioned he thought he had the puck frozen under his glove and was expecting a whistle that never came.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Joe Pavelski for snowing the goaltender led to the first of two power play goals for Carter, when the Blue Jackets sniper fired it past Niemi at 6:51.

It put us on our heels and we never got it back, said Pavelski, who also gave the impression that he didnt agree with the penalty.

Rick Nash made it a 3-0 game at 15:18, skating from the boards to the slot and ending Niemis night by beating him to the glove side.

Thomas Greiss relieved Niemi and surrendered Carters second with a man advantage at 19:30 of the first. A shot by Vinny Prospal deflected off of Brent Burns stick and then Jamie McGinns skate before Carter tapped it in to make it 4-0.

San Jose made it at least somewhat interesting in the second period with a pair of goals just 26 seconds apart. Colin Whites shot off of Thorntons skate at 5:11 made it 4-1, and a Logan Couture wrist shot from the faceoff dot over Masons near shoulder brought the Sharks to within two goals.

An undisciplined penalty to Ryane Clowe at 7:37, though, essentially sealed the Sharks fate. Clowe disagreed with a cross-checking call and slammed the door to the penalty box, earning a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct on top of the original infraction. The Blue Jackets capitalized on the back-end of the double-minor when David Savards blast deflected in off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 10:59.

I was upset because they called a penalty. It was a bad call on the penalty so I got upset, said a visibly annoyed Clowe.

It was Columbus third power play goal of the night, and second on an avoidable penalty to Clowe, who was sent off for roughing late in the first leading to Carters second goal.

Weve got two situations to deal with, and Ill talk to Clowie about it tomorrow, but frustration seeps through a little bit there, McLellan said. He was sent a message and wasnt put back on the ice for a little while, but in the same breath he does take care of his teammates.

When mentioned that the team took some undisciplined penalties, Thornton said: They know. They cant be doing that kind of thing and it cost the team, is the bottom line tonight. Were in that game and a couple unfortunate penalties like that put you behind the eight ball, and they score.

Right now, as fragile as the team is, we cant take the undisciplined penalties.

Carter completed the hat trick at 1:26 of the third after a defensive zone breakdown by San Jose led to Nash finding Carter in the slot for another easy conversion.

It was just one of a number of defensive zone miscues for the Sharks, who surrendered six goals for the second time on this trip. San Jose lost to Tampa Bay in overtime last Thursday, 6-5.

Youve got to play with some intensity, and, fear is not the word, but youre got to be ready to go. Youve got to sense some urgency and get in there and create a little bit more, Pavelski said. We do that at times, and get our chances and we havent scored on them early enough.

With that, weve got to defend better.

Coutures second of the night, a deflection on the power play, made it 6-3 at 8:35 and capped the scoring.

The Sharks may have lost newcomer Dominic Moore. Moore did not come out for the start of the second period due to an unspecified injury, but was seen walking to the team bus after the game.

San Jose will be looking for wins in Toronto, Nashville and Minnesota before hosting Philadelphia on Feb. 28.

Odds and ends: Torrey Mitchell was a healthy scratch for the second time this season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic played with a full cage after taking a puck to the face in Detroit on Sunday. Joe Thorntons goal was his 600th point as a Shark. The Sharks finished 3-1-0 against Columbus in the season series. Steve Mason finished with 38 saves, while Greiss allowed three goals on 24 shots and took the loss.

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?