Sharks shut out by Smith, Coyotes

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Sharks shut out by Smith, Coyotes

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes had opening night fresh in their minds.

In their second visit to HP Pavilion of the season, Smith made 31 saves and the Coyotes shut out the Sharks on Saturday, 3-0. Phoenix used two goals in the first period and one in the third and then stymied the Sharks offense and power play in securing the victory.

On Oct. 8, Smith allowed six goals and the Sharks cruised to a 6-3 win that wasnt as close as the score indicates, in what was the first game for both clubs.

We remembered the first game of the season, said forward Radim Vrbata, who tallied his sixth goal in the first period. We definitely talked about it.

They did more than talk about it, as the Coyotes continually clogged up the neutral zone and employed a bend-but-not-break approach to their penalty kill after going ahead. The Sharks had the advantage in zone time for much of the second and third, but were unable to cut into the two-goal Phoenix advantage.

Were obviously asleep at the start, and bang-bang. The first period is over and were down 2-0 against a team that loves to play with the lead, said Ryane Clowe. It was uphill from there. It wasnt like the first game, was it?

San Jose had a number of opportunities to score, especially in the third period. On a power play, Joe Thornton had the puck alone in front of the net, but Smith dove to snuff out the shot at the point of contact with about 13:30 left.

Later, with about nine minutes remaining, Patrick Marleau chipped the puck ahead to a charging Joe Pavelski, who got behind the Coyotes defense. Pavelski lifted the puck high over the net.

Shortly after Pavelskis chance, Jamie McGinn took the puck strong to the blue paint and his shot from close range bounced off of Smiths pads high into the air. Torrey Mitchell had an opportunity to whack the puck into an open net, but swung and missed.

The Coyotes, who were getting outshot 12-2 in the third at that point, essentially put the game away with 7:05 left in regulation. On a complete defensive breakdown by San Jose, OSullivan and Kyle Chipchura were both in front of Thomas Greiss with no Sharks within 10 feet, and Chipchura fed OSullivan for an easy tap-in.

Todd McLellan assessed the performance, saying: I thought we were lethargic between the ears, to begin with. Some of the things that we talked about, even in the first five minutes of the game, we were in the wrong spots. That tells me that they werent there mentally, and when youre not there mentally, usually the physical part doesnt follow.

That was our game tonight. We played right into their hands.

The game was the first regulation shutout for the Coyotes in San Jose since Dec. 26, 1997, and ended their six-game losing streak at the Tank.

The Coyotes took the play to the Sharks in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes.

First, Ray Whitney gathered in a loose puck in the high slot and slid it towards the net. It went wide, but took a big bounce off of the back boards to the stick of Vrbata who beat Thomas Greiss at 14:21.

That increased that to 2-1 with less than a minute to go, when Lauri Korpikoski intercepted a Dan Boyle pass in the neutral zone. Korpikoski passed it to Raffi Torres, who found Boyd Gordon in the slot. Gordons soft shot trickled in off of Greiss right pad with just 32 seconds left in the period.

Boyle and Greiss were both eager to take the blame for that one.

Getting through the neutral zone was really bad on our part. The second goal I didnt execute my pass, said Boyle, who was on the ice for all three Coyotes goals. They come back the other way and score one of those goals that makes you scratch your head. Ill take responsibility for that one.

Greiss explained it, by saying: It hit my skate and I wasnt sure where it was. I tried to recover and just kicked it in the net. Its my fault. Its a bad goal.

Greiss made his first start since Oct. 29 in Long Island. He entered the game with an excellent 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, but took his third loss of the season by allowing three goals on 23 Coyotes shots.

He wasnt tested a lot, in fact, hardly any in the second half of the game, said McLellan. He could have had a shutout and we still would have only gotten a point.

Phoenix improved to 7-0-3 when scoring first, and a perfect 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.

They got their two goals, and they clogged up the neutral zone and their goalie played well after that, said McLellan.

The Sharks will have a complete day off on Sunday before resuming practice on Monday. The six-game homestand concludes with a game against Detroit on Thursday.

The Sharks lost for just the second time in regulation in the last 11 games (8-2-1).

We had a good run, but its done now. We have to start something new here, said Boyle.
Odds and ends: Joe Thornton had a nasty cut on his face, but when asked if it was a stick or a puck, replied he had no idea. The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and killed off all three Phoenix power plays. The Coyotes had a 33-25 advantage on faceoffs.

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.”

Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

ST. PAUL – The losing streak endures, as the Sharks dropped their fourth straight, 3-2 in Minnesota on Tuesday night. A quick start from the home team, and an even quicker response after the Sharks tied it up late in the second keyed the Wild win. Let’s dig a little deeper, though, with our three takeaways…

1 – Wild come out flying

The Sharks’ general lack of panic after their latest loss, as we touched on in the recap, surely had something to do with the circumstances. Minnesota had an extra day of rest while the Sharks were on their second of a back-to-back, with travel. San Jose was also capping off a stretch of seven games in just 11 days (I believe we’ve mentioned here before just how monumentally foolish this year’s NHL schedule is). 

Frankly, the start was predictable. Minnesota was a ticked off team having lost five straight, and even though it had dropped is previous game in Winnipeg, 5-4, it erased a 4-0 deficit in that one only to lose it late. Surely that was a sign that the Wild were ready to break through in the win column.

Pete DeBoer said the Sharks “expected” an early push from Minnesota.

“They’ve been sitting here waiting, they’re desperate, they’re fresh, they’re healthy. We’re coming in on a back-to-back. We knew the first period would be tough. It wasn’t pretty, but we escaped only down 1-0 and I thought from that point on we started to fight back a little bit. Did some good things, just too little too late.”

The Sharks were competitive over the final two periods, finally getting their first goal in more than 138 minutes of game play to make it 1-1 (it was originally credited to David Schlemko, but has since been changed to Patrick Marleau). At that point, though, it was Minnesota’s turn to respond. It did, and that was the game.

2 – Third line woes

We touched on the Sharks’ lack of secondary scorers yesterday, and it was on full display against the Wild again Tuesday night as the third line of Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker failed to do anything productive. Hertl had one decent chance in the first period from the slot that Devan Dubnyk turned away, but was later too soft and too slow on Minnesota’s third goal, as Zach Parise outhustled and outmuscled him before dishing to Charlie Coyle.

Donskoi finished with two shots, and didn’t even get one off on a second period breakaway. Boedker had no shots, and just one attempt.

Hertl now has no points in his last 10 games, and Donskoi hasn’t found the scoresheet, either, in nine games since returning from an upper body injury.

Prior to Tuesday night’s game, DeBoer indicated it’s taking some time for both players to get up to speed after being out. Hertl, of course, missed two months with his latest right knee injury.

“You come back, there’s a little bit of adrenaline, you’re on a high, and the reality hits that you missed some time and the league is moving at a really fast pace,” DeBoer said. “Just got to play through it and keep battling.”

Hertl said: “I for sure expect [more] of myself. … I try to stay with my game, try and make plays, be strong on the puck, make my linemates better. I need to just keep working all over [in the] D-zone, O-zone, and even power play.”

3 – Dealing without Vlasic

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the second Sharks player in two nights to be sidelined by a flu bug, so Schlemko was bumped up to replace him paired with Justin Braun, while Dylan DeMelo and Brenden Dillon comprised the third pair.

Schlemko had a nice game, even if he is no longer getting credit for his third goal of the season. He finished with one assist, a plus-one rating, three shot attempts and three blocks.

“You can’t really replace a guy like [Vlasic],” he said. “He’s one of the best defensive D in the league. Just trying to keep it simple. We switched up the partners and spread out the ice time pretty well. Not the start we wanted, but after the first I thought we played pretty well. Played hard.”

DeBoer said: “We've got a little bit of a flu going through. Tierney was out yesterday with it, [Vlasic] got it today. Hopefully, that’s the end of it.”