Sharks' slide continues, drop third straight in loss to Dallas Stars

Sharks' slide continues, drop third straight in loss to Dallas Stars

BOX SCORE

DALLAS  — Kari Lehtonen made 30 saves for his 36th career shutout Monday night. And still, one of the toughest shots he faced came before the game.

"He was ready to go today, just because I hit him up high in warmups," Dallas Stars teammate Patrick Sharp said. "I was a little worried. When he made those first couple saves, I was breathing a little bit easier."

Lehtonen thought Sharp's shot helped him get in the right frame of mind before his 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks.

"It woke me up. Woke the beast," the goalie said.

Dallas scored the only goal Lehtonen needed at 14:54 of the second period. Curtis McKenzie got his fifth on a tip-in from the slot that beat Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.

Adam Cracknell took the shot from the left point.

"Great job by (Cracknell), just holding on the puck," McKenzie said. "He must have had it for a good 10 seconds before he shot it at the net. I just found myself open in front, so I was able to get a tip-in there."

Pacific Division leader San Jose (42-23-7) lost a third straight game for only the second time this season. The Sharks have scored just two goals in those three games.

"Chances are there," coach Peter DeBoer said, "so we've just got to bear down and we've got to get one dirty or ugly around the net. We've got to get one on the power play some way. It's not all bad by any means. There's a lot of good that's going on, but right now we're cold. We're paying a price for that."

The Sharks outshot the Stars 30-20, including 12-6 in the third period.

Dallas (29-33-10) is barely alive in the playoff race with 10 games remaining.

"It's been a tough year," Lehtonen said, "so after a game like this it feels especially good. Just the way we played the whole 60 minutes. It was really cool. Guys were blocking shots and getting all the rebounds."

Dallas' other shutout this season was Lehtonen's 3-0 win Dec. 3 at Colorado.

"He found a few pucks through traffic that were big saves for us," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He made big saves when we needed it."

Neither team scored during the first period as they totaled 14 shots on goal, eight by the Sharks.

San Jose's Logan Couture, who has 25 goals, almost got another in the first, but Lehtonen stopped the shot with his foot.

"It was just a difficult situation when Couture has some time and I'm already down, so I have to do something tricky," Lehtonen said. "I thought he was going to shoot right away, and he was trying to go around me. That's where the long legs came to help me."

The Stars had another good chance in the second after McKenzie's goal, but Dell stopped a 3-on-1 rush. San Jose again outshot Dallas, 10-8, for an 18-14 advantage after two periods.

San Jose couldn't score even after pulling Dell with just under two minutes remaining. Dallas missed two tries at the empty net.

"It's a 1-0 game," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Feeling is, just stick with it. We can't hang our head. Just got to find a way to be a little bit better."

NOTES: Sharks C Chris Tierney was out for the first time this season, sidelined by the flu. ... Dallas C Jason Spezza did not play because of back spasms. ... Stars D Dan Hamhuis went down on the ice at the end of the second period. He was hit in the face by Couture's stick when the Sharks' center followed through on a shot from the right corner. Hamhuis returned after taking stitches during the intermission. ... The Stars were coming off a 1-3 road trip — they were outscored 17-5. ... San Jose has been shut out five times this season. ... Each team was 0 for 2 on the power play. ... Dallas C Tyler Seguin won 10 of 13 faceoffs.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Play the second of a four-game trip Wednesday at Minnesota before returning to Dallas to play on Friday.

Stars: Travel to Chicago to play on Thursday.

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.”