Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson made 36 saves while Colin Greening scored twice as the Senators would go on to hand the Sharks a frustrating 4-1 loss Thursday evening at The Tank. The Sharks in the game actually would outshoot the Senators 37-21, however it was Ottawa who made the most of their scoring chances. Meanwhile, the Sharks would fail to execute on offense for most of the evening. The Sharks simply had no answers as Anderson survived an early barrage that provided the Sharks with their only goal of the evening. Ottawa has been one of the hottest teams in the NHL going 12-2-2 in their last 16 games leading up to this contest.
This loss, though certainly disappointing, was not due to a lack of effort on team teals part. As the Sharks learned last night, “Sometimes you are the windshield, other times you are the bug.” The Sharks certainly did put enough pucks on the net, however the “puck luck” was just not with them. Meanwhile, the Senators had fewer scoring chances however showed that it’s not always quantity of opportunities as it is quality. It would turn out to be one of those nights where in the end there would be no real answers, just more questions for team teal to answer afterward while at the same time peeling themselves off of Ottawa’s windshield.
How Thursday Night’s Events Unfolded:
A Good Start - The Sharks got off to a huge start and seemed to take command from the opening face-off. Just three minutes into the first period the Sharks would take a 1-0 lead on a Brad Winchester goal. The score was set up when Dan Boyle was able to go almost coast to coast with the puck. Once near the net he tried to back hand the puck past Anderson, but the shot got away from Boyle. Andrew Desjardins was able to retrieve the rubber biscuit and bring back away from the boards, then sent a feed pass to Winchester who did the rest. Winchester’s blast drilled the back of the net and gave the Sharks the lead. The Sharks would continue to pepper Anderson for the next few minutes, but the Senators net minder would find his stride and the Sharks long evening would begin from there.
The Senate Gets Even- Sharks goalie Antti Niemi only had to stop two shots in the first ten minutes of the game. This would change though once the Senators established an effective forecheck. Ottawa would get their first break of the evening just past the ten minute mark as they would gain control of the puck in the Sharks defensive zone. Daniel Alfredsson was able to successfully battle the Sharks along the boards and come away from the scrum with puck in hand. Once open, Alfredsson then fed it over to Sergei Gonchar who immediately saw that Niemi had the right side of the net covered. Gonchar looked to his left and saw Kyle Turris open, and immediately got a feed pass over to him. As the Sharks were trying to collapse the net on Niemi’s weak side, Turris was able to get a shot that hit inside the top corner of the net over three Sharks to tie the game. Niemi late in the period was able to make his best save of the evening turning away a breakaway scoring chance from Ottawa’s Zack Smith. The Sharks would go on to outshoot Ottawa 16-7 in the first period, but that’s about all they could do.
Senate Takeover- The second period would see the game change about 4 1/2 minutes in as Anderson made a save of a Joe Pavelski tip in attempt from a feed by Joe Thornton. The loose puck came out towards Thornton who had fallen over, but he still was able to get it back over to Pavelski. From there, Pavelski attempted to center the puck, however this attempt was intercepted by the Senators’ Erik Karlsson. Ottawa then had an odd man rush up ice with Karlsson feeding the puck over to Turris before crossing into the neutral zone. Turris continued to travel up ice shadowed by the Sharks Collin White. White held his position well. In spite of White’s defense, Turris was still able to feed the puck back to Karlsson who drilled it past Niemi to give the Senators the lead.
Moments later the Sharks had a chance to tie the game with a power play after a tripping penalty to Ottawa’s Jared Cowen. However, the power play despite one good shot on goal by Logan Couture could do nothing otherwise. The Sharks later had another power play opportunity when Chris Neil was whistled for elbowing Justin Braun near center ice. Once again though, the Sharks could not get the power play on track and the Senators easily killed off this penalty as well. Just a moment after the Sharks penalty had expired, it was team teal’s turn to have a man go to the penalty box. Jamie McGinn received two minutes for kneeing putting the Senators on the power play. Ottawa would only need 20 seconds as off of a face off won by Jason Spezza, the puck was fed over to Filip Kuba who’s shot hit off of the boards wide of the net. The puck bounced right over to Greening who turned it around and fired a shot that beat Niemi high and the Senators a two goal lead. Though the Sharks would get a few more scoring chances thereafter, nothing team teal did would work out.
The Completion of a Long Evening- The third period for the Sharks just proved to be more of the same frustration as the missed opportunities would just continue to pile up like a bad debt. Every scoring opportunity the Sharks would get would be denied as Anderson continued to devour team teal shots on goal. What few rebounds Anderson would give up, the Senators defense would be on top of the puck and have no trouble clearing it. The knockout blow was delivered midway through the final period as Greening would drill a slap shot from just in front of the blue line that beat Niemi, though in reality Niemi fanned on the save. Two minor penalties to Pavelski afterward took care of any possibility of a miracle come back as the game wound down to a merciful ending.
Game Analysis – This game comes down to one basic concept. The Senators won this game because they executed when they needed to. Anderson has been a hot goalie of late for Ottawa, and in fact he actually has been quite the road warrior having gone 8-0-2 in his last ten road games counting this win over the Sharks. The Sharks did come into this game having gone 9-1-2 in their last 12 games themselves, but simply failed to execute when they needed to and the Senators made this win look almost routine. There is nothing the Sharks can really take out of this game, the Senators were simply the better team at least on this night. Ottawa has been arguably the biggest surprise in the NHL this season as they with this win moved up to 4th place in the Eastern Conference Standings. What the Sharks have to do is keep in mind two things: 1) They still have games in hand against the entire Western Conference, and 2) They just need to let this one go and quickly put this game behind them. The next three games ahead of them are going to be even bigger challenges just before the All-Star Break.
The Road Ahead – The Sharks next three games will take place in Western Canada as team teal travels to Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. The first stop will be their fourth and final regular season meeting with the Canucks. The schedule maker somehow decided that this game will be rare Saturday afternoon matinee which starts at 1pm local time. The Sharks dropped both games at the Tank this season to Vancouver by the same 3-2 score. On January 2nd, the Sharks played their first game of the new year and took the Canucks 3-2 in an overtime shootout. These three games considering their razor thin lead over the L A Kings in the Pacific Division are going to be huge for team teal and they will need to make some hay before the break. The Sharks also are going to need to find a way to just execute better, especially as far as the power play is concerned. At some point, the scoring production is going to need to pick up if team teal is looking for a high seed and a long run come spring time.
GO SHARKS, BEAT THE CANUCKS SATURDAY!!!
The King Shark
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