Defensive Lapses Doom Sharks in Desert as Coyotes win 5-3

Two goals from Lauri Korpikoski and some rather strange and uncharacteristic mistakes on the ice by the San Jose Sharks proved to be a lethal combination for team teal. The Phoenix Coyotes took advantage of the Sharks miscues and turned them into a 5-3 win at arena in Glendale, Arizona. The Sharks seemed to have trouble controlling the Coyotes forecheck for a good portion of the game. In addition, the Sharks were grossly unlucky as Brent Burns despite his hustle and efforts had the misfortune of two pucks bouncing off of him or his stick into the Sharks own net. The Sharks now have the dubious distinction of the week in having three own goals in two games. Thursday Night they got away with one. On Saturday Night they would not get away with one, let alone two.

This was the second game of the Sharks fathers trip watching their sons as the guests of honor for team teal. As solid as the Sharks looked against Dallas, the polar opposite seemed to be the rule in the desert. As this game unfolded it just seemed that if it wasn’t for the Sharks bad luck, they would not have had any. The one piece of good news that favors the Sharks in the aftermath of this klunker is that the L A Kings also lost in regulation at Carolina and have dropped two straight. The loss for the Sharks snapped a three game win streak as team teal now gets three days off (they’re last three day break of the regular season). This will give them time to regroup and get themselves ready for the visiting Calgary Flames this coming Wednesday Night at the Tank. Certainly this was a let down for a Sharks team that looked like they were starting to heat up prior to their brief trip to Arizona. In the end it turned out to be a mirage as the Coyotes snapped their own five game losing streak.

A Recap of A Bad Night:

A Pair of 11’s- The Sharks for the first half of the first period actually played fairly decent hockey and seemed to pick up from where it left off against Dallas this past Thursday. The Sharks got a number of pucks on or towards Coyotes goalie Mike Smith early but were not able to convert any early chances. Smith stopped a series of solid shots on goal from Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski and a point blank shot from Michal Handzus. Defensively, the Sharks held the Coyotes to just two shots on goal in the first 11 minutes of the game. However, by the time Phoenix started to establish their own forecheck, they were able to start effectively pressuring the Sharks in their defensive zone.

Antti Niemi made some big saves early however the Coyotes would remain relentless. In fact, the Coyotes actually had two shots in the last nine minutes of the period from Gilbert Brule and Adrian Aucoin that actually beat Niemi but both hit posts. During a Coyotes power play chance late in the first period, another puck would be missed by Niemi as a slap shot from the point by Keith Yandle would hit Niemi’s leg pads and then pop up in the air away from team teals top net minder. The puck dropped in the crease with Niemi trying to move over to his left before the Coyotes could get it into the net. Out of almost nowhere Douglas Murray came over to cover the open area of the net before the Coyotes Raffi Torres could stuff the rubber biscuit in the basket. This would keep the game scoreless as Murray made the Sharks defensive play of the night. Both the Sharks and Coyotes would finish the first period with 11 shots each.

The Good, The Bad -The second period may go down as one of the stranger periods the Sharks have played this season. The Sharks were able to answer the Coyotes forecheck for a good portion of the period and even outplayed Phoenix. However the big downfall for the Sharks in would be costly lapses and just gold ole fashioned bad luck. The Sharks seemed to get off on the right foot here when Logan Couture would open the scoring with his 22nd goal of the season less than four minutes into the period. Couture was able to set himself up to receive a perfect feed pass from Ryane Clowe, who along with Patrick Marleau were able to fight off Coyotes defenders in the corner for the puck. Smith would save Couture’s stuff attempt, however Couture was able to sweep the puck away from Smith and get another chance. Couture went to his forehand-backhand move and placed the puck just enough under Smith’s five hole to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.

The Sharks in their previous three games were very stingy with goals allowing only two in their last three games (with one of those being an “own goal”). This would not be the case for team teal in this game. Just 32 seconds after taking the lead, the Sharks would give the goal right back as the Coyotes quickly re-established their forecheck. R Torres was able to get free in the slot and take a feed pass from Michal Rozsival who elected to pass rather than shoot. As it turned out, Rozsival would guess correctly as Torres received the puck and just moved freely from left to right in the slot before launching a shot past Handzus which beat Niemi. This was a goal where frankly Niemi had no chance simply because of the traffic around the net. The Sharks tried to collapse the net here and it just didn’t work out well. Upon the faceoff leading to this goal, the Sharks seemed to not be aggressively pursing the puck, but instead allowed the play to come to them. This was the first of what would be a series of lapses by the defense that will spell doom for team teal.

Moments later the Sharks would be introduced to a new menace. Lauri Korpikoski would be the spoiler for team teal getting his first of two goals with 10 1/2 minutes left in the second period. Korpikoski would give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead when he took a perfect feed pass from Shane Doan as the Sharks again found themselves trapped in their own zone by the Phoenix forecheck. Korpikoski got the puck about eight feet in front of Niemi and drilled it past him. The Sharks just a moment later started to get their own forecheck going again. This would allow team teal to force a Coyotes penalty when A Aucoin would be called for roughing. About a minute and a half into the two minute minor Jamie McGinn got his stick on a shot from the point by Burns and deflected the puck past the reach of Smith to tie the game.

The next several minutes saw both teams go back and forth down the ice with the Sharks getting the better scoring chances. As the period wound down the Coyotes would get the break of the game. Despite some defensive hustle, this error would be a game changing mistake for team teal. Inside of a minute to go Phoenix would get an odd man rush off a failed scoring chance for the Sharks. Former Shark Ray Whitney would skate up ice flanked by Martin Hanzal. Whitney would get a feed pass to Martin Hanzal who then shot the puck towards Niemi. Burns, who was trailing the play dove in an attempt to block the puck with his stick. Unfortunately the puck would instead defect of Burns stick and into the Sharks goal. Phoenix had the lead at 3-2, and the Sharks had their second “own goal” in two games.

The Coyote Ugly- Just when you thought things could not possibly get worse for the Sharks, they did. The Sharks again started the period with a decent forecheck of their own and even had a power play chance, but were not able to score as the Coyotes stepped things up defensively. Eight minutes into the period the Coyotes had re-established their own forecheck and it paid huge dividends. Boyd Gordon fought off Sharks defenders to gain control of the puck in the right corner of the team teal defensive zone. Once Gordon was able to free himself he then sent the puck towards the Sharks net. The puck would hit Korpikoski’s stick and deflect off of Burns knee. From there, the puck dropped into the net as once again all Niemi could do is watch another own goal. The Coyotes now were in control of the game at 4-2. Niemi still had work to do over the next several minutes as the Coyotes continued to attack and narrowly missed at least one more goal.

As time dwindled away things would get to the point to where the Sharks had to pull Niemi for an extra attacker with under two minutes remaining. After a Smith save for Phoenix with 1:14 left, Smith would then shoot the puck down ice over everyone and just missed scoring into the Sharks empty net. With 38 seconds left the Sharks made one more push up ice with Joe Thornton carrying the puck. Thornton would get a feed pass over to Clowe, who in return got a quick pass to Marleau who beat Smith with a wrist shot. The Sharks still had a pulse at 4-3 though only 32 seconds remained. The Sharks last gasp attempt would go by the way side as team teal with an extra attacker could not get a shot away. As the Coyotes would clear the puck away, Radim Vrbata raced ahead of everyone and delivered the Coup de Grâce for team teal, scoring into the empty net with just a second remaining.

Game Assessment – This was just an ugly game for team teal. I don’t know that the Sharks may have taken the Coyotes a little lightly here, but the fire that we saw over the last two games was conspicuous by its absence Saturday Night. To error is human, and in the end the Sharks are human and that showed in as much as anything. Two own goals generally will cancel out any realistic chance of winning a game and the Sharks gave up two. It’s no irony that they would lose by two. Even if you don’t count Vrbata’s empty netter in the end, those goals were still the difference. The Coyotes had lost five in a row going into this contest and clearly they were the more desperate team. The Sharks just need to break some tape on this one, see where the mistakes were made and correct them. Afterward, they should do themselves a favor and burn the tape of this game. They won’t want to see it again.

Looking Ahead – The Sharks will be idle for the next three days and return to action Wednesday night. The Sharks will host the Calgary Flames at the Tank for the second time this season and the third time in 20 days. The Sharks are 2-0-0 versus Calgary, winning 2-1 at the Tank Jan. 17th and 1-0 at Calgary Jan. 24th. After that, the Chicago Blackhawks in the midst of another long road trip call on the Sharks this Friday. After these two games, the Sharks embark their annual cross country “tennis road trip” for nine straight games. The Sharks won’t see The Tank again until Feb. 28th when they come home to host the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sharks will need to become road warriors, and certainly they’ll have to do allot better than what they did against the Coyotes here.



The King Shark

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Blades of Teal: “The Final Word on San Jose Sharks Hockey”

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