Jussi Jokinen’s game winning goal with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Raleigh, North Carolina Friday Night. The loss for the Sharks drops them to 1-2-1 on this nine game road trip, and marks the second time in two nights the Sharks found themselves getting bested by an Eastern Conference opponent that was seeded 12th or lower. The Sharks also lose one of those “games in hand” that they would need to open up a decent lead in the Pacific Division over the LA Kings and the surging Phoenix Coyotes. Despite the loss the Sharks still sit in third place in the Western Conference Standings.
In the second game of back to backs, the Sharks struggled to get their game on track for a large part of the first two periods. Though the Sharks would be able to create some opportunities as the game moved along, Hurricanes back-up net minder Justin Peters was impressive making 35 saves on the evening in weathering a late Sharks comeback attempt. Thomas Greiss, starting for the second time in three games had a rough start but recovered to have a fairly decent game in making 23 saves of his own. It was one of those games for the Sharks that when they look back upon it will wonder about a bounce here or a bounce there that for whatever reason simply did not go their way.
Looking Back on Another Tough Night:
Hurricane Warning- The Sharks first period against Carolina can be best described as an exercise in frustration, and the second period wasn’t really all that much better. “I thought we lacked a lot of energy and jump and determination in the first two periods,” Coach Todd McLellan would say in a post game interview.* Carolina would score the game’s first two goals within a three minute span of the first period. Carolina took advantage of the Sharks being trapped deep in their defensive zone after failing to clear the puck. Dan Boyle, normally sure handed with the puck turned it over as Jeff Skinner intercepted Boyle’s clearing attempt. Skinner than passed the puck over to J Jokenin who immediately returned it back to Skinner. Once Skinner got to Greiss’ left he shot the puck through the goal crease. The puck hit the back of Boyle’s skate and went into the Sharks goal. The Hurricanes had a 1-0 lead seven and a half minutes into the contest.
The Sharks luck then would turn from bad to worse. Just a few moments after Skinner put Carolina up by a goal, Jamie McGinn would find himself being sent to the penalty box for a roughing call. The Hurricanes would hold the zone for virtually the entire time they would be on the power play, that is all 49 seconds of it. A perfect execution by Carolina of a tic-tac-toe play saw ‘Caines rookie Justin Faulk notch his fifth goal of the season, taking a feed from Jiri Tlusty via Eric Staal. Faulk had a fairly wide target once he got the puck as Greiss was watching Staal feed Tlusty, maybe thinking Tlusty was going to shoot the puck. Faulk in fact the entire time he was on the ice for this sequence almost went unnoticed as he just laid in wait, then struck once receiving Tlusty’s feed pass. The Hurricanes now had a quick 2-0 lead on team teal, and the Sharks frustrations had only begun.
The Sharks did settle down shorty after they killed another Hurricanes penalty as Greiss was called for hooking just moments later. The Sharks managed a few scoring chances but could get nothing past Peters who looked very sharp at times. Late in the period Peters made one of his best saves of the evening stoning Joe Pavelski on a point blank shot from the slot. For the most part, the Sharks did not have many problems crossing into the Carolina zone, the main problem was being able to sustain any pressure and failing to give Peters a strong test.
20 More Minutes of Goose Eggs- Though the Sharks would put more pucks on Carolina goalie Peters in the second period, again they would find goals virtually impossible to come by. Meanwhile, Greiss did his best to keep team teal in the game and made 12 saves including several close range saves in the Sharks defensive zone. Again, the Sharks had more problems sustaining any long lasting pressure in the Hurricanes zone. Though the Sharks would have a slight edge in scoring chances, nothing but more frustration would be the result of their efforts. This period much like the first period maybe best sums up team teal’s offensive struggles that have risen up and bit them at inopportune times throughout the course of this season. Even a late power play opportunity for the Sharks would not only come up empty, Greiss would have to turn away Jokenin’s short handed scoring attempt after a Joe Thornton turnover in the neutral zone.
Finally Finding Their Bite- The Sharks came out in the third period seemingly as if they had had enough of their own offensive ineptitute and seemed determined to do something about it. The Sharks were called for two early offsides violations yet they kept on coming. A Logan Couture shot towards the goal would hit the right post. A moment later Boyle would take advantage of a Hurricanes turnover in the Carolina defensive zone as the puck was carelessly thrown out to the slot. Boyle would intercept the puck and then fire it back towards the net. With Ryane Clowe and the newest member of the Sharks Dominic Moore drawing Peters attention near the Carolina goal, Boyle’s shot would find the back of the net to finally get the Sharks on the board.
The Sharks would finally start to get some pressure on Peters and hold pucks deep in the Carolina zone. Peters did his best to keep the Sharks from denting the net again as he turned another Pavelski point blank shot away. Just a few moments later, the Sharks efforts would again pay off as Brent Burns was able to notch the equalizer for team teal. After Peters had denied Clowe’s point blank effort, the puck was recovered by Moore from behind the net. Moore would go to his left and backhand a pass to Burns, who in turned drilled the rubber biscuit past Peters to draw the Sharks even at 2-2. The Sharks had scored twice inside of four minutes of the third period and looked to have captured the momentum that could carry them over the hump in this game. Team teal in fact would have three times the shot total that Carolina would get for the period (18-6).
Gone With The Wind- The Sharks continued to keep the pressure on the Carolina side of the ice having created a number of good scoring opportunities. In fact, about the only thing the Sharks could not do after tying the game was to score again. Peters would settle down and made some key saves, including denying Moore on a point blank shot and another scoring attempt by Pavelski who maybe left the ice as the most frustrated Shark of the evening. With just over eight minutes remaining in the third period, the ‘Cains would get their big break of the game as they were able to wrest control of the puck as team teal tried to clear their zone. Carolina’s Drayson Bowman was able to feed the puck to Jamie McBain who was stationed at the right point. From there McBain fired a slap shot that met up with Jokenin’s stick in the slot. The deflection sent the puck directly past Greiss who likely never saw the rubber biscuit until it was too late.
As the game time wound down, Peters would come up huge when the Hurricanes needed it most. Peters would deny Moore, Couture, Marleau, Boyle and maybe the entire Sharks team photo. With 3.3 seconds to go, Thornton had the puck find it’s way towards his stick as he stared at a wide open right side of the net. However, the “puck luck” was not there as Jumbo Joe fanned on the shot and time would expire. Despite the offensive onslaught by team teal, a regulation loss is all they would leave with on this evening as the Sharks best efforts would be denied. For the Sharks, just more what if’s and a loss to a team that they frankly should have been able to handle.
Game Analysis- To the Sharks credit, they truly never gave up on this game and honestly were probably just more unlucky than anything else. However, two losses (one an OTL) against the 12th and 14th seeded teams in the east, road games or not, does not bode very well. With a better start here and some better defense the in the previous game, the Sharks honestly could have gained four points in the standings where they would instead end up with just one. Moore was impressive though in his Sharks debut in getting an assist and a four quality shots on goal in just under 14 minutes of ice time. Tonight the Sharks beat themselves by simply not being able to assimilate their game in the first two periods. The troubling thing here is that this is not the first time this has happened this season. The Sharks are going to need to really dig deep within themselves if they hope to hold on to the third seeding in the Western Conference as first and second teams (Detroit & Vancouver) are separating themselves from the pack. It will be a long plane ride to Detroit, and with the Red Wings next on the docket Sunday morning (West Coast Time), the Sharks have to clean some things up and not only need better finishes, but honestly better starts too. “Could have”, “Would have”, and certainly “Should have” is what team teal will remember about this seasons trek to the southeast. Oh yes, and the Red Wings have won 22 in a row at home and are playing much better than the last time the Sharks saw them. Team teal needs to step up their game…yesterday!!!
GO SHARKS, BEAT THE RED WINGS SUNDAY!!!
The King Shark
*-Source for McLellan quote from TSN.ca
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