In a game where the San Jose Sharks seemingly fell in lock step with “Murphy’s Law” of bad things happening at the worst possible time, team teal would again find themselves on the wrong end of a final score for the sixth time in their current nine game road swing. Shea Weber scored two goals for the Nashville Predators and goalie Pekka Rinne made 32 saves, including 16 in the final period as team teal lost a nightmare of a game in the Music City 6-2. Once again the Sharks were haunted by a bad start falling behind by two goals in just under three and a half minutes of the first period. To make things worse, Sharks top goalie Antti Niemi was pulled in the opening period for the second time in the last three games.
Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scored for team teal while Joe Thornton added two assists. Thomas Greiss again was called upon to relieve Niemi and held the fort as best he could with 11 saves on 13 Nashville shots on goal. Niemi meanwhile drew the hook because of just four saves on seven Predators’ shots on goal, including giving up two goals on Nashville’s first two shots. As bad as Niemi was, the Predators’ Rinne was fairly solid and weathered a strong storm of shots by the Sharks in the final period. The only puck that got past Rinne in the third period was a goal by Marleau that was immediately waived off by the officials as they ruled that Pavelski had interfered with the Nashville net minder.
As bad as this game was for the Sharks Saturday night, they have to be in short term memory mode as they travel to Minneapolis for a Sunday mid day affair against the Minnesota Wild to end the road trip. The Sharks will need to quickly regroup to take on the Wild as the consequence of the loss to the Predators is costly. Earlier Saturday the red hot “refuse to lose” Phoenix Coyotes continued on their now 10-0-1 eleven game tear with a 3-1 win over the Oilers in Edmonton. The Sharks still have two games in hand over Phoenix, but are no longer in the drivers seat in the Pacific Division as they drop from 3rd place to 7th overall in the Western Conference. Like it or not, team teal is now in a fight just to even make the post season. In the same eleven game span that the Coyotes have been on fire, the Sharks are 3-7-1 including 2-5-1 on this not so fun road trip.
Facing The Music, Recapping Another Bad Night:
Murphy’s Law’s “Teal Tale of Woes” – The Sharks Saturday night did not wait too long to self destruct. A turnover by Colin White allowed another “Colin”, as in Colin Wilson to reap the benefits which would put Nashville on top very early. Michal Handzus won a battle for the puck from behind the Nashville goal and passed the puck back to White who was at the left point. As White got ahold of the puck, he was either attempting to shoot it or pass it when the Predators Jordin Tootoo pick pocketed White and took control of the puck skating back into the Sharks defensive zone. Once in the Sharks zone, Tootoo got a perfect feed pass to C Wilson who drilled a slap shot from the slot past Niemi. Just like that, it was 1-0 Nashville barely two minutes into the game. One minute and twenty seconds later the Predators would again carry the puck out of their zone and back onto the Sharks defensive area on an odd man rush. Once in the Sharks defensive zone, Sergei Kostitsyn who carried the puck up ice passed it over to Martin Erat, who then fed S Weber to his right. Weber once he received the puck immediately shot it into the net out of the reach Niemi’s outstretched glove. Just 3:23 into the contest, the Predators now had a 2-0 lead.
The Sharks managed to settle things down after finding themselves having to kill off a cross checking penalty to Andrew Desjardins. The Sharks would get on the board with just over nine minutes remaining in the first period as Marleau was able to wrist in a rebound of a Pavelski shot on goal as he was able to catch Rinne out of position. Marleau was able to win a battle on the boards and gain control of the puck before passing it to Pavelski. Though Rinne stopped Pavelski’s attempt, Marleau stayed with the play and the puck resulting in a Sharks goal. The Sharks seemed to have gotten themselves back into the game only down 2-1, however this good feeling would be at best temporary.
Three minutes later the Sharks would once again find themselves going to the penalty box as they were assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Though the TV replays showed that the officials actually missed this call, the penalty stood and Ryane Clowe volunteered to serve the penalty. The Predators would launch quite the assault in the Sharks defensive zone. Niemi made a few saves as the Sharks found it difficult to kill their third penalty of the evening, however eventually did. Despite the penalty kill Nashville continued to control the puck in the Sharks zone. Just 14 seconds after the Sharks had killed off the Predators man advantage, Kevin Klein would drill a hard slap shot past Niemi after taking another perfect tic-tac-toe feed from Mike Fisher via Roman Josi. Once again the Sharks found themselves down two goals as the result of failing to gain control of their zone.
Country Music Played Backwards & Forwards – The second period for the Sharks could be best described by the comical line of “What happens when you play a Country Music Song backwards…Of course you get your girl back, your horse comes back to life and the farm is no longer under foreclosure…” The would best sum up the middle period as the Sharks got a huge jump on the Predators in the early going as Pavelski would bring the Sharks to within one goal again as his tally just 23 second into the period. Pavelski benefited from a perfect no look pass from Marleau. The Sharks had some jump in their game and now trailed just 3-2, having scored two of the game’s last three goals. The Sharks would sustain some momentum however found the tying goal to be a very tough commodity to come by.
Later on in the period, the Predators would catch a break when Handzus was called for a boarding penalty that put Nashville on their fourth power play of the evening. Though team teal had a few clears on this attempt at a penalty kill, their efforts would end up in vain as Predators team Captain Weber would score his second goal of the evening 1:11 into the power play. Weber drilled a hard slap shot from the left point past Greiss after Nashville’s David Legwand and Ryan Suter played hot potato with the puck, keeping it out of the reach of the Sharks penalty kill unit. Finally Legwand passed the puck to Weber who drilled it past Greiss to give the Predators their third two goal lead of the game. From this point Rinne started to take over for the Predators as he would deny strong scoring attempts from Clowe and Logan Couture. Greiss made a huge save on Nick Spaling with just seconds remaining in the middle period. By the time the period had ended, Nashville had turned that country tune against the Sharks who drew no closer than two.
Facing the Musical Frustration- Team teal came out for the third period loaded for bear and attacked the Nashville zone early and often. The Sharks considering how the first two periods went seemed to bring their A-Game out for the final period, albeit a bit late. Teal teal effectively did everything a team could do in a period with one noticeable exception, this being the scoring of goals. Rinne stood on his head throughout the period for the Predators and slammed the door on the Sharks turning away all 16 team teal shots on goal. The Sharks did not miss passes or opportunities, they just could not put the puck in the net in spite of their best efforts here. The Sharks at one point of the third period were out shooting the Predators 11-0 (and would go on to out shoot Nashville 16-3 in the final period). During the period, Marleau was denied what he thought was the Sharks third goal of the game when Pavelski got tangled up with Rinne’s goalie stick. Pavelski was ruled to be interfering with the Nashville goalie and the tally was quickly waived off. The Sharks were not assessed a penalty, however the loss of the goal that would have made it 4-3 with 11 minutes remaining was a penalty in it’s own right.
As time faded away, so did the Sharks fortunes. As the game wound down to just over two minutes remaining, the Sharks pulled Greiss from the net to get the extra attacker. This late strategy failed rather quickly as no sooner that Greiss had vacated the Sharks net, Nashville had gained control of the puck and were heading the other direction with it. M Erat launched a shot towards the empty net from center ice and hit his target squarely to ice the game for the Predators. To add insult to injury N Spaling drilled a slap shot past Greiss with just 42 seconds remaining. The Predators ended the game with a high note that they had sustained throughout the evening in what proved to be a fairly dominant win over team teal.
Game Analysis- Despite the two goals the Sharks had scored to draw to within one twice in this game, make no mistake about this game. The Predators won in an overall dominant fashion of what appears to be a possibly fading team teal. The Sharks did a few things right tonight and did their best to step on the gas in the final period. You have to give credit to Predators’ goalie Rinne who stood on his head, especially in the third period. At this point it may be time to start being honest about the Sharks at this juncture. Tonight the Sharks lost to what was a better team hands down. The Sharks may have been the better team earlier in the season going back to October and November, however the fortunes for both of these teams have taken a turn. For the Predators, they have taken a turn for the better…and for the Sharks, not so much.
Niemi for the second time in three games was pulled before the end of the first period. Niemi looked like he was fine after the game at Toronto Thursday night. Saturday night Niemi looked like he was lost out on the ice again. I hope I’m wrong but it appears something just isn’t right with the Sharks lead goalie, not from an injury but from just whatever is going on inside his head. After the game Sharks Captain Thornton tweeted team teal’s overall play of late was “unacceptable” in a twitter post. The Sharks have always held themselves to a very high standard over the last decade. With the NHL’s trade deadline looming this Monday at 12 Noon Pacific Time, you have to wonder what GM Doug Wilson has in mind here. One thing seems to be for certain, something needs to change from within the Sharks or this free fall may be only beginning. If getting passed over in the standings by the Phoenix Coyotes does not get their attention, I don’t know what will unless Doug Wilson pulls off some trade deadline magic. I’m not sure however that there is a deal out there that will put the Sharks over the top this time around. We will have to wait and see over the next day and a half.
GO SHARKS!!! GET WILD AND BEAT MINNY!!!
The King Shark
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Blades of Teal: “The Final Word on San Jose Sharks Hockey”