Mar 6, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner (89) scores the game winning goal past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) during shootouts at HP Pavilion. Edmonton defeated San Jose 3-2 in shootouts. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Sharks Slide Continues as Oilers Win 3-2 in OT/Shootout

The San Jose Sharks have just wrapped up a four game home stand that was almost as pleasurable as their recently completed nine game road trip. The nine game road trip as Sharks fans remember was as pleasurable as multiple finger nails against a chalkboard. Team teal again failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities as they eventually would drop a 3-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers. Sam Gagner won the game with the only goal in the shootout period. The only good news is that the Sharks picked up a point in the Western Conference standings to hold on to 8th place and the last seed (74 points). The bad news, the Sharks went 1-2-1 in this four game home stand and thereby only picked up three points out of a possible eight. The Sharks since the All Star break are 5-10-2, and do not show any signs of a team that won’t be hoisting anything except golf clubs in June, if not early or late April.

The Sharks once again forgot to hit the snooze alarm to start the game as the Oilers would only need 10 seconds to score the games’ first goal. This was definitely not what the Sharks wanted. However as has been prevalent since early February is bad starts that turn into an unpleasant harbinger of things to come. Just another embarrassing moment for team teal in what has been a recent litany of team low points. As has been the problem throughout this slump, one bad thing happens to the Sharks in the game and they cannot pick themselves up and recover. Even the return of Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan tonight did not bring better luck to team teal. The Sharks now head back out on the road to face two division foes in Phoenix and Dallas, and two conference foes in Calgary and Edmonton again. This could very well be a deal maker or deal breaker for the Sharks season. Team teal will have to really dig deeper to find answers and solve this slide before if officially becomes a free fall…that is if it hasn’t become a free fall already.

Recapping an Oily Mess at the Tank:

Oil Slick – The first 10 seconds of this game played out like a bad sitcom. The Oilers won the face off and took immediate control of the puck. Ganger took the puck off of the face off in the neutral zone. Gagner then passed the puck to Ryan Whitney who threw it up the ice towards the Sharks goal. Dan Boyle tried to stop the bouncing puck however it went underneath him. The puck was picked up by Jordan Eberly who slapped past a surprised Antti Niemi into the Sharks goal. Just like that, it was 1-0 Edmonton. The Oilers celebrated an early goal while the Sharks realized Boyle makes a lousy shortstop (see Sharks recent ad campaigns for reference). The Sharks however would only trail for a few moments before tying the game on Jim Vandermeer’s first goal of the season with 16:37 left in the period. Vandermeer’s goal came from a solid slap shot from near the point after taking a feed pass from Boyle. There was really nothing Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk could do about it as Vandermeer got good wood on the puck.

Throughout the period the Sharks would continue their assault on the Oilers goal but would only end up with frustration for their efforts. Dubnyk would turn away 11 shots for the period, including a point blank shot by Brent Burns who took a perfect feed pass from Joe Thornton. Dubnyk also slammed the door on Torrey Mitchel earlier in the period. The Oilers made life tough for the Sharks as they were getting in passing and shooting lanes and were not afraid to block shots. Niemi meanwhile aside from the embarrassment of the games first 10 seconds rebounded to make six saves of his own. The 12 shots the Sharks had in the first period were two more shots on goal than the Sharks had in the first two period versus the St Louis Blues this past Saturday night.

More Oil in Teal Waters- The Oilers would pick up their game in the second period as their forecheck started to assert itself. The play itself was a little slower than the first period, however both goalies were still kept somewhat busy. Niemi saw far more traffic from Edmonton on his end of the ice and needed to make 10 more saves. Dubnyk meanwhile was the beneficiary of the Oilers ability to block shots and keep the Sharks at bay. The Sharks would come close to taking the lead as Patrick Marleau was stoned by Dubnyk on a point blank opportunity. The Sharks would then get some good fortune later in the period when Justin Braun threw the puck up the ice, and Dubnyk seemingly misplayed it. The loose puck was seized by Logan Couture who immediately flicked it over to where Ryane Clowe was. Tough the rubber biscuit was bouncing, Clowe able to get his stick on it and hammer the puck into the net to give the Sharks their first lead in a week (three games). Just 4:41 left in the second period, and the Sharks leading 2-1 seemed like this was their chance to take control of the game. Not so fast.

As against the Blues Saturday night, the joy at the tank would be very short lived. The Oilers took just 54 seconds to get the game even again as another neutral zone turnover would cost team teal dearly. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would take control of the puck off the turnover and set up shop for the Oilers. Niemi was able to block a point blank scoring attempt from Jeff Petry, however he was not able to capture the puck. The Sharks defensively could not get a clear as the Oilers were persistent. From the left corner, Ladislav Smid took control of the puck and passed it back to Petry who immediately shot the puck back on net. As Ryan Smyth was skating in front of the Sharks goal, he was able to get his stick on the puck and deflect it past Niemi to tie the game. After the Oilers scored they continued to pressure the Sharks zone and kept Niemi busy for the rest of the period.

More Missed Opportunities- The Sharks came out in the third period and were able to carry much of the play and hold the puck in the Oilers defensive zone for longer stretches of time. Early in the period, Michal Handzus would be denied a scoring chance early. Hanzus had Vandermeer shadowing the odd man rush and could have passed the puck over to him as it seemed that Vandermeer had the better angle, but it didn’t happen. Team teal however would soon need to kill off the games first penalty when Justin Braun was called for a delay of game penalty when he cleared the puck away from the Sharks goal area after an Oilers’ surge. The penalty came on the heels of Niemi’s best save of the night, a double stack pad save of a diving attempt to score by the Oilers Shawn Horcoff. Durring the penalty kill, Niemi would make two saves on Gagner within a few seconds of each other and stop a rocket shot by Horcoff. The Sharks did have a chance to score as Marleau was able get ahold of a loose puck and go coast to coast with it. However Dubnyk was ready for it and made the save and denied team teal’s short handed scoring chance.

The Sharks then got a huge break when Horcoff was called for tripping and negated the Edmonton power play. While skating four on four, the Sharks would soon get an ever bigger break when Ryan Jones was called for high sticking just seconds after Braun’s penalty time had ended. The Sharks had a five on three advantage on the power play and a great opportunity to take the lead. In the five on three sequence, the Sharks passed around the puck several times and got a grand total of one shot on goal in the 42 second two man advantage. The Sharks power play continued as the two man advantage had withered away when Horcoff’s penalty time had ended. Even with 1:18 of a man advantage the Sharks could do very little as the Oilers displayed a strong penalty kill.  Again, the Sharks just could not to score. Dubnyk would make 12 more saves as the Sharks frustration would just continue to mount.

Burning The Midnight Oil- In the overtime period both teams had a couple of chances however could not do much with any of them. The best opportunity for the Sharks in the overtime came with just 24 seconds left when Joe Pavelski launched a slap shot from the point that Dubnyk seemed to have trouble with yet still made the save. As for the Shootout round the first two Sharks shooters, Pavelski, Handzus tried to go five hole and Dubnyk and failed. Meanwhile the Oilers first put up Eberly who hit the post to Niemi’s right. The next Edmonton shooter was Gagner, who did not miss as his wrister easily beat Niemi. The final Sharks shooter, Burns would also be stuffed by Dubnyk. Once again the Sharks found themselves in what’s becoming on all too familiar spot, on the wrong end of the final score.

Game Analysis- For the Sharks, simply put another bitter pill to swallow. The post All Star break portion of the season has been very tough for team teal, who have only five wins in four and a half weeks. The Oilers took advantage of a Sharks team which is clearly in a major scoring slump which is occurring at one of the worst possible times for team teal. The Sharks as they did against Philadelphia and Buffalo has more than enough chances to get that “one more goal” that would have made a huge difference. For whatever reasons, goals for the Sharks are not happening. Consequently for the Sharks, the wins are not happening either. The game was evenly played, and you have to remember that a shootout is where you never want to go because anything can happen as was seen at the Tank Tuesday evening.

What was unforgivable was the Oilers first goal which only took 10 seconds for them to score. There is absolutely no excuse for that whatsoever. That was just completely lackadaisical and gave the appearance of a rather lazy start and the team not being completely dialed in at game time. When you think about it, that goal honestly would haunt the Sharks for the rest of the evening and they ended up not winning the game because of it. The Sharks have a bad habit of allowing small errors to become rather egregious and costly. The Sharks have 17 games remaining, and have a very tough four game road trip ahead of them. This may very well be “make for break” for the Sharks. If they continue to struggle like they have over the last 17 games played before returning home (to play Nashville), the Sharks could very well be a strong candidate to miss the post season entirely. Oddly enough, the Sharks if they can put some wins together on this road trip could reclaim the top spot in the Pacific Division and the 3rd seed in the Western Conference. If that doesn’t happen, I have a bad feeling team teal will be hitting the links before April is out…

GO SHARKS, REGROUP!!! MUST WIN THURSDAY IN DALLAS!!!

The King Shark

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