The Streak Stops Here- Pekka Renne’s 25 saves plus three in the shootout period coupled with Craig Smith’s shootout goal gave the Nashville Predators a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks before another full house at the Shark Tank. The Sharks with the Overtime Loss see their season opening winning streak end at seven games. However because the game went to overtime and on into a shootout period, the Sharks still gain a point in the Western Conference Standings and now stand at 15 points. The Sharks despite this OTL still have added to their consecutive steak of picking up points in the Western Conference Standings, which is now eight straight games. The Predators who certainly played a stronger defensive and more desperate game were able to frustrate the Sharks on both ends of the ice as once again team teal found puck control a difficult chore. This combined with some small misfortunes seemed to give enough of an indication that this might not be the Sharks night. The Sharks just seemed a little slower and listless at times while the Predators certainly looked like a team that was far more in need.
Near Misses and a bit Sluggish- In the first period the Sharks had two near misses early on with decent scoring chances from Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe, but neither could get their stick on the puck when they needed to connect. As the period went on the Predators started to pick up their pace and would present Sharks goalie Antti Niemi with several challenges. Niemi was more than up for the task as he has been all season so far. As the period wore on again the Sharks were frustrated with their inability to make some plays even though they had clear passing lanes for much of the contest. Turnovers were really not a factor as it just seemed the Sharks came out of the gates on the sluggish side. The Sharks had two power plays that were basically ineffective as they could not really get any kind of rhythm going.
The Sluggishness seemed to carry over to the defensive side of the ice as the Sharks found themselves playing a good portion of the period in their zone and at times had trouble just simply clearing out the puck. When the Sharks did get opportunities the Predators net minder Renne was more than up to the task and took care of all of the rubber thrown at him without any real difficulty. The good news for the Sharks in the opening period was the penalty kill which successfully fended off two Predators power play opportunities.
More Of The Same- The Sharks despite getting more shots on Renne in the second period (11) then they did in the first period (8), could still do nothing with their opportunities. The Sharks would also get two more power play opportunities, however again could do nothing with these either. The first was negated by a Sharks penalty and the second one just simply did very little. With Renne on his game the Sharks would have a tough time getting anything past him. Midway through the second period Martin Havlat would have the best chance to score as for one of the few times in the game the Sharks crashed the Predators net hard. Havlat put a wrister shot on goal that got behind Renne, however that shot hit the post and came back out to the crease. Havlat from there would have easily had a tap in except for that he had thought he had already scored and never realized the puck was underneath him. By the time Havlat and the Sharks realized what had happened, it was already too late as Renne had recovered the puck stopping play. The Sharks missing this opportunity would ultimately prove to be costly as they caught themselves a little off guard in what proved to be a critical moment of the game.
On the other side of the coin was the Sharks challenging the Predators more on defense and Niemi being on top of his game as well. The Sharks were called upon to kill two more Nashville power play opportunities and did so effectively. Niemi’s goal tending plus an effective penalty kill has paid good dividends for the Sharks in their first eight games of this shortened season. The problem tonight for the Sharks was their continued sluggish play and handing of the puck on both sides of the ice.
Another Tough Period- The Sharks third period got off to a start that they certainly did not plan on. Just 59 seconds into the period the Predators’ Sergei Kostitsyn knocked a wrist shot past Niemi as the Sharks seemed to get off to a flat footed start. The Predators had a one goal lead and with Renne playing as well as he has boded very well for Nashville. The Sharks would try for most of the period to set up scoring chances but could really never get it in gear and sustain puck possession for long periods of time. Niemi continued to do his best to keep the Sharks in the game making eight more saves in the period. With 8:34 remaining in the third period, on an attempted line change the Predators were caught having too many men on the ice. This created one last power play opportunity for the Sharks to get the game tied. The Predators would get two clears during this Sharks power play, however team teal would get another chance to attack Nashville’s defensive zone. Scott Gomez behind the Predators net found Havlat skating across the ice about ten feet from the goal and fed him the puck. Havlat got the pass and drilled a back handed shot that beat Renne to tie the game with 5:16 remaining in regulation. The game would remain tied as the Sharks would find themselves in their third straight overtime game which at least secured a point in the standings.
Overtime Toughness- The overtime saw the Sharks get a few early chances again for Marleau and Clowe. Again however the Sharks still could not get the rubber past Renne. The Sharks with 2:12 remaining got in some trouble when Havlat was called for hooking giving the Predators a golden opportunity to steal the game. The Sharks were at a 4 to 3 disadvantage which means a lot more space on the ice for the team on the power play. The Predators were able to get shots on and towards Niemi who made all the saves. Both Douglas Murray and Brad Stuart dove to block shots. The shot that Murray blocked hit him above the ankle forcing him to quickly get off of the ice. The Sharks probably showed more mental toughness in these two minutes as they would in the entire game prior. The successful penalty kill would force a shootout period. In the shootout period neither Clowe, Michal Handzus or Joe Pavelski could score on Renne. Niemi stopped the Predators’ David Legwand on the first shot, however could not stop Smith’s second shot. After Pavelski’s attempt ended up in Renne’s glove the Sharks for the first time this season experienced how the other half lives. The Sharks got a point in the standing, but left the ice in a real head scratcher of a game.
Shark Bytes- The three starts of the game were 3) Kostitsyn-Preds 2) Niemi-Sharks 3) Renne-Predators. Jason Demers return to the Sharks meant a change in his uniform number from #60 to #5. Matt Irwin was a healthy scratch for the Sharks tonight which was too bad as they certainly could have used him. The last team to start a season with eight straight wins were the Nashville Predators in the 2005-06 (the season after the 2004-05 lockout). Despite the Overtime loss, the Sharks finished a six game homestand with five wins and no regulation losses. Overall the homestand and the start of the season for team teal are both unqualified successes. If the Sharks only drop one game in eight all year they’ll be in great shape, though that pace is somewhat unrealistic. The Sharks are going to have some very tough road challenges ahead of them in the month of February.
Next Sharks Game- After a travel day to Anaheim on Sunday, the Sharks will return to the ice Monday night for a rematch with their arch rivals in the Ducks. The Sharks beat the Ducks in an overtime shootout win this past Tuesday night. The Ducks have won two games at home since, including a 7-4 blasting of the Los Angeles Kings Saturday Night. This will be the Sharks third road game of the season. This will also be the first of back to back games for the Sharks as they then return to the Shark Tank to take on the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday Night.
Final Note- Sunday at 3:20pm PT it’s Super Bowl 47 between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. The game this year is being carried by CBS. Go 49ers, complete the Quest For Six and bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Kingshark Line Prediction: SF 49ers 27 Baltimore Ravens 20 …
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