Feb 22, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) covers the puck in front of Chicago Blackhawks left wing Viktor Stalberg (25) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sharks Power Play Fizzles Again As Blackhawks Win 2-1

Another Saad Ending For The Sharks- Brandon Saad’s scored a short handed goal with 17:36 remaining in the third period, and Ray Emery and the Blackhawks would make that goal stand up in a 2-1 victory over the visiting San Jose Sharks. The win for the Blackhawks was their 14th of the season, and in 17 games Chicago has not suffered a regulation loss so far in this abbreviated season. Chicago stands alone atop the Western Conference with a 14-0-3 record and 31 points in the standings. Meanwhile the San Jose Sharks are clearly heading in the opposite direction with their 8th loss in  nine games. The Sharks are now on a 1-5-3 decline after starting the season with seven straight wins. The Sharks on the whole played a fairly even game with the Blackhawks, however cost themselves any opportunity to move up in the standings because of a short handed goal given up by a power play that by now is basically all but irrelevant. Saad’s short handed goal was the first scored against the Sharks this season, and it proved to be a game changer as well as a game decider.

War of Attrition- The Sharks in the first two periods of the contest played a better overall game than a week earlier at the same United Center Venue. Last week, the Sharks took a fairly strong beating against the Blackhawks. In Friday Nights game, the Sharks weathered a number of Chicago scoring attempts as Antti Niemi was solid in net with 11 saves. Ray Emery, who got the start in place of the injured Corey Crawford in last weeks game got the call again in this match. Emery was able to fend off the first seven shots on goal. The Sharks eventually were able to solve Emery late in the opening period as Patrick Marleau scored his 11th goal of the season, stuffing the puck past Emery as the Sharks closed in on the Blackhawks net. The Sharks took a 1-0 lead with just 14.2 seconds left in the opening period and seemed to have the momentum on their side.

The Sharks penalty kill played an important role early in the second period as they were able to successfully kill off two penalties to Michal Handzus and TJ Galiardi. Team Teal’s penalty kill would have a very good night as these were the only two Sharks penalties in the entire game. Niemi meanwhile continued to hold the Blackhawks at bay despite the number of scoring chances they had in the period. The Sharks for all the solid defensive play they would display on the evening, they would not be able to cover for their own power play that would fail them again twice in the second period. Shortly after the Blackhawks killed off the Sharks second power play of the period, the Blackhawks would draw even as on an odd man rush Viktor Stalberg would shoot a puck at about an 90 degree angle to the Sharks net. Niemi squared up to make the save only too see the puck hit his skate and ricochet into the net. This would be one of the more telling points of how the last nine games have gone for the Sharks. A power play failure followed by the opponent scoring just a moment or two later.

More Power Play Breakdowns Prove Costly- The Sharks ended the second period with another unsuccessful power play however would get yet another chance when Brent Seabrook would draw a tripping call. The Sharks again struggled on the power play. Towards the end of the power play team teal allowed the Blackhawks to take off on an odd man rush despite being down a man. Saad would drill a wrist shot that would beat Niemi to his left and give Chicago a 2-1 lead as the Sharks power play still had three seconds remaining. The Sharks would spend the game haunted by this game changing short handed goal and egregious error. For the rest of the game the Sharks was Niemi making saves to keep team teal in the game despite the Sharks offensive struggles. However, the Sharks just could not get the scoring chances that were productive enough. Perhaps in a way that has been a fair barometer of how the Sharks season has gone south over the last nine games, Tommy Wingles late in the game had a point blank opportunity on Emery only to see his stick break as he attempted a slap shot. The Sharks pulled Niemi out of the net with over 1:20 left in the game however were not even able to get the puck over the blue line into the Blackhawks defensive zone. Another one goal loss for the Sharks in what may have been the most stinging loss of the season.

Another Wasted Effort- If the Sharks had lost this game 2-1 because they gave up either an even strength goal or Chicago had scored a power play goal, that would have been one thing. However when you lose a game as the direct result of a short handed goal, that is a different dynamic altogether. Giving up a short handed goal is bad, it being the cause of a team losing is virtually inexcusable. The Sharks power play streak of futility has now gone to two goals in the last 49 opportunities. This may have been the first short handed goal the Sharks had given up all season, but this one flat out cost them any chance of winning the game. Not only does a short handed goal change a game, it usually is the strongest of indicators in a tight game that the team giving it up is going to lose. The Sharks by virtue of losing in this fashion negated any and all things they did right and well leading up to this point of the game. The Sharks can take nothing away from this contest other than maybe they don’t see the Blackhawks again this season. The Blackhawks won all three meetings and dominated about six of the nine periods the two teams played against each other. Should these two teams meet in the post season, this would likely go the same way the playoff series against the Blues went last season. Sadly despite the effort tonight in reality team teal is not a match for the boys from the Second City. Baring some drastic turn of fortune by both teams, don’t look for this to get better. It won’t. The Sharks now have to meet the challenge of having a short term memory of the Blackhawks and be ready Saturday night for Pacific Division rival Dallas.

Shark Bytes- Chicago swept the season series and the three stars of the game again. The game’s three stars were 3) Viktor Stallberg, 2) Ray Emery, and 1) Brandon Saad. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton got the assist on Marleau’s goal, only his second tally in the last 11 games. Marleau this season to leads the Sharks in goals scored. Assists on Stallberg’s goal went to Patrick Kane and Johnny Oduya. Assists on Saad’s goal went to Michal Rozsival and Duncan Keith. Antti Niemi made 28 saves while Ray Emery made 21. The Sharks are 1-3-1 on this six game road trip. Scott Gomez and Justin Braun were healthy scratches. The Sharks offensive woes continued as for the sixth game in the last 11 the Sharks have been held either to no goals or just one goal. Niemi doesn’t deserve the blame as he has kept the Sharks in most games this year. The first Chicago goal was bad luck, the second was bad play on a power play, neither or which really can be Niemi’s fault. Brandon Saad has scored three goals this season. Two of the three came against the Sharks. Outside of the Sharks, Saad has had just one goal in 15 other games.

Next Sharks Game- Saturday Night the Sharks travel to Dallas to take on the Stars in a Pacific Division match-up. Dallas is in 9th place in the Western Conference, the Sharks are now sixth. The Sharks remain six points behind Anaheim in the Pacific Division race (25-19). The Ducks have one game in hand. The Sharks vs. Stars starts at 5:30pm PT, 7:30pm CT in Dallas.

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