Nightmare Swoon in February Continues- A frustrating month of February ended in maybe the only fitting way it could have for the San Jose Sharks. Damien Brunner scored the only goal in the shootout period to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 win over team teal who dropped their 10th game in February’s 12 game portion of the abbreviated 48 game schedule. Despite picking up one point in the standings for their hard fought efforts, the Sharks still with the shootout loss dropped to 10th place in the Western Conference Standings. The Sharks did not play a bad game and only drew two penalties on the evening. More than anything else it was Red Wings Goalie Johan Gustavsson being equal to Sharks goalie Antti Niemi on the evening, and more hard luck for team teal on the evening. The Sharks have to go into March hoping some of the positive things that happened for them in this game plus Tuesday Night’s game versus Colorado carry over into March. If the Sharks have another month like they just had, simply put they will not be a playoff team or even any kind of a serious factor in the Western Conference. The Sharks can only hope that it cannot get any worse than it already has with February proving out to be the lowest point of the season.
All About The Goalies- Neither the Sharks or Red Wings have been lighting up the scoreboard in a number of their games this year. This game would see none of those trends change. Niemi was solid for the evening and took the Red Wings’ best shots early and gobbled up the puck many times over. The Sharks who had not seen very much of Gustavsson since his much publicized entry into the NHL a few seasons back (with Toronto) saw a goalie who was able to come up huge and repeatedly. Gustavsson turned away many late Sharks chances, including a point blank shot on goal from Michal Handzus as the first period ended. Clowe also missed a good scoring chance as he had a break away chance on Gustavsson but could not keep the puck on his stick and shot it wide of the net. The Sharks penalty kill came in handy early when Douglas Murray was called for a two minute interference penalty. The Sharks only had to kill two penalties on the evening, this one plus one other in the second period which lasted only 42 seconds.
The second period was more of the same as each team was able to keep the other from gaining any kind of significant advantage as scoring chances were held to a bare minimum. The Sharks would get the better of the opportunities but still managed to come up empty as Gustavsson was able to stop all seven shots after turning away nine in the first period. The Sharks would get a break late in the second period when Jordan Tootoo would draw a two minute boarding penalty. After what seemed to be the Sharks gaining some momentum on the power play, the man advantage would be lost in just 42 seconds as Patrick Marleau was called for goalie interference. This would mark the only Sharks power play chance of the entire game. Though two periods the game was scoreless and statistically a dead heat. The Red Wings through two periods had just one more shot on goal than the Sharks (17-16).
Hope Comes And Goes- The first four minutes of the third period were giving an indication that the fans at the Shark Tank were in for more of the same chess match between the two teams. This would change just under five minutes into the final regulation period as a Red Wings neutral zone turnover after a Sharks line change would be a huge break for team teal. With the Sharks in the Detroit defensive zone, Joe Thornton passed the puck to Logan Couture at the right point. Couture drilled a slap shot that got past Gustavsson to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. However no sooner that Sharks would get the lead that they would fail to seize any momentum from it. Soon the Red Wings would have the Sharks trapped in their own defensive zone. Just 86 seconds after Couture gave the Sharks the lead, Niklas Kronwall would drill a slap shot from the point that would get deflected past Niemi by Patrick Eaves. The Red Wings from this point would find new momentum and controlled play throughout much of the period. Niemi recovered after Eaves tip in and made some solid saves for the Sharks late. The Wings would outshoot team teal 14-9 in the final period with a number of their scoring chances coming in the games’ final 14 minutes in regulation.
The Red Wings would carry this momentum into overtime. Detroit would not score but kept considerable pressure in the Sharks end of the ice. The Sharks had one near breakaway chance from Marleau, only to see him shoot the puck wide of the net. Thornton also drilled a hard shot at Gustavsson who had no trouble in making the save. In the shootout period, the Sharks sent up Handzus, Marleau and Clowe to take on Gustavsson. The Red Wings net minder stopped both Handzus’ and Marleau’s attempts with relative ease. After Niemi stopped Pavel Datsyuk, Brunner would beat Niemi to his left with a wrist shot that stood up as the game winner. Clowe, the Sharks’s final hope would see his shot attempt sail wide of the net.
Shark Bytes- Despite the Shootout loss, two of the games three stars were from the Sharks. Patrick Marleau was named the number three star, Antti Niemi took the number two honor with 33 saves. Red Wings Goalie Johan Gustavsson took the top honor with one his best outings in his NHL career in making 25 saves. Matt Irwin who was called up from the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester got the start tonight replacing Jason Demers who was a healthy scratch. The Red Wings two healthy scratches were two former Sharks, Ian White and Kent Huskins. Marleau had five shots on goal and missed a golden opportunity in the third when somehow he could not get the puck into the net as Gustavsson was off balance. February with the Sharks winning just two of 12 games, may not have been the worst month in the 22 year history of the San Jose Sharks franchise. However it certainly has to place somewhere in the top 10. There are still 29 games left, however the Sharks if they are going to be any kind of post season threat are going to have to be able to find a way to right the ship. Even this could be a tall order seeing how things have gone thus far.
Next Sharks Game- Sharks vs the Nashville Predators at the Shark Tank 7:30pm (PT). The Game will be carried on CSN California, Centre Ice where available, and the Sharks Radio Network. Nashville has had their struggles this season however are 2-0 against the Sharks this season, winning 2-1 in a shootout in February 1st at The Shark Tank. In the second meeting in Nashville, the Predators won 1-0 in an overtime game. The Sharks also need to make the most of this game since it will be the first of just six home games in the month of March. The Sharks will be on the road for nine games in March.
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