Winning Streak Over- The San Jose Sharks second seven game winning streak came to a shocking end as team teal fell apart in the third period versus the Dallas Stars. The Stars overcame a deficits of 2-0 and 4-2, took full advantage of the Sharks lackluster effort in the final period to tie the game before winning in a shootout 5-4. Jamie Benn scored the lone goal in the shootout and Kari Lehtonen stopped all three attempts he faced from Logan Couture, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. The Sharks Sunday afternoon showed that they are as a team not good enough to withstand blowing two goal leads twice in the same game, and still be able to come away with a win. The Sharks do finish a rather successful homestand with a 6-0-1 mark, however this game will be a bitter pill to swallow for team teal. The Sharks effort today is a strong indicator that despite being in contention for the post season, closing out opponents is still a huge issue for team teal.
The only question is for how long. Will the Sharks band together as a team and use this as fuel to drive them into a strong playoff run? Will the Sharks again turn into a team that basically passes for the “Florida Panthers West” and start getting throttled? The answer may come soon enough as the Sharks travel to Columbus to meet the Blue Jackets Tuesday. The last trip into Columbus was February 11th following a OTL loss to Phoenix. The Sharks were taken to the cleaners by the Blue Jackets 6-2. It’s hard to say which Sharks team is going to show since consistency is the one thing this team fails to sustain over long periods of time. This lockout shortened season for the Sharks has been a Jekyll-Hyde story that the last chapter is apparently far from being written.
Sharks Good Start- The Sharks in the first period was reminiscent of a team that was playing some very good hockey. Despite an early penalty to Joe Pavelski for high-sticking, the Sharks penalty kill was ready for the early challenge and did not allow the Stars a single shot on goal. The Sharks penalty kill units would be called on again later in the period and again denied Dallas. The Sharks would take the lead midway through the opening period when Tommy Wingles was in the right place at the right time for team teal. A Couture pass intended for Patrick Marleau from behind the net was fanned on by the Sharks leading goal scorer. However the Stars did not pick up on Wingles standing behind Marleau and he drilled in a wrister past Lehtonen. The Sharks would add to their advantage just three minutes into the second period when Brent Burns top shelved a wrister past Lehtonen to give team teal a two goal lead.
Falling Asleep At the Switch- The Sharks 2-0 lead looked great after Burns had scored. However it can be argued that this is where they game also turned to the Stars favor. The Sharks all but physically disappeared over the next minute of play and it would cost them dearly. Just seconds after Burns scored, Marc-Edouard Vlasic made a costly turnover deep in the Sharks defensive zone. The puck was taken by Vernon Fidler who passed it over Eric Nystrom who drilled it past Niemi. 2-1. Just 26 seconds later, in what was almost a replay of what happened versus Minnesota, the Sharks got totally schooled right off of the face off. Benn near the Sharks goal passed the puck to Alex Chaisson, who’s wrister very easily beat Niemi. Game tied 2-2. The Sharks not only gave up two goals inside of a minute, but were manhandled in their defensive zone very easily. The Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL may has well have been out there, it would have made no difference. The goals were not all Niemi’s fault, but unless your goalie is Patrick Roy there is little chance
The Sharks would regain the lead on goals by TJ Galiardi, and later by Vlasic to regain another two goal lead, 4-2. Vlasic’s goal almost went unnoticed, but it was caught by the “war room” in Toronto who called to have a video review of the sequence. Vlasic’s shot on goal hit Lehtonen’s stick and deflected into the net barely. The Sharks carried the lead into the third period and seemingly had everything going their way.
Operation Shut Down- This is what the Sharks should have been doing in the third period. The team that was doing the shutting down however was in the White sweaters, not the Black. The Sharks statistically outshot Dallas by one shot on goal in the period, but it was the Stars who took control of the game for good once the period was about five minutes old. The Stars were just faster to loose pucks while the Sharks instead of going to closer mode went to “play not to lose” mode, which is generally a recipe for disaster. With 13:53 remaining in the third period, Chaisson scored his second goal of the game taking a pass from former Shark Ray Whitney to cut the team teal lead to one. Just three minutes later the Stars tied the game as Loui Eriksson tied the game drilling a rebound of a Matt Fraser shot on goal. The game was tied 4-4, and the momentum shift was painfully obvious at this point. It may be the one saving grace for the Sharks that over the next 10 minutes and change that they were even able to get the game to an overtime period and steal a point. If Dallas had not traded away much of their firepower earlier in the week this could have gotten very ugly for team teal. The Sharks had a few scoring chances in the period but nothing serious. Lehtonen was making routine saves while Niemi was hanging on by the seat of his pants.
The Other Shoe Finally Drops- After the third period ended and the Sharks had at least one point in the standings secured, team teal proceeded to continue and get totally dominated by Dallas. Niemi again made a pair of saves. So did Lehtonen on his end of the rink. In the shootout, Lehtonen made three more rather routine looking saves against Couture, Boyle and Burns. After Niemi stopped Fraser’s first attempt, Benn easily beat Niemi with his shot on goal. Lehtonen then made his last save on Burns, and then it was just a matter of the last person to leave the Shark Tank being reminded to please turn out the lights.
Shark Bytes- The Three Stars of the Game were 3) Jamie Benn; 2) Raffi Torres who actually had a decent game and got his first assist as a Shark, and 1) Alex Chaisson who gave the Stars true bang for their buck Sunday. Antti Niemi had one of his lesser games of the year as he was clearly worn out by the final period. Niemi got a assist on Burns goal as he was the second to touch the puck before Justin Braun. The Sharks went 6-0-1 for the homestand and got 13 of 14 possible points, but really there is nothing good about Sunday’s game otherwise. Nothing to take away except to face the reality that this was a true opportunity simply thrown away. When a team gets dominated like the Sharks did in the later half of the game, and when they make just horrendous turnovers that end up in their net, playoff bound or not that is a clear red flag that this team is lacking a killer instinct as well as an inability to close out games. The game against Calgary Friday night signaled a few red flags in it’s own right. The Sharks overcame many mistakes in that game, but did not blow a pair of two goal leads. The Sharks now need to learn from this loss today and move on. The big question is will they be able to? The LA Kings last year had similar adversity but got things figured out before qualifying for the post season. It remains to be seen if the Sharks will do the same thing.
Next Game- Tuesday Night in Columbus versus the Blue Jackets in the first of a four game road trip that will take them through Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix. The Sharks biggest tests are ahead of them. Puck drop in Columbus, Ohio is 4pm PDT (7pm ET).
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