Given Away- Blue Jackets’ center Ryan Johansen scored with just 1:37 left to play in regulation to give Columbus a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks. The win gives Columbus a commanding three game season sweep of a Sharks team that should be grateful if they don’t see the Blue Jackets in the post season (should both teams make the post season). The Sharks entered Sunday’s game only needing a single point in the standings to clinch a post season birth for the ninth straight season. Thanks to a late and somewhat inexplicably careless turnover deep in the team teal zone, this would not happen. The Sharks rallied from a two goal deficit in the final period to tie the game on goals by Andrew Desjardens and Joe Pavelski. The game tying goal by Pavelski came with just over five minutes remaining during a power play. The loss was also a not so subtle reminder of the franchises history of last minute, late season losses (including post season games) which could be best described as confounding.
The Sharks have been thoroughly dominated by the Blue Jackets this season dropping all three game to Columbus in regulation. The Sharks before Sunday’s third period of play had been outscored by Columbus 13-3 and for the most part were hardly even competive at times. After Sunday, it’s a pretty safe bet the Sharks want no part of the Blue Jackets in the post season. The Sharks should be even happier that the Blue Jackets will be in the Eastern Conference starting next season. The Sharks still can clinch a post season birth with a win or even an overtime or shootout loss versus Dallas Tuesday night at the Shark Tank. However, as with Blue Jackets, the Stars wont be a walk in the park either. The Stars have also dominated team teal this season winning all three matchups, two in regulation. The Sharks going forward will have their work cut out for them with some tall mountains to climb.
Tough Two Periods- The Sharks were frustrated early as the Blue Jackets never allowed team teal to really get on track offensively despite getting some decent opportunities. Columbus Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was very tough early. Bobrovsky was able to shut down an early scoring attempt by Patrick Marleau in front the Blue Jackets goal. With the Sharks trying to crash the Blue Jackets’ net, Marleau was unable to sweep the puck underneath Bobrovsky. Even with Martin Havlat skating in to assist Marleau, the Blue Jackets netminder was able to hold his ground. Antti Niemi meanwhile would find himself just as busy against a potent Blue Jackets attack having to make point blank saves on Jack Johnson and Johansen. Later in the period the Sharks had another scoring chance where Marleau again appeared to have the angle on Bobrovski but the pass from Mark Edouard-Vlasic missed Marleau wide of the net. The puck caromed off of the boards and went directly to Vinny Prospal who got the puck down ice to Johnson. Once in the Sharks defensive zone Johnson found Mark Letestu racing towards the net and got a perfect feed pass to him. Letestu slammed the puck past Niemi to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead they would carry into the following period.
Team teal did not seem to do very well once they fell behind and would soon find themselves to be their own worst enemy on the evening. Just a couple of minutes into the second period a neutral ice turnover would prove costly as Brad Stuart tried to pass the puck over to Scott Hannan. However, Hannan never got the pass and it ended up on Letestu’s stick at center ice. Letestu alertly found Prospal breaking towards the net and got a feed pass to him while most Sharks players on the ice seemed unsure as to what was going on. Uncontested, Prospal easily beat Niemi one on one with wrister to give the Blue Jackets a two goal lead. Later in the period the Sharks would get the crowd back into the game as Havlat in front of the Blue Jackets goal was able to beat Bobrovsky with a wrister after taking a feed pass by Logan Couture from behind the Columbus goal.
The Sharks elation of getting back into the game would soon find itself being cut shot when a questionable interference call send Matt Irwin to the penalty box. The Sharks penalty kill which has been one of their strong suits this season was for one of the few times this season completely schooled. Letestu would drill a 55 foot slap shot from the right point that beat Niemi after team teal basically just watched the Blue Jackets bide their time and effectively play keep away from the Sharks. The Sharks came very close to making it a one goal game before the middle period ran out as Couture and Havlat had two quality chances before the horn sounded.
A Third Period To Remember…Or Forget- The Sharks third period started with the challenge of needing a successful penalty kill to stay in the game after hooking call to Irwin. Niemi made some of his best saves of the game here, including denying James Wisniewski a point blank chance before the end of the penalty time. A short time later Desjardins took a pass from Irwin who was near the Sharks goal. Desjardins took the rubber biscuit up ice and got it past two Blue Jackets defenders before finding himself one on one with Bobrovsky. Desjardins was able to get Bobrovksy to commit to his left and was able to work the puck around the Blue Jackets netminder and into the net to make it a one goal game again at 3-2. With over five minutes remaining and the Sharks on a power play after a Johnson interference penalty, Scott Gomez was able to get a feed pass to a wide open Pavelski who drilled the puck past Bobrovsky to tie the game. Gomez got the puck after Irwin had saved the puck from being cleared out of the Columbus zone. This brought down the house of 17,000 plus at the Shark Tank.
Pavelski’s moment in the sun however would soon implode along with any chance the Sharks had of earning at least one point in the Western Conference Standings. With just under two minutes team teal was trying to take the puck up ice out of their defensive zone. Justin Braun fed the puck to Pavelski who uncharacteristically immediately lost control of it. The rubber biscuit would fall onto the stick of the Blue Jackets’ Johansen who drilled a 30 foot slap shot past Niemi for the game winning goal. Niemi had no chance as the Sharks turnover was fairly sudden and set up Johansen with probably the easiest non empty net goal that he ever scored. The Sharks tried to put together a last moment attack to try and tie the game up but really never seriously challenged Bobrovsky. The Sharks at the final horn immediately exited the ice as they were clearly a cross of being deflated and just maybe a little shocked as they left with the knowledge that they left points on the ice. Those points could cost at least post season positioning. This was also a stark reminder that the Sharks despite a fairly good 15 game stretch before Sunday are still a team that is just still mistake prone. The Sharks have gotten away with a number of mistakes throughout the season. On Sunday, there luck ran out and their were burned. The Sharks only have themselves to blame for giving this one away in a rather inexcusable fashion.
Shark Bytes- Andrew Desjardens got the third star of the game while the other two stars belonged to Ryan Johansen and Mark Letestu. Scott Gomez got his 700th career NHL point tonight. Despite the late period give away that cost the Sharks this game, the third period was the best period the Sharks played against Columbus this season. The previous eight periods all belonged to the Blue Jackets and were rather decisive. The Sharks may not have to worry about facing the Blue Jackets should they seed 5th or lower. The Sharks should also hope they don’t see Columbus again in the post season as the matchup just isn’t there for team teal for whatever reason (just as it was against St Louis last season). The Sharks remain in 5th place in the Western Conference Standings thanks to St Louis losing to Colorado Sunday night. The LA Kings are in sole possession of 4th place in the Western Conference after beating Dallas in overtime. Anaheim defeated Edmonton Sunday evening insuring that for the second straight season the Sharks will not win the Pacific Division. This was only the Sharks 2nd regulation loss at home this season (16-2-5) . This was also only the Blue Jackets second regulation win in the Shark Tank in their franchise history (2-19-1).
Next Sharks Game- Tuesday Night at the Shark Tank vs the Dallas Stars. The Stars are another team the Sharks have had trouble with as Dallas is 3-0-0 versus San Jose. Game time is 7:30pm PT. The Sharks have just as much at stake here as they did Sunday.
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