Another Tough Night- To the Sharks credit they did not quit on this game. However in the end the effort would not be good enough for a victory either. Former Sharks farmhand Carter Hutton made 36 saves in net while Viktor Stalberg scored what proved to be the game winning goal with 2:39 remaining in the Predators 3-2 win over slumping Team Teal. The loss for the Sharks is their fifth overall in their last six games where they have only picked up three points in the standings over the same period of time. The Sharks have only put 12 pucks into the net during this recent slide while giving up 19 goals. Antti Niemi made 20 saves for the Sharks but also gave up a couple of goals where saves could have been made. The Sharks also have dropped their fourth straight game away from the Shark Tank as well. The season as it goes will certainly have its peaks and valley’s. Right now the Sharks are finding themselves deep in a valley and need to figure out how to navigate out of it as soon as they can as both the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are picking up significant ground on the slumping teal. Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau had late goals for the Sharks who just did not have enough time to complete a comeback or at least force an overtime period. For Nashville the victory was their third straight overall.
Sour Notes- Throughout much of the contest Nashville just seemed to be a little faster to the puck and a step ahead of the Sharks for the first two periods of the game. Hutton also established himself in net early and was able to handle the Sharks best scoring efforts of the period from Boyle, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Irwin and Jason Demers. Many of the Sharks regular snipers were held in check for most of the game. Marleau got eight shots on goal for the Sharks but it drops off significantly after that. Logan Couture was held to just one shot on goal on the evening as he scoring slump continued. Joe Pavelski was held to four shots while Boyle and Tommy Wingles were held to three each. Tomas Hertl and Jason Demers managed just two shots on goal each. The Sharks were outshot 10-8 in the first period and were spending most of the period chasing the puck. The Predators took the lead as Victor Bartley wristed a puck at the net from just above the left circle. The puck ricocheted off the left leg of Eric Nystom before going into the net past Niemi giving Nashville a one goal lead with 3;56 left in the opening period. The second period would see the Sharks come out with a more aggressive approach as the were able to get more pucks on Hutton, only to see their former farmhand make rather routine looking saves for the entire period. A power play goal by the Predators late in the period just added to the Sharks woes as Roman Josi was able to drill a puck past Niemi after getting a feed pass from Craig Smith. Smith was able to gain possession of the puck as three Sharks defenders failed to gain control of it along the boards, which allowed Josi to be open for the pass. The penalty call which led to the Predators power play was certainly an avoidable one for the Sharks as Brad Stuart was called for illegally concealing the puck with his hands.
Making It Interesting- In the third period the Sharks made things interesting as they would turn up the heat on the Predators. The Sharks would launch 20 shots on goal, more than Hutton saw in the first two periods combined. Again Hutton would answer the call and show his former team that maybe he was worth a second look. The Sharks had a power play opportunity early in the third after a Colin Wilson tripping penalty but could do nothing with it. With 12:32 remaining in the third Boyle would be in the right place at the right time to tip in a Matt Irwin shot, beating Hutton via the five hole. The Sharks seemed to get a spark from that and put more pressure in the Predators zone but could not find the game tying goal. The back-breaker for the Sharks came with just 2:49 remaining in the game when the Predators’ Stalberg on a breakaway was able to beat Niemi as his slap shot got by the Sharks goalie to his left. This gave Nashville a two goal lead that looked insurmountable however the Sharks to their credit refused to quit. With :54 seconds remaining Marleau was able to knock the puck into the net as the Sharks with Niemi pulled put on a desperation push. Despite pulling within a goal the Sharks would get no closer as last-ditch effort to crash the Predators net failed. After the following faceoff Joe Thornton with the puck ran into one of the referees and lost control of the puck which effectively ended the evening for the Sharks.
Looking for Answers- The Sharks came into this game looking to re-establish themselves on the road and came away with more questions than answers instead. The problem the Sharks seem to have is putting together 60 minute efforts on a consistent basis. Playing on the road is becoming a very tough proposition for the Sharks as they are finding opposing rinks difficult places for them to play. Teams do go through slumps and the Sharks certainly no exception to the rule. If the Sharks are looking to bust out of their latest doldrums one of the first things they need to do is be able to sustain 60 minutes of effort each night in and each night out. Certainly it is much easier said than done however at this level and considering how stacked the Western Conference is, let alone the Pacific Division, a team needs to have that constancy in the game. It does not mean they will win every game. What it does mean is that the team will always have a high complete level. Right now it seems that the Sharks at times are once again in the bad habits of taking shifts off which is hurting them through the course of games such as these. The Predators worked hard for the win Saturday night and certainly earned the victory to give full credit where it is due. If you are going to compete with the Ducks and Kings of the world (and you can throw in the Blackhawks too), you need more consistent efforts on the ice than what we saw tonight. The Sharks get two nights to look at this one before taking to the ice again against the St Louis Blues on Tuesday night.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks take on one of their midwestern nemesis in the Blues Tuesday night in St Louis. On October 15th the Sharks hammered the Blues 6-2 in the Gateway City after the Blues Maxim Lapierre tied to end Dan Boyle’s career with a hit that nearly broke his neck. There is no love loss between these two teams as the meet again for the third time this season. The Sharks also beat the Blues at the Shark Tank 6-3 the day after Thanksgiving as Brent Burns scored a hat trick while Lapierre did nothing but try to hide. It will be interesting. The game will be televised in Northern California by Comcast Sports Network. The puck drops at 5pm PT (7pm in St Louis).
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