When the San Jose Sharks look back on the 2013-14 season, should they fall short of their goal, part of that reason may come from two teams who will not finish anywhere near the postseason.
The Sharks returned home to face the Carolina Hurricanes in their home first game since the Olympics. By the time the evening was over, all the excitement of having a healthy team back was replaced by seeing that very same team revert to old habits that would prove costly.
The Sharks dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to a Carolina Hurricanes team that had entered the game having dropped five in a row, including two pretty solid beat down losses to the L.A. Kings and Anaheim over the weekend. The Sharks had returned home from a 2-1 road trip on the East Coast and even with a full days rest seemed to struggle to find their land legs for the better part of two periods.
Alex Stalock started in goal for the Sharks Tuesday night, and by all accounts, played very well. Honestly, Stalock probably was the only reason in the end that the Sharks were the team who stole a point in the standings from this one. The Sharks held their own through much of the contest and even held a 2-1 lead after the first period but just really never found their game all evening. Jay Harrison’s overtime goal with 42 second remaining left 17,062 in attendance leaving the Shark Tank in total silence.
Sharks Not Hurricane Proof
In the first two periods, the Sharks spent much of their time chasing the Hurricanes around their defensive zone along with the puck.
Carolina put 16 shots on goal in the first period alone and kept Stalock very busy while the Sharks were desperately trying to find their way into the game. Stalock was able to fend off the first 11 shots he faced. On the 12th shot, it was Jiri Tlusty who was able to score on a semi-breakaway after taking a feed pass from Alexander Semin.
The Sharks, however, would answer back just a minute later on a goal from Martin Havlat who was able to drill a wrister past Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin. From that point, it seemed as if the Sharks had seized the momentum of the game and got better scoring opportunities late in the period. Brent Burns would score his first goal in 19 games with just 32 seconds left in the period as he was also able to get a wrist shot past Khudobin following a feeds from Raffi Torres and James Sheppard.
In the second period, however, it would be more of the same as Carolina again controlled much of the play for the period, holding a 6-2 shot advantage almost 12 minutes into the period. The Hurricanes tied the game with Elias Lindholm scoring at 4:16 of the middle period as he was able to beat Stalock top shelf with a close range wrister. The Sharks would find themselves getting a few scoring opportunities in the period but really nothing to write home about otherwise.
Sharks Can’t Capitalize Late
In the third period, the Sharks seeming controlled the better part of the period and would out-shoot Carolina 16-7. However, despite a few good looks at the net could not really get a good enough shot on goal to beat Khudobin. During the game, the Sharks often times missed passes to men who were open on the ice who may have had a chance to score.
The Sharks also found themselves not able to find decent shooting lanes as many of their shots would find bodies instead of space. They seemed to have some decent momentum even going into the overtime period however would lose that when the Hurricanes became far more aggressive and controlled the play for the final three minutes leading up to their game-winning goal.
Confounding Losses Plague Sharks
The Sharks this season are 0-2-2 against Carolina and Buffalo, having lost both games in overtime at home. The disturbing trend for the Sharks here is that their division rivals in LA and Anaheim have beaten these teams where the Sharks have left six possible points in the standings on the table.
These are points in the standings the Sharks simply cannot get back. Now trailing Anaheim by eight points in the Pacific Division standings, coupled with LA winning their first four games after the Olympic break, the Sharks hopes to catch Anaheim are in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile the Kings have gained three points on the Sharks at the same juncture. The Sharks, with this loss (even though in overtime) continue to struggle against teams who are good candidates not to make the post season.
If the Sharks have any serious aspirations of any kind of post season run whatsoever, it starts with the fact that it is never a good idea to lose to teams that are either seriously slumping or are last in their division. There are certainly no good excuses for it. The Sharks will have to be better than they were here when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come calling at the Shark Tank Thursday night.