San Jose Sharks Downed By Poor Second Period

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The December doldrums continued for the San Jose Sharks as the return of one of their key players couldn’t get them out of their current rut. Logan Couture returned to the lineup for the first time since Oct. 15, but he was unable to change the fortunes for San Jose.

The Sharks knew they had an opportunity on this quick, two-game trek to Western Canada, but the Calgary Flames had other ideas. The Flames scored early and often in securing a 4-2 victory over San Jose, pulling within four points of the Sharks in the Pacific Division standings. San Jose has now lost four straight games and they are winless in the month of December as their streaky nature has returned in full force.

It was an ugly night defensively for San Jose who looked lost in their own zone as Calgary consistently found open holes for quality scoring chances. It all began just 1:45 into the contest as Jiri Hudler found Markus Granlund off a transition rush who one-timed it past Martin Jones for a 1-0 advantage. It was the beginning of a long night for Jones and the Sharks third line who was on the ice for the first goal.

San Jose responded less than three minutes later as Chris Tierney picked up a loose puck in front and scored his third goal of the season for a new look fourth line. With Couture’s return to the lineup, the Sharks’ lines looked much more balanced.

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Unfortunately, San Jose’s blue line is much more of a concern. The Sharks were behind the eight-ball again as the Sean Monahan tipped home a Mark Giordano shot on the power play to regain the lead for the Flames.

However, San Jose battled back for the second time on this night as Joe Thornton tipped a Patrick Marleau shot past Karri Ramo on the power play to tie things up after one. The one positive for the Sharks in recent weeks has been their power play which has found the back of the net in six of their last seven games.

Following the Thornton goal, it was all Calgary the rest of the night as they seized control of the game in the second. Michael Frolik gave the Flames the lead for good, poking home a rebound past Jones in a mad scramble in front at the 2:27 mark of the second.

Things appeared to get worse for San Jose as Monahan, after being left alone at the left circle, beat Jones 59 seconds after Frolik scored but the goal was disallowed as the Flames entered the zone offsides. Peter DeBoer decided to pull Jones before the challenge after he allowed three goals on 14 shots. It made sense with the Sharks playing back-to-back games.

Calgary kept the pressure on and Mikael Backlund scored the insurance tally, finding the soft spot in San Jose’s defensive coverage and one-timing a shot past Alex Stalock who had no chance.

It was a dismal effort from the Sharks who took eight minor penalties on the night, and looked lost on the defensive end of the ice. San Jose needs to find some sort of defensive stability or else this will continue to be a regular occurrence.

After playing perhaps their best game of the season against Calgary at SAP Center, it was one of their worst efforts from the Sharks third line. Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto were all a minus-two on the night as San Jose searches for some sort of consistency from their bottom six forwards.

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For Couture, he was still working himself back into game shape as he logged 12:38 of ice time and had four penalty minutes. He was able to get an assist on Thornton’s power play goal which was good to see, but it will be interesting to see how much ice time he sees in tonight’s game.

San Jose doesn’t have much time to regroup as they face their former coach in Todd McLellan and the Edmonton Oilers for the first time this season in what’s sure to be an emotional contest. Maybe the added emotion will be good for this Sharks team as it won’t be easy against an Oilers team that has won three consecutive games.