NASHVILLE – The effort and execution on Tuesday in Nashville were much better than Monday night’s debacle in Columbus, although that's not saying much.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, all it means is another loss – their sixth straight – and another game in which the offense was virtually non-existent. San Jose was shut out for the second time in the last three games, and held to two or less in regulation for the seventh time in the last eight, in losing in overtime to the Predators, 1-0, at Bridgestone Arena.
During their 0-3-3 run, San Jose has scored just seven goals total.
“Much better effort than last night, one through 20,” McLellan said. “Everybody that dressed contributed tonight. I thought we were much more competitive and played a much more detailed game, but we still have the same results. We have to find a way to get over the hump, get one by some goaltenders, and find some wins here.”
It’s been more than two weeks since the Sharks won a game in regulation, on Jan. 27 against the Vancouver Canucks. Although they picked up a point by forcing overtime, Sharks opponents have gotten at least one point in the last eight games.
The dormant power play has shouldered much of the blame, and that was no different against the Predators. San Jose finished 0-for-6, and squandered a four-minute double minor to Martin Erat early in the second period, as well as 41 seconds of two-man advantage time later in the frame while the game remained scoreless.
Overall, the Sharks are just two for their last 34 opportunities.
“The power play could have been the difference tonight, especially with the five-on-three,” Joe Pavelski said, repeating a common theme during the losing streak. “It wasn’t.”
Logan Couture didn’t want to pin the loss solely on the continuing power outage, though.
“You can blame the power play. That’s the easy way out, but you don’t win in this league without five-on-five scoring, as well,” he said. “The power play takes some responsibility for not being productive lately, but you need to score five-on-five to win. We’re not doing that, either.”
Couture’s line, with newcomer Tim Kennedy and Ryane Clowe, had perhaps the best scoring chance for San Jose during regulation. With less than eight minutes to go in the first, Couture beautifully set up Kennedy for a point-blank shot at the open net, but Pekka Rinne managed swing to get his big right pad on the attempt just in time.
The game was Kennedy’s first in the NHL since Jan. 5, 2012.
“Obviously, Rinne is a world-class goalie and made a great save,” Couture said. “It was a good play. [Kennedy] made a good shot, Rinne made a good save.”
The Sharks held a 13-3 shot advantage through the first period, including some good looks by the fourth line of Marty Havlat, TJ Galiardi and Adam Burish.
“The first period they had the most chances on our team,” McLellan said of the newly formed combination.
The Sharks managed just 12 shots on goal from the start of the second period through overtime, though.
“I thought the game changed a little bit in the second when we failed to shoot,” McLellan said. “We wanted to make plays into the middle, and they are such a strong backchecking team, they started to pick those off and go the other way. [We] got away from what made us successful early in the first, and didn’t ever get back to it. We’ll have to look at that, and fix it.”
San Jose nearly won it in overtime just 30 seconds after the faceoff, when Patrick Marleau threw it towards the net from the top of the circle. Pavelski was on the doorstep, and the puck nearly trickled across the goal line before Gabriel Bourque cleared it away.
“I went to the net, it was laying there. So close,” Pavelski said. “That’s just the way it was tonight.”
Colin Wilson’s overtime winner came a minute and half later when he charged towards the net and converted on Ryan Ellis' shot/pass towards the net on an offensive rush. Wilson managed to get his stick behind Dan Boyle, who was defending.
“I think it came between my blocker and my body,” Antti Niemi said. “I thought I might have it to hold onto it, but he scored.”
Niemi made 24 saves, including a number of late stops in the third period, that at least salvaged a point for San Jose.
“I think we played a very good 60 minutes,” he said. “We had chances, especially early in the game. The first period was great. I think we decided we would start and play way harder today.”
The Sharks were playing without defenseman Brent Burns and forward Scott Gomez. McLellan called both of those decisions a combination of lackluster play and medical reasons.
“Both are coach's decisions/health combination. Burnzie playing three games in four nights and back-to-backs, we had to consider that. But also, his play wasn’t very good in Columbus,” said the head coach.
The Sharks’ road trip will continue in Chicago on Friday, against a Blackhawks team that has yet to lose in regulation (10-0-3).
“Besides the Columbus game, we’ve been right there,” Pavelski said. “We just have to find a ways to get one, two, three. The numbers we’re pitching and the way our goalies have been playing, we can win with those numbers. Zero tonight, zero the other day (against Phoenix). We can win with those numbers.”
If the Sharks can find a way to score while maintaining strong play in the defensive zone, Pavelski is right. If the offensive woes continue, there’s no end in sight to the Sharks’ rapid decline.