DALLAS – Yes, the Sharks probably deserved a better result against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night in a 2-1 loss at American Airlines Center.
No, that doesn’t mean they played a perfect game against their division rival (for now), in dropping their third this season to the surging Stars, who won their fifth in a row overall to move into playoff position. The Stars relocate out of San Jose's division beginning with next season's realignment.
San Jose quickly fell behind 2-0 in the first seven minutes of the first period, and were kept at bay until Brent Burns’ power play marker at 5:56 of the third. The Sharks kept up the pressure after Burns' goal and dominated in terms of offensive zone time, right through the final one minute and 28 seconds with goalie Antti Niemi pulled for an extra attacker.
The Sharks kept the puck in the Stars’ end from that point forward for all but the final two seconds, attempting nine shots on net. The problem was, Dallas blocked seven of them, and finished with an eye-popping 30 for the game. Richard Bachman made 31 saves for the win in net.
“You have five more goalies at the end of the game usually,” said Patrick Marleau, who was among the six Sharks skaters during the final push. “They blocked some, but there were some opportunities there.”
Dan Boyle, who had a pair of shots deflected away by Trevor Daley in the closing seconds, said: “We had our looks, but kind of the story of the night. We just didn’t get enough through.”
That it took until the third period for the Sharks to maintain consistent pressure irritated the head coach.
“I thought we were spotty,” Todd McLellan said. “It took us a little while to get into it and that probably cost us the night. I thought we wasted some minutes and weren’t hard enough on pucks, didn’t keep our noses over it. Reached a little bit. Later on we got going, and it was too little too late.”
When could the Sharks have been better?
“In the second we weren’t really playing our game,” TJ Galiardi said. “We’d get it in behind them and it would either go right to their goalie and he’d play the puck well, or it would go to their D and they’d get it out. We didn’t have any sustained pressure, and that’s a recipe for disaster.”
The Sharks fell behind when Eric Nystrom skated in on a two-on-one with Erik Cole, and Matt Irwin defending. Nystrom flinged it past Niemi less than two minutes after the opening faceoff. Boyle got caught in the neutral zone on an attempted pinch.
Raffi Torres’ interference penalty, which neither he nor McLellan appeared to agree with, put the Stars on the power play. Rookie Alex Chiasson scored his sixth goal in six career NHL games, three against the Sharks, with a deflection of a Ray Whitney shot that crept just inside the far post at the seven-minute mark.
“Right behind the eight ball two minutes in isn’t a good thing. Three or four minutes later, it’s 2-0,” McLellan said. “To play with the lead with the schedule that we’re all playing at this time of year, is real important. Coming back from two, we weren’t capable of doing tonight.”
They were close, though. Burns’ marker was generated from a nice play by Scott Gomez to get the puck to Galiardi in front of the net, and Burns backhanded in the rebound on the power play.
Galiardi, who was promoted to the Joe Thornton-Burns line before the game, was among the Sharks most effective forwards. For Burns, it was his seventh goal since he moved to forward in March.
The Sharks outshot the Stars 13-5 in the third period, and attempted a whopping 82 shots in the game, when combining Stars blocks and shots that missed the mark. Dallas had just 35 attempts, and was outshot 32-19 for the game.
Burns' goal gave the Sharks all the momentum, but they were unable to capitalize.
“I think we knew that going into the third, was we get one shot and put it in, and they’d be on their heels a bit,” Galiardi said. “It’s just a shame it didn’t come a little earlier and we had a little more time. I think if we had a couple minutes more in that game, we come back and tie it up.”
Thornton said: “They might have had three chances all night. Our work ethic was there, we had the chances, it was just one of those nights where you should have probably gotten the two, but you didn’t.”
The game got nasty at the end with the Sharks buzzing. Boyle and Vern Fiddler got in a pushing and shoving match, but just about every player on the ice was involved in a scrum with just a few ticks remaining on the clock.
“Just emotion and battles around the net. It happens,” McLellan said.
What did McLellan see from the bench in that final scramble?
“They’re in the right spots to block them and the goaltender made some great saves. I liked what we did in those two minutes. Really attacked the net well. There’s not much more we can do other than score, and it didn’t happen for us.”
San Jose (21-13-7, 49 points) has just a four-point lead on ninth place Detroit and 10th place Columbus. There isn’t any satisfaction this time of year in games that don’t result in at least a point in the standings, no matter how the team may have performed.
“I think we probably deserved a better fate, but at the end of the day it’s about points this time of year. All the time, not just this time,” Boyle said.
Burns said: “We just need points. That’s what it comes down to.”