ANAHEIM – The penalty kill is hot. The power play is not.
The Sharks’ streak of not allowing a power play goal reached a remarkable 27 straight kills in the last six games on Monday night in Anaheim. San Jose fought off all six Ducks chances, including an almost surreal minute-and-a-half in the third period, when the Sharks were down two men yet had the better of the scoring chances.
But when you can’t score on the power play yourself, all it means is you played an even special teams game. The Sharks have experienced a fairly significant power outage in the last four games, going just 1-for-18, including 0-for-6 against the Ducks in which they did not play well while up a man.
Part of the blame can go to not having Dan Boyle for the second time in four games, with the flu. Bad ice at the Honda Center also didn’t help. Regardless, it was the biggest factor in the Sharks losing in regulation for the first time this season, 2-1, to their southern California rivals. The Ducks trail the Sharks by just two points for the Pacific Division lead now, with a game in hand.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Ducks 2, Sharks 1]
“I think at times we’re getting too cute,” Todd McLellan said. “In the first few games it came easy, it was tic-tac-toe and the reward was a goal, and then go do it again right away. That can be misleading. [Anaheim] did a tremendous job of being in shooting lanes all over the rink, and that got a little bit frustrating for us at times. As a result, we tried to make more passes and more plays and they did a good job of squashing them.”
Joe Thornton, who struggled with the puck much of the night, said: “Both penalty kills were great. Both teams’ power plays didn’t look so good.”
Still, the Sharks were in a good position to capture their eighth win in nine games, leading 1-0 after two periods on a Logan Couture goal. The game changed when a bad bounce along the boards behind the Sharks’ net resulted in the game-tying goal by Saku Koivu early in the third.
Tommy Wingels’ attempted pass should have harmlessly made its way behind the cage and goalie Thomas Greiss, but ended up deflecting oddly to the front of the crease for an easy score by Koivu.
“It’s frustrating, but – unfortunate bounce,” Wingels said. “I think it hit something in the boards and popped right there. You have to just forget about those ones.”
“It was a weird bounce. I’ve just got to keep my eye on the puck, I guess,” said Greiss, unnecessarily taking part of the blame.
McLellan didn’t sense a deflated bench after the goal.
“I thought we handled it fine. It was a bad bounce. That happens. There’s nothing we can do to control it,” he said.
Shortly after the tying goal, and after Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth made some difficult saves on Marty Havlat and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks found themselves shorthanded for 1:36 on penalties to Michal Handzus and Joe Pavelski. The penalty kill came through once again, though, and Patrick Marleau nearly gave the Sharks the lead with a partial breakaway that Fasth poked away at the last second.
Typically, a big kill like that would give a team momentum. The Sharks weren’t able to capture it, though, losing on Sheldon Souray’s point shot at 13:21 that McLellan said deflected past Greiss off of Scott Gomez’s stick.
The head coach wasn’t happy with a pair of icings just before the goal.
“The fourth line got trapped on the ice,” McLellan said.
“They jumped on the opportunity to put [the Ryan Getzlaf line] out. We weren’t quite in a shooting lane, and Souray can do that.”
Shots on goal, usually a strength, were also lacking from San Jose. The Sharks had just seven at the midway point of regulation, although they did have 19 from that point on.
It was the second straight game vs. the Ducks that the Sharks failed to get much rubber towards the net in the first half. On Jan. 29 at HP Pavilion, San Jose had just four shots in the first period, and five at the midway point of regulation. The Ducks have held the Sharks to their two lowest shot totals of the season (18 on Jan. 29, 26 on Monday).
“Whether you score on them or not, shots get momentum,” Wingels said. “You get a shot, get the puck back. That’s the kind of team we are. That’s something we’re going to try to improve on.”
McLellan said: “I don’t think we fired enough pucks early in the game again. Later on, we started to shoot from some bad angles and started to create some chances. We still have guys that are pass-first guys that need to be shooting. I think when they do that and they get in and around the blue paint a little bit more, we’ll get some production from other people.”
The Sharks had one final great chance to get the equalizer when Bryan Allen was called for cross-checking Couture in the back with less than four minutes in regulation, on a call that Couture helped sell. Despite a time out by McLellan that kept his top unit on the ice, it never came.
“We had the opportunity to put at least two up on the board on the power play, but it didn’t do its thing,” said McLellan.