SAN JOSE – Whether or not the Sharks deserved to be comfortably ahead of the Detroit Red Wings at the second intermission on Thursday night at HP Pavilion depends on your point of view.
On the one hand, San Jose generated the better of the scoring chances, and could have easily had a multiple-goal lead on its rival, which was playing in the second of back-to-back nights.
On the other, the Sharks didn’t take advantage of those Grade-A chances to put anything past backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, including a pair of two-on-one rushes in the second period in which they didn’t even get a shot on goal.
In the end, San Jose lost in a shootout, 2-1. It was the 13th time in the last 14 games the Sharks have given up at least one point to their opponent, and ninth straight game they have scored two of fewer goals in regulation. The 9-6-4 Sharks are once again on the outside looking in on a playoff spot, losing for the 10th time in 12 games (2-6-4).
A pair of second period odd-man rushes were particularly disappointing to head coach Todd McLellan, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton misplayed their chances with open wingers to their right. Marleau’s errant pass sailed through the air past the stick of a swinging Marty Havlat, while Thornton had the puck knocked away by defenseman Brian Lashoff before he could get it, again, to Havlat.
His team struggling to put pucks both at and into the net, McLellan was asked if he would have liked to see the pass-first Thornton shoot the puck in that situation.
“Yep, how’s that for an answer? I want to see Marleau shoot the puck, too,” he said. “We talked about it between periods. We haven’t exactly been lighting it up. They’re smart people, they can watch the game and they know they’ve got to shoot the puck to score. It’s disappointing. We have those opportunities, we’ve got to make good on them. Other teams in the league are, we have to.”
Thornton admitted it was a missed opportunity, but said: “It’s going to happen. I’m a passer. It’s going to happen.”
Still, the Sharks did take a 1-0 lead on Logan Couture’s second goal in as many games. Thornton increased his point streak to five, setting up Couture for the one-time blast at 4:49 of the third period.
“I saw Logan with his stick up in the air, so that usually means give it to him, and he made a beautiful shot,” Thornton said.
Couture forced Justin Abdelkader into a turnover after Douglas Murray’s dump-in took an awkward bounce off of the glass into the high slot, where Abdelkader and Couture converged.
“I just know the guy got it in the middle of the ice, I got my stick on it, and it went to Jumbo and Jumbo made a good pass,” Couture said.
Couture had a couple of chances of his own that went by the wayside in the first period. His deflection on his line’s first shift was turned away by Gustavsson, and later, after the Sharks killed off a Murray interference minor, he made a brilliant move around Brendan Smith to get a look at the open net.
The shot missed the mark four minutes into the game, though, and Couture bemoaned it afterwards.
“I should have hit the net, and obviously put it wide,” he said. “It’s the same story every game. We’ve got to find a way to score more goals, personally and as a team. We’ve got to find a way to put it in the back of the net.”
McLellan didn’t like the Sharks’ jump against the Red Wings, who lost 2-1 on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
“They are a team that played last night, back-to-back games, and they traveled across the country. We’re fresh, and I didn’t like our energy level one bit most of the night, never mind the third period,” he said. “First and second it wasn’t where it needed to be. We looked a little lethargic, and I don’t know what the reason is for that. It’s something we’ve got to correct, so that we bring more energy to the rink and have a little more speed.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the Red Wings seemed to gain energy in the third period, especially after Niklas Kronwall’s shot deflected off of Patrick Eaves and past Antti Niemi just 92 seconds after Couture’s marker to make it 1-1. Detroit outshot the Sharks 17-10 over the final period and in overtime, and Damien Brunner was the only one of six shooters to convert in the tiebreaker.
Ryane Clowe wasn’t too shocked at Detroit’s late push.
“Any time you play back-to-back nights and you’re closing in on the end of the game you find a bit of energy late,” said Clowe, who returned from a two-game suspension. “I always find that teams do that. They probably had a little bit more control in overtime, as well.”
That Detroit tied it on a pinballing puck off of Eaves was of no consolation to the Sharks.
Couture said: “It’s tough, but that’s hockey, momentum swings back and forth. It’s the rest of our jobs to go out there and get momentum back on our side.”
Instead, the only thing gaining momentum is the Sharks’ decent in the standings.