COLUMBUS – The Sharks entered Monday night’s game in Columbus with a four-game losing streak, but each one of losses could have been victories with a break or two.
A pair of shootout defeats to Nashville and Phoenix. A terribly unlucky bounce in the third period, giving Anaheim the tying goal. An abysmal match penalty call instead of a four-minute power play against Chicago, leading to Patrick Kane's game-winner.
There were no such rationalizations after a 6-2 defeat in Columbus, though, to the team that entered with the fewest points in the NHL. The Sharks are 0-3-2 in their last five games, losing in ugly fashion in the first of a six-game road stretch at Nationwide Arena.
“This one sucks. The others, we were involved in the game,” Todd McLellan said. “We had every opportunity to win those other games. We got good goaltending, our D moved the puck, our forwards were involved. None of that happened here tonight. Basically, [it was] the first time this season we’ve laid an egg as bad as we have.”
[VIDEO: McLellan: 'This one sucks']
What went wrong?
“Outworked. How about that? It’s a pretty simple league, whoever works the hardest, wins. Outworked, out-executed, out-detailed, out-goaltended. Out-a lot of things.”
Dan Boyle, who was a game-worst -3, said: “This one, obviously, was not close at all. Just a mixture of some bad bounces, mistakes, bad goals…just a combination of different things tonight.”
Boyle was in the middle of Brandon Dubinsky’s marker just 43 seconds into the game, when he tried to clear a puck from the front of the net but it instead went off of Nick Foligno's skate to Dubinsky, who slid it past Thomas Greiss.
“I’m just trying to bat it out. It’s just an unfortunate bounce, and it goes off a skate and right to the other guy,” Boyle said.
The Sharks had one decent stretch of hockey in the middle of the first period, but were generally sluggish and mistake prone throughout the game, and fell behind 3-0 in the second. Patrick Marleau offered a ray of hope with his 10th goal with 5:31 left in the period to make it 3-1, but the Blue Jackets exploded for three goals within the first six minutes of the third period to regain complete control.
The three third period goals were especially hideous. Nikita Nikitin got open after some sustained pressure to start the period to make it 4-1. Vinny Prospal took advantage of Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s misplay and dropped stick with the Sharks shorthanded to make it 4-1, and Mark Letestu’s harmless looking shot from the high slot beat Greiss to the top corner after appearing to deflect off of Vlasic’s stick. It’s still one Greiss should have stopped from that far out, though.
“I just didn’t feel good. I didn’t see the puck very well,” said Greiss, who fell to 1-2-0 and saw his goals-against average increase to 2.68 from 1.01. “Just didn’t play well.”
“I’m disappointed in a lot of individuals,” McLellan said. “We’ve got guys pivoting and losing sticks on a penalty kill, missing faceoff coverage assignments. We’ll have to have a pretty frank discussion tomorrow morning about what we do and what we don’t do, again.”
In theory, it should have been the Blue Jackets that were lacking energy, and the Sharks that had their legs. Columbus was playing its third game in five nights, and second of a back-to-back, while the Sharks had played just once in the last six days.
Instead, the Blue Jackets had the advantage in almost every important category on the stat sheet. They won the faceoff battle, 31-24; outshot the Sharks 36-27; and had a remarkable 14 players record at least one point.
“No explanation for it. We should be fresh,” McLellan said. “We have no excuses about being tired. We looked lethargic, slow. Execution, we didn’t put two passes together. There’s no excuses from here. We just weren’t any good.”
Boyle said: “They’re a very hardworking, forechecking team. They put the puck in behind us, came at us hard, and we weren’t as clean as we would have liked getting out of our zone. And, we didn’t have any sustained pressure. I don’t know that there’s a stat for puck possession, but we’ve got to do a better job there.”
The Sharks won’t have much time to dissect what went wrong. They will face Nashville on Tuesday night, which they lost to in a shootout at HP Pavilion on Feb. 2, 2-1. The Sharks have now gone seven straight games without a regulation win (2-3-2).
“This one’s tough,” Joe Thornton said. “You always want to get the first one on back-to-back nights, and you always want to get the first one on a road trip. We’ve got to regroup and play well tomorrow.”
Pavelski, who scored just the Sharks’ second power play goal in the last seven games, thought the Sharks were prepared before puck drop to face a team that had just two wins in its last 10 games, and was on a three-game losing streak of its own (0-2-1).
“I don’t think anyone in here was ready to take them lightly. It didn’t happen for us tonight. We can’t have that,” Pavelski said.
“You never want to lose like that, and we’ve done a good job so far not allowing something like that to happen. Tomorrow will be a big day for us to try and rebound and play a better game.”