SAN JOSE -– It was one of their most dominant performances of the season in terms of possessing the puck and controlling play.
But, the Sharks lost anyway.
Despite playing in Vancouver’s end for much of the game, the Sharks were unable to get past the Canucks at SAP Center on Thursday night, losing 3-2.
The Sharks generated 80 shot attempts to just 23 by Vancouver, but some timely saves by Ryan Miller keyed the Vancouver victory. The Canucks (10-4-0) have won six of their last seven, while Miller picked up his NHL-leading 10th win.
It looked like Joe Thornton had tied the game by putting in a loose puck as time expired, but it crossed the line a split second too late.
The Sharks (7-5-2) fell to 2-3-0 at home, and don’t return to the Bay Area until Nov. 20 vs. Florida.
The Canucks took their first lead with a pair of goals in the second half of the middle frame, despite being on their heels for much of the night.
Tyler Kennedy, making his season debut, went off for high-sticking, leading to Alex Edler powering a slap shot from the point off of Justin Braun and past Antti Niemi at 12:45 of the middle frame. The defenseman’s third goal tied the game at 2-2.
An unfortunate set of circumstances for San Jose resulted in Nick Bonino’s game-winning marker at 17:20. In the Sharks’ offensive zone, Tomas Hertl lined up a one-timer from the top of the circle but his stick broke on the attempt. Vancouver rushed the other way, and Alex Burrows laid it for Bonino to skate around a stick-less Hertl and deposit his team-leading seventh goal.
The Sharks held a 22-12 advantage in shots after two periods, and a 49-16 advantage in shot attempts, reflecting their significant territorial edge.
San Jose took the lead on James Sheppard’s second goal in as many games midway through the first period. Sheppard, skating as the third line center, got in front of the net and angled his skate to direct a Hertl pass over the line. Kennedy, who earned the secondary assist, hustled to corral a loose puck to start the play.
Late in the frame, though, Scott Hannan’s missed shot led to a two-on-one the other way, after the puck bounced over Thornton’s stick along the wall. Radim Vrbata squeezed it through Niemi with just 7.7 seconds left in the first, evening the score at 1-1.
The Sharks gained a 2-1 lead in the second on a power play goal, when Couture deftly went between-the-legs to tip in a Pavelski pass at 10:43. Couture leads the Sharks with seven goals, including three in his last four games.
The Sharks and Canucks will meet four more times this season, with the next match on Dec. 30 at SAP Center. San Jose fell to 6-2-0 against Vancouver in the last eight meetings.
The Sharks were 1-for-4 on the power play, and are 5-for-15 in their last five games. They generated a few chances with Jannik Hansen off for interference at 13:08 of the third, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
Vancouver cashed in on its only opportunity with Edler’s goal. The Sharks had killed off 16 of their previous 17 power play chances against in the last five games.
Niemi was making his fifth straight start, but allowed three goals on 19 shots to suffer the defeat. He had stopped 126 of 133 shots in his previous four games.
Miller made 34 saves, improving to 5-1-1 career at SAP Center.
Sharks center Chris Tierney was reassigned to Worcester earlier in the day, paving the way for Kennedy’s return.
Burrows returned after a three-game suspension, while Zack Kassian was a late scratch due to injury.
Vrbata left the game in the second period, but eventually returned.
The Sharks begin a seven-game road trip in Dallas on Saturday, followed by Chicago on Sunday. They continue next week to Florida, Tampa Bay, Columbus, Carolina and Buffalo. It is one of two seven-game trips on their schedule, with the other coming in late March.
By the time the trip is over, San Jose will have played 16 of its first 21 games on the road, the highest percentage of road games through the first quarter of the season in franchise history.