In probably their worst performance of the season, the San Jose Sharks were outclassed by the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Tuesday night, 4-1.
San Jose was never in the game, not able to recover from a poor first period in which some simple mental errors cost them against one of the poorer teams in the NHL.
The Sharks have lost three of their last four games, and are 1-2 on a seven-game road trip. Florida (5-4-4) ended a three game losing skid.
For the second straight game, the Sharks looked flat, confused and sloppy in the opening 20 minutes.
Jimmy Hayes was left alone the offensive zone and fired in a wrister at 10:56 to put the Panthers ahead.
Florida increased its lead to 2-0 when Patrick Marleau couldn’t get a body on Scottie Upshall in the corner, and Upshall slickly fed Aleksander Barkov for an easy slam-dunk at 12:18. Goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Justin Braun were both caught looking the other way as Barkov deposited his second goal.
The Panthers, who scored more than two goals just twice through their first 12 games, increased made it 3-0 as San Jose couldn’t reverse the momentum to start the second period. Aaron Ekblad’s point shot after a Jason Demers turnover hit Matt Irwin in the slot, and Derek Mackenzie charged in to smack in the loose puck at 6:37 of the middle frame.
The Sharks hit a pair of goal posts before the intermission, as Matt Irwin found iron with a soft wrist shot with 3:12 to go, and Brent Burns gunning one off of the bar in the closing seconds.
Florida got some unnecessary insurance in the third, making it 4-0 after Shawn Thornton got around Marc-Edouard Vlasic and centered to Tomas Fleischmann, who had position in front of the net on Adam Burish at 3:01.
Joe Thornton put the Sharks on the board much too late, poking in a puck that deflected behind Roberto Luongo at 10:35 for his fifth goal.
Florida outshot the Sharks for the game, 30-22. Ten different Panthers registered one point in the game, while defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Willie Mitchell each posted a +3 rating.
Special teams wasn’t a factor, as both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play in four minutes.
The Sharks had scored one power play goal in each of the last five games (5-for-12). They’ve killed off 15 of their last 17 power plays against in the last seven games.
Niemi started the game despite Alex Stalock coming off of the ice first in the morning skate. He lost his third straight start with 26 saves, and is just 1-3-0 in his career against the Panthers.
Luongo has still never shut out the Sharks in his career, but improved to 12-12-4 against San Jose, stopping 21 shots.
The Sharks switched up some of their lines and defense pairs for the start of the game. Vlasic began the night with Burns on his right, while Braun was paired with rookie Mirco Mueller.
Tomas Hertl assumed his place on the Thornton line with Joe Pavelski, in place of Matt Nieto, who was bumped to the third line with James Sheppard and Tyler Kennedy.
Everything was jumbled by the third period, as Todd McLellan searched in vain for something to spark his comatose club.
After squandering an opportunity against one of the worst teams in hockey, the Sharks will now go up against one of the best on Thursday when they visit Tampa Bay. Their road trip closes out with three games in four nights in Columbus on Friday, Carolina on Saturday and Buffalo next Tuesday.
The Sharks and Panthers meet again on Thursday, Nov. 20 in what is San Jose’s next home game.