SAN JOSE – Technically, the San Jose Sharks deserved two points for an overtime win on Tuesday against Buffalo, as the referees missed Tommy Wingels pushing home a loose puck two minutes into the extra session.
But rather than complain about what video reviews showed to be a clear goal that would have given the Sharks a come-from-behind win, the players and their head coach were upset with what they perceived to be a sloppy game in which the team didn’t compete hard enough from the opening faceoff. The league’s worst team, Buffalo (3-13-1) won for just the third time all season, beating the Sharks in a shootout, 5-4.
It was San Jose’s third straight loss, although it has gained a point in each of the three (0-0-3). They are 10-1-4 overall.
“You can’t lose that game. We didn’t play very well,” Logan Couture said. “That was obvious if you watched the game. Sloppy, turnovers. D-zone was sloppy. We just didn’t show up ready to play.”
Todd McLellan said: “This was a fear of mine that we would be complacent, and we would turn it up when we thought we had to, and that was exactly what we got. I thought we were outworked for a large part of the game and out-detailed, certainly.”
McLellan’s “turn it up” reference is in regards to the Sharks erasing a pair of third period deficits that allowed them to at least gain a point in the standings. Trailing 3-1, Tyler Kennedy and Tomas Hertl scored goals just 70 seconds apart to make it 3-3. After Henrik Tallinder gave the Sabres the lead back, Wingels re-tied it at 4-4 with less than four minutes to go in regulation.
The Sharks carried the pace of play in overtime, outshooting the Sabres, 6-3. After the missed call came the shootout, and the Sharks have now lost three of those against just one win. Couture opened with a goal as the first shooter, but Ryan Miller stopped Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Hertl while Matt Moulson and Cody Hodgson converted for the Sabres.
Buffalo’s first three goals in regulation were the direct result of misplays by the Sharks, in McLellan’s eyes. In their last three losses, the Sharks have made some uncharacteristically casual plays with and without the puck, directly leading to opposition goals.
Why is that happening?
“Probably lack of concentration,” Wingels said. “When we execute and play fast, we’re tough to stay with. We take a lot of pride in managing our own game. They played a patient game and capitalized on some of our turnovers. Well deserved win for them, and there are some things we have to clean up in our game.”
Couture said: “We haven’t played very well the last couple games. We were just too slow with the puck, standing over it, not moving it. At the start of the year, you watch our games, and we’re boom-boom-boom out of the zone and in their zone.”
The coach found some success later by making a line change, putting Wingels with Hertl and Joe Thornton and Tyler Kennedy with Pavelski and Matt Nieto. Each of those lines scored a third period goal, but McLellan wasn’t jumping for joy that his changes worked out to force overtime.
“I should not have to be the catalyst shuffling lines, but we did it tonight and got a bit of a response,” McLellan said. “But, face it, we probably played 10 minutes the way we wanted to and the other 55 we were not very good.”
The Sharks will try and salvage at least one game on their three-game homestand when the Vancouver Canucks visit on Thursday, in a game that the team should have no trouble getting up for.
But they’ll have to play better than they have recently, and certainly improve on Tuesday’s uneven effort against the league’s last place team.
“We weren’t anywhere near what we need to be to play against anybody in the league,” McLellan said.