SAN JOSE – It was a bad matchup for the Sharks’ banged up blue line.
The speedy and tenacious Calgary Flames claimed a 4-1 win in San Jose on Monday night, while the Sharks didn’t have enough players fill the gaping void left by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who, along with Justin Braun, remains on the shelf due to injury.
The Flames won four of five against the Sharks in the season series, including all three games in San Jose. They jumped ahead of them in the Pacific Division standings in what was arguably the most important game of the season so far for both clubs.
“I just don’t think we stepped it up,” said Scott Hannan. “I thought the game was pretty even at times, but we just didn’t come in and take over the game. That’s on the guys in the room. We’ve got to be better than that, especially in an important game like that. We’ve got to step it up.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks lose to Flames, can't overcome sloppy play]
The Flames, on the other hand, can boast one of the best defense groups in the league. The gap in blue line talent was significant, as the Sharks were forced to ice a defense core that featured two guys that have been frequent healthy scratches this year in Hannan and Matt Irwin, two rookies in Mirco Mueller and Matt Tennyson, and another that should arguably still be a forward in Brent Burns.
Maybe the game result shouldn’t have been all that surprising, but regardless, the Sharks were plainly not pleased with the effort after what was their fourth loss in the last five games.
After all, the forwards weren’t much better than the defensemen, including a power play that went 0-for-3.
“Bottom line is it’s on everybody,” Joe Pavelski said. “We weren’t good enough. Not one guy, not 20. We’ve got to find it.”
Todd McLellan said: “We weren’t winning with one goal tonight, so we can look at it from a defensive perspective and be disappointed in those mistakes, but we also have to look at it from an intensity perspective offensively, and what did we get out of it? … We have some individuals that want to go to the right areas and score, and they’re scoring a lot. Others, whether it’s a sense of timing or not being involved, they’re not there at the right time and they’re not scoring.”
The Sharks’ mistakes included a poor sort-out on Calgary’s first goal, in which Mason Raymond zipped towards the slot untouched before scoring in the first period. The Flames made it 2-0 in the second when Mueller couldn’t prevent Lance Bouma from getting position in front to whack in a Mark Giordano rebound.
Their third goal was the backbreaker, though. A mindless roughing penalty by Burns put the Flames on the power play, and Hannan and Andrew Desjardins each had a chance to clear the zone but couldn’t. Johnny Gaudreau fed Jiri Hudler for the power play marker at 5:20, giving Calgary a 3-1 edge.
Hannan said: “We failed to get the puck out. When that happens, we kind of just got caught running around.”
“Obviously the penalty kill, the non-clear, sealed it for them,” McLellan said.
Late in the second, Burns gave the Sharks life when he fluttered in a slap shot at 19:59 to make it 2-1. The Sharks couldn’t build off of it, though, and in fact it was the Flames that came out with a strong first shift early in the final frame.
That could be an indication that they simply wanted it more.
Fortunately for the Sharks, they won’t see the Flames again unless they meet in the postseason. On Monday, though, only one team looked like it was playoff-caliber.
“This was a big game. We needed to take our game to the next level, and we were unfortunate tonight,” Brenden Dillon said.