SAN JOSE –- Overcoming one mental mistake that leads to a goal-against is hard enough in today’s NHL. When it’s two, it’s nearly impossible.
The Sharks, though, almost did find a way to beat Ottawa on Monday at SAP Center, outshooting the Senators 35-17 and dominating for long stretches. But misplays by goalie Alex Stalock early and Brent Burns late allowed the Sens to push the game into a shootout where they eventually claimed the extra point, 4-3.
Burns' decision to be a little too aggressive on a late Sharks power play while they were ahead 3-2 was the key blunder.
After the Sharks erased a 2-1 third period deficit on goals by Logan Couture and a fancy score by Matt Nieto on a brilliant setup by Joonas Donskoi, they looked well on their way to their sixth-straight win when Erik Karlsson went off after holding Tomas Hertl’s stick at 12:45.
Burns, though, was caught out of position while trying to keep a puck in at the offensive blue line. Zack Smith chipped it the other way and raced ahead alone, and a chasing Burns was forced to swing his stick at Smith from behind, taking out the legs of the Ottawa forward.
A penalty shot was awarded, and Smith converted at 14:29 on a controversial play in which he slammed on the brakes and appeared to pull the puck backwards before whipping it past Stalock.
“You never want to give up a shortie,” Couture said. “You never want to cheat for offense on a power play like that. Obviously, it cost us.”
Coach Pete DeBoer said: “We probably should have had some other people working back above that, too. It was a group thing. I think we had plenty of opportunities to win that game at different points.”
No one in the Sharks dressing room was overly vocal about Smith’s penalty shot goal. According to the NHL, “video review confirmed the referee's call on the ice that the puck was kept in motion towards the San Jose goal line when Ottawa's Zack Smith scored on a penalty shot.”
That’s highly debatable, but DeBoer said: “I’m not an expert in that. It gets reviewed in Toronto. You’ve got to leave it in their hands.”
Stalock said he didn’t know the specifics of the rule, but added: “He beat me either way, I guess. That’s the way I look at it, and he was credited with a goal.”
The Sharks goalie was making his second start in a week, looking to build off of last Tuesday’s win in Winnipeg, his best game to date this season. Instead, an early poor decision put San Jose in a 1-0 hole.
Max McCormick had a half-step on Dylan DeMelo, and Stalock came charging ahead to try and poke it away from the fourth-line forward in the circle. He didn’t get there in time, and McCormick converted into an empty net at 11:12 of the first period, opening the scoring.
“They made a long stretch play and I thought he maybe had a step on our D-man, and [I tried] to eliminate another break-in,” Stalock said. “It was a race to the puck and he beat me to it.”
In overtime, the Senators killed off a Bobby Ryan minor for tripping at 3:08, and escaped San Jose with two points thanks to Mika Zibanejad’s shootout conversion. He was the only player to score in five attempts, including failed tries by San Jose's Joe Pavelski, Donskoi and Couture.
The Sharks hit a pair of posts in the extra session, but it wasn’t to be despite the ice being tilted in their favor for much of the night.
“I can’t fault our effort,” DeBoer said. “I thought we showed up ready to play, trying to get two points. Did a lot of things right. I think nine times out of 10 you usually win that game when you play that game. It’s one of those nights we didn’t.”
Pavelski said: “We felt we probably deserved a little better.”