ANAHEIM – The legs were there for the Sharks in their first game back from the All-Star break. They had plenty of scoring chances, and their penalty killing was top-notch, too.
But because of a key shorthanded goal-against, their 10-game point-streak is history.
Hampus Lindholm’s score on a Sharks power play put Anaheim up for good in a 3-2 win on Tuesday at Honda Center, as the Ducks continued their resurgence. They trail the Sharks by just three points in the Pacific Division with a game in hand, and the two clubs could very well be headed on a collision course in the playoffs.
If that happens, the events that led to Lindholm’s goal will have to be cleaned up for the Sharks to have a chance.
In a 1-1 game, Brent Burns and Joe Thornton failed to connect on a simple pass in the defensive zone. Ryan Getzlaf picked up the loose puck inside the blue line, while Burns fell and slid through the slot and failed to get a stick or body on the Anaheim captain. Burns had time to reach back with his stick a second time, but Getzlaf still managed to pass the puck through Joonas Donskoi to an open Lindholm for a shot from the circle that beat Martin Jones high to the glove side at 4:19.
“That’s a tough one to give up in a game like this,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “That’s a playoff-type game, and usually you know it’s going to be a one-goal game at the end of the night and you don’t want to beat yourself. You give up a shorthanded goal, you beat yourself.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sharks open second half with loss to Ducks]
Paul Martin said: “It takes one mistake or letdown or missed assignment – that can mean the game. It’s just the way that it is with the parity in the league.”
Anaheim increased its lead to 3-1 later in the second, when Dainius Zubrus and Melker Karlsson collided in the offensive zone. That helped generate an odd-man rush the other way, and Ryan Garbutt whacked in a Chris Stewart rebound.
The Sharks’ fourth line generated the team’s first goal and had some strong shifts in the second period, too, but ended up even on the night.
“Kind of unfortunate,” said Zubrus, the goal-scorer. “I thought as a line we were buzzing, trying to create stuff. Got one goal, but…”
The game was evenly matched five-on-five with each team scoring twice, including Tommy Wingels’ goal that brought the Sharks back to within 3-2. The Sharks finished 0-for-3 on the power play, though, including a late one in regulation that became a two-man advantage after DeBoer pulled Jones with more than a minute-and-a-half to go.
The Sharks had a few chances as the clock wound down but couldn’t beat Frederik Andersen, who was a bit of a surprise starter in that counterpart John Gibson had just returned from the All-Star game and Andersen was 1-6-0 in his career against San Jose.
It proved to be the right call by Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.
“I actually thought we generated some really good looks on the power play,” DeBoer said. “Their goalie made some huge saves. Your goalie is your best penalty-killer a lot of nights.”
“The PP has got to find a way to get one,” Joe Pavelski said.
Conversely, the Sharks’ penalty-killers were also outstanding, killing off all four Ducks chances including two separate five-on-three advantages.
The PK was the one area of San Jose’s game that wasn’t so stellar during their 8-0-2 run, allowing eight goals on 27 chances (70.4 percent). Ironically enough on a night it was superior, the team finally lost in regulation.
“You can take that away as being something that has improved, and hopefully we can build off of that,” said Martin, who was particularly effective during the Ducks’ 55-second two-man advantage in the middle frame.
The road trip won’t get any easier in St. Louis, Nashville or Chicago, as the intensity is sure to keep ramping up now that the second half is officially underway. All of those upcoming opponents are battling for position in the strong Central Division.
The Sharks are prepared for battle despite Tuesday’s letdown, according to the captain.
“As games start winding down, the energy goes up. The intensity goes up. Definitely, you feel it,” Pavelski said. “We’re playing a desperate team game in here, as well.”