SAN JOSE – There are games that have a little bit of everything, and then there is the Sharks-Flames match on Thursday night at SAP Center.
What’s everything? How about plenty of goals, several lead changes, stellar goaltending, leaky goaltending, power plays (including a few of the two-man variety), unfortunate injuries, a wild overtime, and eventually a shootout that gave the Flames a 6-5 victory over San Jose.
From the Sharks’ perspective, there was the sleepy first period in which they surrendered four goals, a furious comeback involving three power play goals that gave them a late lead, and some missed opportunities late in regulation and overtime that saw them fail to record both standings points that were well within grasp.
What say you, Pete DeBoer?
“That was quite a game. I don’t know where to start,” said the coach, his head likely still spinning. “I like the fact that we didn’t pack it in. It would have been easy to with the way the game in the first period went. But, we stuck with it and found a way to get a point, and probably should have had two at the end.”
Logan Couture’s performance somewhat encapsulates San Jose’s night. The 26-year-old enjoyed a breakout four-point performance in leading the Sharks offensively, but was robbed late in regulation on a full two-minute, two-man advantage when Jonas Hiller somehow denied him twice from the slot with time winding down.
In overtime, Couture’s wrist shot from the circle kissed the post long enough to appear like it popped in and out of the net. It stayed out, though, and Calgary went on to win the skills competition.
“I felt good. It’s one of those games where the puck kind of follows you around and you feel good as a player,” said Couture, who finished with one goal and three assists.
As for the late thievery by Hiller – who came in cold to replace an injured Karri Ramo with just three minutes left in regulation, and his team about to go down by two men for a full two minutes – Couture said: “It’s tough, because you can put the game away right there. That one is going to probably keep me up tonight. … [Hiller] did a great job for them. He basically saved them a couple points.”
No one in the dressing room would make any excuses about the Sharks’ poor first period, but considering they were playing at home just two days after concluding a grueling four-game road trip, it’s really no amazement they came out a little flat-footed. Add to that Calgary was playing with three fired up players that were suspended the previous game for disciplinary reasons, including their two best scorers in Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and an early Flames advantage was all too predictable.
Still, the concern level for backup goalie Alex Stalock has to be increasing. The 28-year-old allowed five goals on just 22 shots in suffering the shootout loss, and while none of his teammates were particularly energetic in the opening frame, Stalock again failed to come up with the big save. His save percentage is now a dreadful .884 in 13 games.
DeBoer, though, wasn’t overly critical of his backup goalie, who was playing for the first time since Jan. 18.
“He was in a tough spot tonight,” DeBoer said. “I expected him to be a little rusty. We were a little rusty around him in the first period. I thought in the second and third he was really good.”
Stalock said: “We knew [Calgary was] going to come out ready after what happened to them last game. They came out and got some bounces and took a big lead going into intermission. Needed to stand tall in the second and third and give our team a chance, and I tried to do that.”
What helped was that Stalock saw just 13 total shots over the second and third periods and overtime, stopping 12 of them. Meanwhile, his team outscored the Flames 4-1 over the final two frames to earn a point.
Considering Stalock’s starts are going to be few and far between from here on out – if he’s even able to keep his job – the rest of the team’s performance can still be considered encouraging, even if the end result was a loss.
“We could tell going back out [after the first period] something was going to get done, and it did,” Joe Pavelski said. “We battled all the way back. It’s good to see, there’s some character.”
Justin Braun, who admitted he was one of the players that struggled in the first period, said: “It was a good effort, and we got more guys on board as the game went on. We can take away not giving up. I think that’s a big thing going forward. We’re going to be in tough games. Kept battling, and came out with a point.”