SAN JOSE – The Sharks seem well aware that their current homestand and next few weeks are crucial, after they’ve played so-so hockey over the first quarter of the regular season.
That didn’t generate a win on Thursday night against Florida, as the Panthers left the Bay Area with a 3-2 shootout victory.
Opening a stretch of six in a row at SAP Center on Thursday night, the Sharks showed some slight signs of improvement from a few of their poor road efforts in the last week, but it wasn’t enough to earn the victory.
“The point is great but we’re not happy with where our game is at and that’s probably the biggest thing we’ll take from tonight,” Tommy Wingels said. “We’re a better team than we showed. Guys, including myself, can bring a lot more, and need to bring a lot more if we’re going to have success.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on the first shot of the game just 24 seconds into the first period, but encouragingly the Sharks didn’t cower, and eventually tied the score on the power play in the second period. After 40 minutes, San Jose had 25 shots to just 15 by Florida, but trailed 2-1 after Nick Bjugstad blasted one in on a man advantage at 17:23 of the middle frame.
In the third, the offensive push from San Jose wasn’t there until Antti Niemi was pulled for an extra attacker, allowing Patrick Marleau’s goal to force overtime and earn the Sharks a point in the standings.
San Jose had just three shots on goal in the final frame, despite trailing 2-1 for most of it. It didn’t help that the Sharks had to kill off a pair of minor penalties before Marleau squeezed a shot inside the far post at 19:26.
“We get scored on in the first 30 seconds on the first shot coming home from that road trip, we could have responded differently. At least we responded positively,” Todd McLellan said. “I thought we found our game after that. We’re pretty good through about 36 minutes, and then they scored (Bjugstad's second goal) and I thought after that, well into the third period, we were kind of on our heels. Maybe the fear of losing crept in a little bit. Got desperate at the end, and scored.”
Marleau’s marker was officially his first even strength goal since Oct. 18 and just his second in the last 17 games. Logan Couture, who entered with just one assist in his last six games, tied the game in the second period with a power play goal.
McLellan switched up his top two lines before the game, putting Marleau on the Joe Thornton-Tomas Hertl line, and Couture between Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto.
How did that go?
“We got goals from Cooch and Patty, which was something we desperately needed,” said the coach.
“I thought when you look at Patty’s game, he was much more aggressive tonight than he has been with his speed. He drew a penalty shot. Had some chances. Was physically involved. Those are positive signs. Cooch looked more like Cooch should, with some of the shooting attempts that he normally gets. From that perspective it was positive, but we still can polish things up.”
Couture wasn’t nearly as enthused.
“We didn’t score even strength, so there ya go,” he said of the switch, factoring in that Marleau’s goal came during a six-on-five situation due to the empty net.
“We’ve got to find a way to score even strength. It’s been too few and far between for most of the season. We’ve got to figure that out.”
The Sharks will welcome some practice time over the next week, including Friday, as they prepare to host the Coyotes on Saturday. After that, they’ll have three days off before facing Calgary on Wednesday.
“We have some work ahead of us,” McLellan said. “It’s pretty obvious.”