SAN JOSE -– None of the Sharks that spoke publicly, nor their head coach, seemed all that enraged that the Capitals scored a key third period goal on a linesman’s error in what ended up as a 5-4 overtime win for Washington.
Mirco Mueller, attempting to hinder Jay Beagle’s advance towards the net, ran squarely into official Lonnie Cameron before Beagle deposited the puck past Antti Niemi at 11:17 of the final frame, knotting the score at 3-3. The Caps took the lead about two minutes later.
“You’re mad at the first second, but on the other side, everyone makes mistakes in the game of hockey,” Mueller said. “[Stuff] happens.”
Todd McLellan said: “We know that the linesman isn’t intentionally going to step in. … We can’t even sit there and yell and scream at him, he made a mistake and got in the way.”
What was more disconcerting to McLellan was a perceived trip of Scott Hannan at center ice by Joel Ward, who eventually charged into the blue paint and smacked in the rebound of a Mike Green backhand in overtime, sending the Sharks to their fifth loss in the last six games (1-3-2).
The result was disappointing in that the Sharks played hard enough to win, despite remaining without their two top defensive defensemen in Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.
“They didn’t think it was a penalty. It’s fair to say that we obviously disagree with them, but they didn’t feel it was a penalty and they didn’t call it,” McLellan said.
“It’s really disappointing that we didn’t get the win after that effort.”
All of the Sharks’ high profile players were noticeably better than the first two games of the homestand, regulation losses to Carolina and Calgary. Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau all had two-point nights, while Joe Pavelski set up Thornton for a late third period goal that gave the Sharks an important point in the standings.
The game was a physical affair, too, as the clubs combined for 77 hits, 45 from San Jose.
Couture, though, wasn’t impressed with the team’s physicality when it came to defending in front of its own net.
“Soft around our net again,” said Couture, who scored his 20th goal in the second period. “It seems like every game the other team is scoring some pretty easy goals. We’re not making it tough. It’s on the defense, it’s on the forward playing low to be harder around our net.”
“Physical is a lot different than just finishing your checks.”
Washington’s first and final goals stand out in that regard. Jay Beagle was allowed to breeze towards the crease between Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney in opening the scoring, while Ward got position on Burns for the game-winner.
“When we get to that situation, we’re not just talking about defensemen. We’re talking about the low forward as well,” McLellan said, agreeing with Couture.
“The first goal was a prime example of it. The winning goal was another example. So, there’s two there tonight where we have to clean up, but we’re going to continue to work on it and try to get better there.”
The most encouraging aspect of the game was that the Sharks did up their battle-level after two lackluster efforts. That’s become common among the better teams in the league, and the Capitals are almost certainly playoff-bound, but it doesn’t happen often enough against the lesser clubs.
The Sharks face 27th-ranked Arizona on Friday in Glendale.
“What’s important now is that we don’t slip back,” McLellan said. “The wins will eventually come if we get that.”
Pavelski said: “I think guys have understood now. It’s crunch time.”