BOSTON – What a way to suffer a first regulation defeat.
Less than a second from getting at least one point in the standings for their 10th straight game to open the season, David Krejci found a soft spot in the slot and tipped in an Adam McQuaid low floater from the point. Antti Niemi, who faced just 17 shots all night but several of which were difficult, saw the puck sneak past him with just eight-tenths of a second left, to drop the Sharks to 8-1-1.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bruins hand Sharks first regulation loss of season]
The Sharks played well enough to win, outshooting the Bruins 39-17. Head coach Todd McLellan was still annoyed with the final play, though, as the Sharks dropped to 1-1-0 on their five-game road swing. Krejci crept between Joe Thornton and Justin Braun just before getting his stick on the McQuaid puck.
“We missed some coverage down below,” McLellan said.
“It was a tough break on the very end there with point-eight seconds left,” Thornton said. “It’s one of those things I kind of got caught half way, but we played a good game tonight.”
Niemi thought he was there.
“There was a guy in front, so I thought just to watch the puck and I thought I had it, but he tipped it kind of back the same way where I was coming from,” Niemi said.
Tuukka Rask, who, with Niemi, is challenging for the starting role for Team Finland in the upcoming Olympics, was superb. He allowed only a rebound goal to Patrick Marleau early in the third period, to secure his sixth win in eight games and help push the defending Eastern Conference champions to a 7-2-0 record.
His best saves came on Tomas Hertl’s shot from close range in the first period, and Jason Demers’ attempt from the circle with about 17 minutes left in the third, in which he had to quickly move from his right to his left. There were many others, though, and Rask was aided by a tight checking defense that was buttoned up around the goal crease.
“We had a lot of really good looks. Goaltender played well,” McLellan said. “We weren’t on the outside against a big, physical team. I thought we generated a lot of opportunities. Just [needed] that polish around the net.”
Marleau said: “We had no shortage of chances, and their goalie did a great job of keeping them in the game.”
The Sharks played their second straight game without an injured Brent Burns, and lost Tommy Wingels in the first period after a hard check from Zdeno Chara along the end boards. That resulted in McLellan mixing and matching his forward lines for much of the night, and the only trio that stayed together from start to finish was Marleau, Logan Couture and Tyler Kennedy.
If McLellan had a problem with the Chara hit, he didn’t express it in his postgame presser, although he said earlier he “didn’t have a good angle, so I can’t comment.”
“You know what, every time somebody is hit now we quickly run to the video and we analyze – was it legal, was it illegal? It’s a hard game, and it’s played by hard players that have to get involved physically night in and night out,” said the head coach. “They have to take some lumps, too. We have to give some lumps, we have to take some lumps. If it’s dirty, I think it should be severely dealt with. If it’s hard hockey, than so be it.”
San Jose has managed just one goal in its last two games, including Monday’s 1-0 shootout win in Detroit. That’s after the Sharks scored at least three goals – and 39 total – in their first eight games.
“I think by the chances we did generate tonight we can still score more goals, but it just didn’t work out tonight,” Marleau said.
Even though it was their first regulation loss, the ending stings.
McLellan said: “To get to that point, it’s unacceptable that we can’t at least close that out. So, we’re not going to accept the loss.”