NEW YORK – Playing in their first back-to-back of the season, the Sharks fell flat at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening, losing 4-0 to the Rangers.
Already ahead 1-0, the Rangers struck for two goals in the final minute of the second period – just four seconds apart – to take a commanding 3-0 lead into the dressing room.
First, a puck squirted out from the corner to the front of the net, where Marty St. Louis was able to whack it through Alex Stalock. A brief video review confirmed it was a good goal before the referee’s whistle blew at 19:16.
On the ensuing faceoff, Rick Nash softly tossed the puck towards the crease. Stalock, who uncharacteristically struggled with handling the puck all night, missed on a poke check allowing Nash to slip it though at 19:20.
For Nash, it was his seventh goal of the season, leading the league.
The Rangers put the game away on Kevin Hayes’ first career NHL goal. The center skated around the net and shoveled one towards Stalock, and flung in his own rebound at 7:18 of the third period.
San Jose (4-1-1) lost for the first time in regulation, and concludes a five-game road trip on Tuesday in Boston.
The Rangers took the lead at 13:01 of the second period, on one of several goals that the Sharks could have prevented. Carl Hagelin softly tossed the rubber towards the net, and Stalock wasn’t able to cleanly grab it. Hagelin charged in before Mirco Mueller could clear it out of the way to deposit his first of the season.
San Jose had scored the opening goal in each of its first five games, and nearly did again, but Matt Hunwick alertly swiped away the puck that was headed across the line off of the stick of Jason Demers that crept through Henrik Lundqvist early in the first period.
Lundqvist made 33 saves to record his 51st career shutout and first-ever against San Jose.
The Sharks outshot their opponent for the first time this season, 33-29, but won just 34 percent of faceoffs.
After striking for a pair of power play goals on Saturday vs. New Jersey, the Sharks took an 0-for-3 against New York.
The Rangers have yet to score a power play goal this season in 17 chances, including going 0-for-1 against the Sharks.
Stalock fell to 1-1-1 on the year, allowing four goals on 29 shots.
Stalock was playing his first career game against the Rangers, getting the call over Antti Niemi, despite Niemi’s 41-save shutout at Madison Square Garden last season.
Lundqvist, who entered the game with a 4.09 goals-against average, evened his record to 3-3-0 career vs. San Jose.
Demers got back into the lineup after a one-game absence. Scott Hannan sat for the second time, but could very well be back in against the Bruins as Mueller struggled for much of the night.
The Sharks switched up two of their defense pairs for the game, playing Demers with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, while pairing Justin Braun and Matt Irwin.
After Tuesday’s game in Boston, the Sharks return home on Thursday night to host the Columbus Blue Jackets and Saturday afternoon against the Buffalo Sabres. A three-game road trip starts in one week with the first meeting of the year against Anaheim.