Not only did the Sharks drop a 4-3 decision to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon, they didn’t set themselves up very well headed into a matchup against the best team in the NHL on Sunday in Chicago.
San Jose nearly erased a 4-0 deficit in Colorado, outplaying the Avalanche significantly after rookie Nathan MacKinnon gave the home team a four-goal cushion in the second period. A power play goal by Joe Pavelski, and laser-like one-timer by Patrick Marleau, and an opportunistic marker by Logan Couture gave the Sharks more than 14 minutes to find the equalizer.
[Instant Replay: Sharks' comeback falls short in 4-3 loss to Avs]
The bench was shortened, and Pavelski almost tied it on a power play breakaway with three minutes left, as the Sharks outshot the Avs 10-4 in the final frame. The fourth never came, though, so the effort didn’t result in any points in the standings, as the Sharks dropped their seventh road game in the last nine (2-7-0).
The second half of a back-to-back comes against the powerful Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday. The Sharks are 0-5-1 in their last six visits there.
“We expended or used up a lot of energy to come within one,” Todd McLellan told reporters after the game. “We’re in the midst of a tough schedule, played guys down the stretch an awful lot, and we’re still short … We play tomorrow, and we used up a lot of gas today.”
“We managed to get three, but it’s a tough task to ask to get four,” Joe Thornton told the Sharks’ website.
A key mistake and shoddy goaltending were to blame for the Sharks digging themselves an insurmountable hole. Dan Boyle turned the puck over directly in front of the net leading to Jamie McGinn’s goal that made it 2-0 at 4:53 of the second.
“It’s just an unfortunate bounce, or situation,” Boyle said. “I kind of ran into [Vlasic] and the puck got caught there. Turnover, and in our net.”
Erik Johnson’s soft dump towards the crease somehow bounced through Antti Niemi to make it 3-0 on the most glaring faux pas of the night. Niemi was replaced by Alex Stalock after the horrific goal, and Stalock was welcomed by a perfectly placed wrist shot by MacKinnon that beat him to the far side, kissing the inside of the bar before dropping.
That goal was a little more forgivable that the Johnson marker, though, as Stalock had to come in cold for the second time in three games in replacing Niemi. Regardless, neither netminder did enough in the coach’s eyes.
McLellan said: “I didn’t like the third goal. It has to be stopped. I didn’t like the fourth goal, it has to be stopped.”
McLellan was not nearly as upset as he was after a 6-3 loss in Anaheim on Dec. 29, when he publicly challenged his players to individually look in the mirror and decide what they bring to the team. The goalies weren’t nearly as much to blame for that defeat, though.
“I’ve gone after our team in the New Year to try and hold them very accountable and been very aggressive, and the goaltenders are a part of that,” McLellan said.
Needless to say, the Sharks will not be able to get away with the same kinds of errors against the Blackhawks, who look as good or maybe even better than the team that won the Stanley Cup last spring.