ANAHEIM – The Sharks gave everything they had for the first 16-plus minutes of their rematch with the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday at Honda Center, looking to sweep a home-and-home series with their imposing division rival.
It didn’t lead to any results on the scoreboard, and Kyle Palmieri’s deflection gave the Ducks a 1-0 advantage with less than four minutes to go in the opening frame.
It was just about all downhill from there.
Sure, San Jose responded twice from trailing by a goal, but a 2-2 tie midway through regulation was a 6-2 Anaheim lead by early in the third period. The Ducks won, 6-3.
It was the middle frame, in which the Sharks surrendered three goals and were hemmed in their own zone for long stretches of play that was particularly upsetting to the head coach.
What went wrong?
“You know what, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to answer what happened,” Todd McLellan said. “You can start with getting pushed off the puck, getting pushed around your net, losing races, playing soft. I can go on and on, but we can stop at that.”
Logan Couture said: “The second period, we were awful. That was one of the worst periods of our season, if not the worst.”
The Sharks were in the game until late in the second, though, after Couture knotted it at 2-2 at 12:35. San Jose couldn’t generate any momentum from that and Nick Bonino’s power play marker at 14:59 gave the Ducks the lead for good.
Joe Thornton nearly tied it, shooting at an open net with Jonas Hiller out of position after a strange carom off of the glass. Ben Lovejoy’s diving stick prevented an easy goal by the Sharks’ captain, though, keeping his team ahead.
“Desperation, just hit his stick,” Thornton said. “It could have probably changed a little bit of the outcome of the game but, what are the chances of that? He just made a great play.”
About a minute later, the Sharks surrendered a goal that likely was the greatest cause of McLellan’s postgame ire. Andrew Desjardins lazily played a puck behind the net, was stripped by Bonino, and Matt Beleskey scored a huge goal to make it 4-2 with just 90 seconds left in the period.
Ryan Getzlaf’s pinpoint wrist shot and Andrew Cogliano’s shorthanded goal on a two-on-one rush within the first two-and-a-half minutes of the third period sealed the Sharks’ fate, dropping them seven points back of the Ducks and erasing their gains from a 3-1 win over Anaheim on Sunday.
The New Year’s Eve sellout crowd didn’t have much to cheer for early. Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau, in particular, had some great opportunities to give the Sharks the lead, but Jonas Hiller stopped everything he saw. He got some help from Sami Vatanen on a Marleau rebound try that snuck through the goaltender about five minutes in, and with time winding down in the first, Marleau’s apparent power play goal came about a half a second after the horn sounded.
Dan Boyle’s power play marker tied it early in the second on that same advantage, but the Ducks reeled off eight shots in a row amid what seemed to be nonstop pressure, and Francois Beauchemin capped the stretch with a rebound goal to give Anaheim the lead back.
”We were caught staring most of the period, and it definitely cost us,” Thornton said.
“I thought we had a really good first period, and really took it to them,” Bracken Kearns said. “It just seemed like they did the same to us in that second period.”
An angry McLellan delivered a powerful postgame message to his club to ponder on its way back to the Bay Area.
“You have to look at yourself individually. I challenged to do that on the plane on the way home,” he said. “What do you do? What do you bring to the team? Moving forward, are you an energy guy, do you hit, do you block shots, or do you just take up space?
“We’ve got some guys right now that’s it’s been going on for a little while, and they need to perform a little bit better.”