SAN JOSE -– Immediately after the Sharks’ 5-2 loss to Chicago on Wednesday, former defenseman Douglas Murray was spotted outside the dressing room awaiting some of his former teammates.
No, he isn’t in town to try out after failing to catch on with the Flames in September (we checked). But after witnessing the play of the Sharks defense without the injured Justin Braun, perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Doug Wilson to give Murray a pair of skates to see what he’s got left in the tank.
The Sharks were as sloppy with the puck as they’ve been all season, particularly in the first period, and were never able to recover as their six-game winning streak was halted by the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Matt Tennyson was benched for the duration of the third period (except for the final minute after the game was out of reach) and was caught up ice on a first period Jonathan Towes goal; Mirco Mueller was a minus-2 in a little more than 10 minutes of ice time and was outmuscled in front of the net on a key Andrew Desjardins goal in the third period; while Brent Burns was his typical self in the offensive zone with 2 points and 8 shots, but his sloppy passes and decision-making in his own end –- including a tripping minor in the second period that looked more like a rugby slide-tackle -– were evident.
The Sharks finished with 24 giveaways, half of which came in the opening 20 minutes. They fell behind, 2-1, and could not recover.
“We didn’t turn as many pucks over I don’t think in the entire road trip as we did in the first period tonight,” Pete DeBoer said. “The reason for that, I don’t know. We know they’re a good team. We know they have good sticks. But, we were just sloppy and a little soft in the first and they made us pay.”
Martin Jones said: “Obviously we’d like to come out of the gates a little bit better, but they’re a good team. It seemed like there wasn’t a lot of room out there for us to make plays. We ended up turning a lot of pucks over, and against that team it gets you in trouble.”
Braun’s status for Saturday’s game against Calgary is uncertain, and DeBoer called the 28-year-old day-to-day on Wednesday morning. The Sharks better hope he returns quickly. The club is now 0-4 when missing a top four defenseman, including three games that Paul Martin was out in October, and they’ve been outscored 19-6 in the process. Defensive depth is a problem.
“In the first period Jonesy kept us in the game. We really didn’t give much support,” Martin said. “Some turnovers, and we didn’t manage the puck well. As the game wore on we started to play a little bit better and more our game. … We started too late.”
From a more broad perspective, the Sharks have still been unable to establish their game at home, where they fell to 3-6.
On the positive side, the Sharks’ power play was excellent for much of the night. They generated 15 shots on goal with a man advantage, including Burns’ first period one-timer that was the team’s first power play goal at home this season.
Still, they had a pair of third period advantages with the game still within reach that they couldn’t cash in on.
“We get one early and we get some looks throughout the game,” Joe Pavelski said. “We had some chances, no doubt.”
The killer goal was Duncan Keith’s shot from along the wall at 12:20 of the second period. The incomparable defenseman’s soft attempt fluttered past Marc-Edouard Vlasic and into the twine past Jones, who never picked up the puck, to give Chicago a 3-1 lead.
Although Patrick Marleau made it interesting with a third period marker at 11:20, it took Chicago all of 67 seconds to gain its two-goal cushion back on Desjardins’s score at 12:27.
“After you score a goal like that it’s time for another big shift to start tilting the ice the other way, but they got in there and got that one,” Marleau said of the marker by his former teammate, Desjardins.
Pavelski said: “You’re looking for that one shift that can kind of really get you back into it, and we were just a little short there.”
Although San Jose improved its play with the puck after its first period follies, one bad period is usually enough against the Blackhawks.
Marleau said: “We didn’t mange the puck as well as we did in the past, and turnovers are huge, especially a skilled team like Chicago that will come right back at you.”
“The story of the game was the first period, and how we started,” DeBoer said.