SAN JOSE CA - NOVEMBER 09: Lubomir Visnovsky #17 of the Anaheim Ducks is surrounded by teammates after he scored the winning goal in overtime of their game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on November 9 2010 in San Jose California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Despite outshooting Anaheim 22-6 in the third period, the Sharks were unable to find a way to beat Jonas Hiller more than twice on the night. Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky scored with thirty three seconds left in overtime, sending the HP Pavilion crowd home without a win for the fourth time this season.
Jason Blake and Corey Perry added tallies for the Ducks, while Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi both scored for the Sharks.
In what has started to become a regularity, San Jose looked brilliant at times and unimpressive in others, a distinct blend of inconsistency that has made its mark on the 2010-2011 season.
Something that hasn't been lost on Todd McLellan.
"The players made a decision to cut down on the turnovers, it just happened to be about forty five minutes too late," McLellan said following the game. "We didn't come through the neutral zone with any kind of tempo."
The Sharks had seventeen giveaways in the tilt.
The story of the game was something Sharks fans have become accustomed to this year-- as mentioned in Fear The Fin's preview of the game, the team has displayed a knack for coming out flat some periods before turning it on for others. That was apparent again tonight, as a slow and turnover-filled first forty minutes of the game led to a third period where San Jose threw everything they had at Jonas Hiller. Outshooting the Ducks 22-6 in the final frame, San Jose sent a barrage of pucks to the net.
"Hiller was outstanding. The best player on the ice," Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle said after the game. "But that's what it takes to win on the road in these tough buildings."
The third period was a good example of what the Sharks robust offensive cast is capable of-- working the puck along the boards, getting shots to the net, crashing the crease, and threading passes to their high profile shooters in prime scoring areas. When the team is on they're as good as any in the League, but when they're off, neutral zone giveaways and mediocre zone entries disrupt any offensive flow. San Jose was unable to get their legs under them until the final period, a factor that directly reflected on the scoreboard.
"We always want to play fast, and we knew they (Anaheim) were going to be hungry after the last game we played here," Devin Setoguchi said. "We knew what to expect from them, they were going to come out and skate, and we needed to match their work ethic early on."
Torrey Mitchell opened the scoring for the Sharks early in the first, taking a pass from Ryane Clowe from behind the net and driving the puck through an unsuspecting Hiller. That goal put the Sharks up 1-0, and as Frazer McLaren and George Parros dropped the gloves on the ensuing faceoff, one had to think the rest of the game would be a chippy affair filled with lots of physicality.
That wasn't the case however, as the game's ebb and flow was filled with timid play on both sides. The Sharks got into shooting lanes extremely well in the first period, limiting the Ducks to two shots, but Anaheim would tally their first marker after a Logan Couture goal was disallowed due to a Dany Heatley high stick. Jason Blake tipped a shot in front past Antero Niittymaki, and with two Ducks forwards restricting his view, it was apparent that San Jose could have done a better job of clearing the front of the net.
The Sharks would come alive at the end of the first, stringing three strong shifts together, and eventually drew a Saku Koivu penalty to put them on the power play. They couldn't capitalize however, struggling with the man advantage for the majority of the night.
"Not very good at all," Todd McLellan said in the post-game scrum in response to a question asked about the power play. "The first two periods our power play matched the five on five play, and then we got into the third, there was some desperation and we got much better."
Midway through the second period the Ducks capitalized on a Sharks defensive zone turnover to put the Sharks down 2-1. Logan Couture was unable to clear the puck out of the zone, and after Bobby Ryan pounced on it and put a shot to the net, the rebound kicked out to Corey Perry where he roofed a backhand shot over the outreached pads of Antero Niittymaki.
Devin Setoguchi would even the score in the third, in the midst of the Sharks barrage of Hiller. The Taber, Alberta native sent a shot at the net that was stopped by Hiller, but Setoguchi followed his own rebound and whipped a wrister short side to break his ten game scoring drought. With the Sharks struggling for offense on a game by game basis this year, getting Setoguchi going could do a lot to ease the burden on San Jose's top line.
A blatant non-call in overtime would eventually open the gates for Anaheim's game winner. As Setoguchi attempted to reach a pass from a teammate he was knocked down in the neutral zone before touching the puck. As the referees hand went up the HP Pavilion crowd exploded with excitement, believing that the Sharks would be headed to the power play due to an interference call.
That was not the case however, as the linesman was indicating that icing would be called on the play. Anaheim would go on to score the game winner off the ensuing faceoff.
"I can't touch the puck if I'm laying on my back. In any call, if you step up and hit the guy then there is no icing," Setoguchi said. "Tough call. We're not refs, we're not linesemen, but at the same time I've got to be able to touch the puck or make a play."
Thornton's return from suspension against the New York Islanders on Thursday will be a welcome addition to the team, but the Sharks struggles in the offensive department this season is perplexing to say the least. Although they have scored five goals or more in five games this season, proving beyond a doubt that the potential to light the lamp is there, an inconsistent offensive attack has been a head scratcher for most following the team. The defense was supposed to be the main issue, but for all intents and purposes, it hasn't been the problem most had predicted.
With the Sharks now at 6-5-2, and the season getting to the stage where a rocky early start is becoming more of a trend than a statistical anomaly, improving in all facets of the game is essential. Giveaways due to porous passing and mediocre skating in the neutral zone was an issue for the team when they struggled last season, and that has reared its head again this year.
Coupled with the lack of bodies at the front of the net, and a defensive corps that hasn't been putting points on the board outside of Dan Boyle, there is a definite cause for concern a third of the way into this six game homestand.
"We played like turtles in the first and second periods, very slow. We got much better in the last 15 minutes," McLellan said following the game. "It just came 45 minutes too late."
A slow start to the game, and a stellar final effort that came a little too late.
It's much too early to call tonight's game a microcosm of San Jose's 2010-2011 season, but one has to think that tonight's issues could play a part in the standings at the end of the year. Stringing together three wins is a feat that the Sharks have yet to accomplish.
Inconsistency has become the buzz word right now. Thursday's game against the Islanders is another opportunity for the Sharks to shake that, and begin to come alive.