Of course, since the Sharks said they needed to get off to a fast start, they lost their third straight game to fall to 1-3-0 on the year. Bad starts, poor decisions and missed opportunities have been the culprit so far, but Dan Ellis and Teemu Selanne didn't help tonight, either. Ellis made 41 saves and Selanne had a pair of early goals to lead the Ducks to their second win in two tries against San Jose this year. It was San Jose's third straight loss.
"When you look at the three games we played in the last four nights," said McLellan "mistakes, some real dumb mistakes, led to the other team's goals. And then at the other end, nothing is going in. Which end should we fix? In my opinion it's the dumb mistakes."
What mistakes? Well, The defense did Antti Niemi no favors in his season debut, and notorious Shark-killer Teemu Selanne put two goals past his fellow countryman quickly as a result.
The first goal came after a series of unfortunate circumstances. In theory, the Ducks should have seen a power play expire, but Andrew Desjardins, with plenty of time and space to operate, sent a puck over the glass for a delay of game. The Sharks shorthanded unit had just killed two penalties, including a 1:05 five-on-three situation. Desjardins' play put them back at the disadvantage.
In the first few seconds of the penalty, Douglas Murray took a hard shot off the skate which left him immobilized and without a stick. Michael Handzus made the right play and gave his stick to his defenseman, but the play came back over to Handzus' side on a nice feed from Saku Koivu. Niemi made some stellar cross-crease saves during the period, but this shot from Selanne was too much to handle and put the Ducks up 1-0.
This goal seemed to affect the Sharks, who continued to play a disjointed period of hockey. Selanne got two unmolested cracks at the puck and put his second score home. Demers and White played Koivu too far into the corner, resulting in Selanne being wide-open. It's something the two will have to look at on tape and correct as the season wears on.
San Jose got it together in the second period, and eventually would outshoot the Ducks 17-7 in the frame. The Sharks lone goal in the period, however, came from an Anaheim skate and not a San Jose stick.
After a few missed opportunities in the slot, Marc-Edouard Vlasic popped one off the pads of Ellis. The rebound trickled to a wide open Patrick Marleau, who whiffed on the shot, typical of his less than stellar performance. The puck, however, bounced off Bobby Ryan's skate and went five-hole on Ellis, giving Vlasic his first goal of the year.
The third period, sadly, started much like the first. Corey Perry absolutely sniped Niemi on an odd man rush, setting up in the circle and beating Niemi high to the glove. That goal gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead and a stranglehold on the game.
Some costly penalties by Anaheim started to add up in the third, and back to back calls gave San Jose two power plays in a row. On the second, Maxime Mancenauer took a delay of game on the heels of Luca Sbisa's call for the same infraction. On the ensuing five-on-three, Brent Burns pumped a nasty one-timer past Ellis for his second goal in two games, his second as a Shark.
The rest of the game was hotly contested, the Sharks ended up putting a daunting 16 shots on net during the period for a game total of 43. That's nothing new for San Jose, who has outshot every opponent that they have faced this season. Tonight, the home team almost doubled up the Ducks, usually team with the higher shooting volume wins that game.
"We played well, we got forty-plus shots," said captain Joe Thornton. "We just have to bear down when the chances are there because we're getting good quality chances but just not scoring. Hopefully it gets out of the way now, and we start scoring in bunches because we definitely have the firepower to do it. It's just not going in for whatever reason, we just have to keep working and getting forty-plus shots and we'll get four or five goals a game."
Just two goals tonight, as Ellis stole the show and sent the Sharks into a bit of a spiral. Before fans go losing their minds, they should remember that the Sharks recovered from a similar stretch last year. Four games does not a season make, and the shots will go in eventually. They just haven't yet.
Other take aways from the game? I think the Tommy Wingels experiment may be over. He's looked lost in the last few games he's played, and with Havlat coming back, it's likely Wingels that gets the axe. It's a pretty rapid fall for a guy who earned such heavy praise in the preseason. Now, instead of looking NHL ready, he looks desperate for AHL experience. That's an argument in and of itself to remember how important sample size is.
Jamie McGinn, on the other hand, had one of his best games as a Shark tonight. The banging of the McGinn drum that Fear the Fin has become known for might be sounding a tad stale, but it's the truth tonight. This is the game we expect from him, and if he puts out this effort on a game-by-game basis, he'll be more the player we make him out to be and less a sarcastic joke around these parts.
Lastly, it's important to note that coach McLellan called out some of his players tonight. He's done this before, and this time it rings pretty true.
"Quite frankly," stated the coach, "we're still missing some key people, and I'm not talking about people out with injuries or anything like that. They're dressed, they're people that we count on. And it's probably a pretty good time for them to take stock of their own game. Some of them were very very important players for us last year so they have to find it pretty quick."
Joe Thornton was more succinct.
"Bottom line, we just have to win games."