SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 26: Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks skates with control of the puck keeping it away from Andrew Cogliano #7 of the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on December 26, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Coming into tonight, the Sharks were in the midst of a four game winning streak. How had they accomplished that, in their opinion?
Well, old habits die hard it appears, and the trend of bad starts popped up again the day after Christmas. Just 2:27 into the first period, Luca Sbisa ripped a shot from the point and beat Antti Niemi, who looked as if he wasn't expecting the shot to come. Assisting on the goal was the ever-mustachioed George Parros and former Sharks' prospect Nick Bonino, who was traded to the Ducks in exchange for Kent Huskins and Travis Moen.
"It was hard to see the puck from the line I had, especially because it was knuckling," said Niemi, who obviously wished he had another chance at the save.
The rest of the period saw the teams trade chances, with the Sharks getting the majority of the opportunities. However, Bruce Boudreau's influence could be seen on the Duck's offense, as the team completed some lengthy passing plays and entered the zone with speed multiple times during the period. One such opportunity saw Colin White play himself out of position in the neutral zone, leaving Justin Braun alone in a two-on-one situation. Fortunately for San Jose, Matt Beleskey flubbed a sure goal as Braun held his position and prevented the Duck forward from getting his stick down.
After that chance, San Jose seemed dead-set on evening the score before the period expired, and would get the tying marker after some dominating time in the Anaheim zone. In a scramble in front of the net, Joe Pavelski pirouetted and used that momentum to slide the puck past Jonas Hiller.
Scoring aside, the first period wasn't the best hockey witnessed in HP lately. However, the start of the second period saw the Sharks shake the ill-affects that a two-day, holiday layoff tends to have on a team. Anaheim was stuck in their own end for nearly three minutes. Once Boudreau took a timeout, though, the tides changed, and a bad puck play from Joe Thornton at the blue line gave Bobby Ryan a clear break away which he cashed in for the 2-1 lead.
"There were a couple of bad turnovers. Mine in the second was pretty bad, " admitted Thornton. "Those kinds of things are going to cost you games"
Foretelling aside, Anaheim's quick-strike goals gave the lead, but it was clear who was controlling the play at that point... and San Jose would take that strong play and turn it into tangible results shortly after the Ryan goal.
Jamie McGinn passed the puck up to the point, and some D to D work eventually found McGinn again walking into the slot. With little room to shoot, McGinn roofed one over Hiller to the the score at two-apiece. It was a continuation of McGinn's breakout season, whose eight goals on the year are just two less than his career high. McGinn also added eight hits on the night, and played a good amount of time on the first line in place of Benn Ferriero in the third.
The Ducks were unrelenting, however, and would go up again shortly after the Sharks killed off a penalty to Benn Ferriero. As he skated in, Andrew Cogliano squibbed the puck past Niemi, who probably should have prevented the goal considering the speed of the shot. He couldn't, and the Ducks would regain the lead again, this time at a 3-2 score.
And despite some amazing opportunities for the Sharks in the third, the game would end by that score and the Sharks would drop their third consecutive game to the basement-dwelling Ducks. It's not to say that San Jose didn't try, as they put up eighteen shots in the third and were burgled by Hiller on multiple occasions. While the "quality over quantity" argument is the mantra of many Sharks fans after losses like this, that doesn't hold water tonight.
Still, a loss is a loss and the disappointment was felt team wide. Vancouver is next on the docket, and a win against one of the Sharks' perennial measuring sticks would do a lot to heal that hurt.