The focus will be on the stinker Antti Niemi allowed to Viktor Stalberg with under three minutes remaining that held up as the game winner despite an extra-attacker tally by Patrick Marleau. But the Sharks' fourth straight road loss was just as much the result of uninspired play against a beatable opponent that lasted until the Nashville Predators had already built up a two-goal lead and were content to sit on it. Perhaps it was an after-effect of the cross-country flight they went on a day earlier but the Sharks were listless to start this game and weren't able to consistently establish offensive-zone pressure for much of the first forty minutes. Even when they did, the Predators were largely able to relegate them to the perimeter.
It wasn't until emerging from a successful third period penalty kill that the Sharks were finally able to start generating an effective attack. Patrick Marleau stripped the puck from Shea Weber behind the Nashville net and set up Matt Irwin for a point shot that Dan Boyle deflected past Predators netminder and former Worcester Sharks goalie Carter Hutton to pull the Sharks to within one with twelve minutes left in regulation. While San Jose had their opportunities to tie it, including one off a nice move by Brent Burns that turned Roman Josi inside-out, a sharp-angle shot with about 2:49 left by Marty Havlat kickstarted a 2-on-1 the other way on which Stalberg beat a glove-challenged Niemi. Marleau made it close yet again with just under a minute to play, and Joe Pavelski nearly tied the game on a chance from in close that Josi fortuitously blocked, but the Sharks simply ran out of time. Perhaps because they wasted a lot of it early on in this game.
- There are a lot of players you can hang the Sharks' poor showing in the first two periods on but the Hertl/Thornton/Burns line had another particularly poor outing. They were kept to the outside during the few occasions on which they set up shop in the Predators zone, and the line was outshot on the whole by its Nashville counterparts. The coaching staff moved some pieces around early in the third in an effort to get them going but eventually went back to the line later on in the frame and it paid off with a good chance for Burns generated by a stretch pass from Hertl. But it's definitely concerning that those three seem to be mired in their longest slump of the season.
- Speaking of concerns, San Jose's penalty kill continues to be one. Tonight, it gave up nine shot attempts (one of which went in off the stick of Josi) in 3:37 of shorthanded ice time to a team that generates fewer power play shot attempts per minute than all but one. Ugly stuff.
- Matt Nieto attempted to take away Craig Smith's passing lane rather than cover the point on that Nashville power play tally and it certainly drew the ire of the coaching staff; Nieto skated just one shift for the rest of the game after that goal by Josi near the end of the second. He was replaced on the American Express line by Havlat.
- On a positive note, Patrick Marleau is playing some fantastic hockey right now. In addition to his two points, the Sharks recorded 17 even-strength shot attempts to just 4 by the Predators in his nearly-17 minutes of five-on-five ice time. This past week has featured some of the best three-zone play I've seen from him since his banner year in 2009-10.
- Not much else to say about this game, apart from that the Sharks need to be ready to play when the puck drops for their next two games in St. Louis and Los Angeles or the results are likely to be a lot worse than a one-goal loss.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Roman Josi
2nd Star: Carter Hutton
3rd Star: Patrick Marleau