The Sharks have now scored in sudden-death overtime twice this season. They've lost both games. For the second time in a week, the Sharks scored a goal in the extra session only to have it deemed unsuitable to earn them a second point in the standings. On Tuesday, Tommy Wingels' rebound tally was unseen by the on-ice officials and later retroactively disqualified by the league. Tonight in Winnipeg, Patrick Marleau's would-be winner was canceled out due to Wingels allegedly preventing Ondrej Pavelec from making a save (although given how that dude plays while unimpeded, who can tell the difference?)
But although the Sharks technically lost this game because of another chintzy call, it's hard to argue they deserved the win given their play through 60 minutes of regulation time. Against a vastly inferior opponent, San Jose blew two separate two-goal leads in addition to a one-goal lead in the third period courtesy horrendous puck management in the defensive and neutral zones, where they spent much of a game in which they were outshot 46-34. It was the Sharks' fifth loss in a row, and given that it came while being territorially dominated by a team that ranks 22nd in the league by the possession metrics, it might have been the worst of the five.
Winnipeg came at the Sharks early, generating the first nine shot attempts of the game as they dictated play beneath the hashmarks in San Jose's end, and rarely let up. But a power play goal by Dan Boyle and a breakaway conversion from Tomas Hertl allowed the Sharks to enter the first intermission with a lead they probably hadn't earned. Their frequent turnovers and inability to establish their possession game would burn the Sharks in the second period, where they were outscored 3-1 by the Jets. First, Matt Halischuk blocked a Matt Irwin point shot then set up Michael Frolik on the resulting 2-on-1. Wingels answered for the Sharks seconds later with a power move to the net while Devin Setoguchi was draped over him but tallies from Dustin Byfuglien (who else?) and Grant Clitsome (nicknamed Clitty, apparently, in another win for hockey's uninventive nickname nomenclature) tied the score for Winnipeg.
Despite improved play in the final frame that led to another power play goal for Boyle and grade-A chances for James Sheppard, Joe Thornton and Hertl, the Sharks left Andrew Ladd open at the top of the left faceoff circle and the Jets captain re-tied the game on a one-timer with 1:43 to play in regulation. It's hard not to get flashbacks to the Sharks' interminable losing streak that followed their seven-game run of victories to open last season but, unlike last time, the answers are in that dressing room. This is a roster that shouldn't be making the types of mental mistakes that characterized their play tonight as well as against Vancouver and Buffalo and therefore one we should expect a bounce-back from at some point. They're too good to keep turning in games like this. I hope.
- There are individual efforts, and then there was Dan Boyle's first goal tonight. He drew the penalty on Ladd, deftly kept the puck in at the blueline off a lost offensive-zone draw and then scored on a one-timer through traffic. Never leave us again, Boyler.
- He let in four goals again but given the volume of shots he faced (many of the quality variety, to boot) that certainly constitutes a nice bounce-back game for Niemi.
- Speaking of bounce-back games, Jason Demers was one of just two Sharks (alongside partner Scott Hannan) to finish north of 50% in on-ice shot differential at evens after having an ugly outing against the Canucks. He also sent Hertl in on that breakaway with a beautiful saucer pass. He now has assists on five of Hertl's ten goals.
- I know he missed a practice and morning skate earlier in the week, so it's possible he's nursing some bumps and bruises but Pavelski hasn't quite been his usual dominant self over the past three games. He lost his matchup to Olli Jokinen tonight, which is decidedly un-Pavelski-like.
- Of course Dustin Byfuglien scored his first goal of the season against the Sharks. He sure is a lot of fun to watch though, and is just a dominant presence in the offensive zone not dissimilar to fellow guy-who-has-played-forward-and-defense-at-the-NHL-level Brent Burns. Especially given their lack of clear locks on the right side, Byfuglien really ought to have the inside track to a spot on Team USA in Sochi.
- Brad Stuart replaced Matt Irwin in the press box for this one, a move many of us had been clamoring for. Irwin's game wasn't exactly a testament to the wisdom of that decision but it was still the right one and hopefully not one the coaching staff reconsiders prior to Tuesday's game against the Flames. Trust the process, etc.
- Mike Brown played all of 5:08 tonight and didn't see the ice after a shift that began 7:32 into the second period and ended with the Sharks allowing that Byfuglien goal. Hopefully this is a sign the coaching staff recognizes how bad he is. I'd say he's a good bet to draw out of the lineup on Tuesday, but given Brian McGrattan's presence on Calgary's roster, probably not.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Andrew Ladd
2nd Star: Dustin Byfuglien
3rd Star: Dan Boyle