On a night when Dan Boyle played his first game in SAP Center since becoming a Ranger, it seems only fitting that two key defensive zone mistakes doomed the Sharks against the Rangers on Saturday, as the New York club skated away with a 3-1 victory and a clean sweep of their California road trip.
Despite relatively even possession play throughout, San Jose (22-16-5) wasn't good enough offensively (due in no small part to great play by the Rangers (24-11-4) defense and Henrik Lundqvist in goal) to earn a share of the points.
It took 10 minutes for the Rangers to get their first shot on goal, but by the end of the first period they were up 2-0. Martin St. Louis was left wide open by Scott Hannan after a less-than-stellar Joe Thornton pass after he won a defensive zone face off. St. Louis punished the Sharks in stunningly familiar fashion, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Just five minutes later the Rangers doubled their advantage after winning a faceoff in the Sharks' zone. Chris Kreider out-muscled both Justin Braun and Brendon Dillon, throwing the pack past Antti Niemi to double New York's advantage.
The Rangers nearly took a three goal lead as Matt Zuccarello had Niemi beaten, but the Finnish netminder lunged from right to left to haul the puck in. After a lengthy video review, which all but definitively proved the puck crossed the line in the glove of Niemi, the video was deemed inconclusive, giving the Sharks life.
San Jose took advantage as a broken play resulted in a rebound that Melker Karlsson jumped on for his fifth goal in five games, which tied a Sharks franchise record for goals in consecutive games by a rookie.
It wasn't enough. The Sharks failed to equalize and Rick Nash buried an empty-netter to ice San Jose's hopes of a comeback. They resume play in Glendale on Tuesday as they take on the Coyotes at 6:30 p.m.
- The Rangers are on an incredible hot streak and the Sharks nearly matched them on the shot clock tonight. It's not a good result, but other than a couple of poor plays in the defensive zone, San Jose had an okay game tonight.
- Getting Joe Thornton back is huge for the powerplay, which went 1/2 tonight and looked lethal on both opportunities. This team is infinitely better moving the puck when Thornton is on the ice, which should be evident to anyone who has watched the Sharks play hockey in the past five years.
- I was very impressed by the defensively play of the Rangers. Their forwards were quick on the back-check and they did a phenomenal job of clogging up shooting lanes all night.
- Scott Hannan was playing as a top-four defenseman for at least a part of the third period tonight, which is hopefully an experiment that will not be repeated.
- Thornton was a +12 in corsi tonight despite starting only 47 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. I can't wait to hear about his points +/- though.
- Karlsson was a -9. So, there's also that. Dan Boyle was a +10 in corsi, whilst Scott Hannan was a -2 and Justin Braun was a -8. I miss Dan Boyle.
- The Sharks have a chance to play against a very bad Arizona Coyotes team on Tuesday and they should think very long and very hard about winning that game. Just my two cents.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Chris Kreider
2nd Star: Henrik Lundqvist
3rd Star: Antti Niemi