After a promising first and second period, the San Jose Sharks played a shamefully lousy third. San Jose was even was with the Ducks with 10 SOG in the first, and outshot Anaheim with 11 SOG in the second, but only managed one SOG for a majority of the third period before a second SOG in the dying seconds gave them a grand total of two. The final period against the Ducks was not representative of the game as a whole, but it's the period that mattered.
Everything seemed to be clicking for the Sharks early on, so where did they go wrong? While it was most likely a combination of a number of things, here are few guesses about what sunk the Sharks in Anaheim.
The fourth line.
So Peter Deboer wanted to increase the overall grit on the Sharks in order to face the larger, more physical Ducks. Makes sense. But here's the problem. The Sharks fourth line against Anaheim consisted of Dainius Zubrus, Michael Haley, and Mike Brown; of the three, only Zubrus had double-digits in ice time. Haley had that scrap in the first with Chris Stewart, but his total ice time only amounted to 3 minutes and 48 seconds. Brown did a little bit better with a TOI of 6:06.
Haley was brought in for his physicality. He embraced his role in the first when he dropped his gloves against Stewart to try to give the Sharks some momentum, but besides that, he contributed no hits, no blocks, and no shots because he was given no time on ice. Physicality is important, especially against a team like the Ducks, but hard physical play isn't going to win a game if you have an entire line that spends most of the game on the bench.
Wingels and Nieto
While the Sharks top two lines have been consistent as of late -- especially the second line with Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward -- against the Ducks, I would have liked to see more of Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto. Wingels had a TOI of 13:36 and Nieto, a TOI of 12:48.
The Sharks could have really used more of Wingels and Nieto in the third. The Sharks zone entry in the third was abysmal. When San Jose had the puck, the most the could muster was a dump and chase that did not work in their favor. Nieto's speed could have given the Sharks more of a chance to get some sort of play going in the third instead of giving up every possession they had.
San Jose could have also benefitted from having Wingels in more with Nieto. There was a lot of emphasis on physicality in this game, but by the third, the Sharks just looked worn out while Anaheim skated circles around them. Wingels could have brought back some of the physical play while also generating scoring chances. Wingels, who had four hits against the Ducks, has shown in the past that he is down with grit. If given more ice time, him and Nieto could have given the Sharks more of a fighting chance in the final period.
The Sharks played a very fast-paced and physical first and second period. It's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that by the third, they were just worn out. Anaheim came out in the third with some of their best hockey, but I have a feeling (and I like to think) that a more energized Sharks team would have been able to at least get more than two shots on goal in 20 minutes of play.
The inability to demonstrate a single promising zone entry, the dump and chase game, and the constant long passes across the ice certainly support the theory that the Sharks lost their moxie after 40 minutes of play. Again, maybe this could have been helped by actually giving the Sharks third line especially some more ice time to help out their teammates.
Of course, Anaheim didn't just outlast the Sharks, they completely dominated them in the third period. Especially after Santorelli's goal, the Ducks fed off the momentum and didn't let San Jose get a word in before the final seconds of the period.
Battle of wills
Finally, there is always the possibility that the Ducks were just more determined than the Sharks to end the night with two points. They were playing on home ice and they are still playing catch up after getting off to a terrible start. Anaheim is now three points back of San Jose, creeping up the Pacific Division standings one win at a time.
The Sharks are chasing after the Los Angeles Kings, who have 31-points and lead the Pacific Division, but they're not in the position that the Ducks are in. If the playoffs happened today, the Sharks would be contenders while the Ducks would be packing up their lockers. I'm not arguing that the Sharks are too comfortable in their second place spot because they played a great first and second period that suggests otherwise, but in the end, the Ducks might have just wanted it more because of their circumstances.
Most importantly, they played like they needed the win in the third, while the Sharks for whatever reason, looked like they had resigned themselves to giving this one up.