When all is said and done, hockey is a game of bounces. The Sharks discovered that firsthand in debilitating fashion tonight, generating more than enough scoring chances to beat Vancouver in a crucial Pacific Division showdown at the Tank but ultimately falling short thanks to little more than bad luck.
First, Patrick Marleau missed a gaping net on a second period odd-man rush that would have put the Sharks up 3-1. Then, a Tommy Wingels stuff attempt early in the third period eventually found its way into the net but was waved off courtesy everyone's favorite "intent to blow" rule. Tomas Hertl would go on to hit the post from in tight, with the puck proceeding to ricochet off Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack's back before settling improbably along the goal line without fully crossing it. Finally, a Melker Karlsson backhander in the final frame was kept out of the net only by the active stick of defenseman Luca Sbisa.
At the other end of the rink, despite giving up just ten scoring chances all game (only six at even-strength), the Sharks allowed three goals with none other than Brent Burns featuring prominently on all of them. Patrick Marleau was briefly demoted to the third line for his offensive blueline turnover that led to Radim Vrbata's late first period goal but the Sharks actually recovered the puck after Marleau's giveaway and before Vrbata banked the puck in off Antti Niemi, only to have Burns spin a blind backhander in the defensive zone onto the stick of Nick Bonino.
Burns then failed to keep the puck in and lost an ensuing footrace to Bo Horvat on Vancouver's tying goal in the second. He was in the box when Vrbata made things 3-2 on a 4-on-3 power play in the third. Niemi shrunk like a dong in a swimming pool on the final two goals and he, along with Burns and Marleau, will likely wear the goat horns for this loss.
But, on the whole, the Sharks played well enough to win. Sometimes the bounces just don't go in your favor and if San Jose was currently sitting on a comfortable cushion at second place in the division, this is the sort of loss they could shake off easily and move on from. But thanks to an awful run in February, this defeat now puts them six points behind the Canucks and Jets, four behind the Calgary Flames and three short of Los Angeles. Things are looking bleak.
shot quality rears its ugly head yet again pic.twitter.com/pfslD7VP9m— Luke Peristy (@LukePeristy) March 8, 2015
- Credit the Canucks for executing a neutral zone trap to perfection after going ahead 3-2 in the third period, particularly in the final ten minutes. As permissive as they were earlier in the game, there was no way the Sharks were going to get a chance to enter the offensive zone with speed late in regulation.
- Radim Vrbata completely owned the Sharks this season with five goals in San Jose and Vancouver's five meetings. He would have been a nice value signing last summer. Sigh.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Radim Vrbata
2nd Star: Joe Thornton
3rd Star: Eddie Lack