The Sharks (15-11-1) missed an opportunity to take first place in the Pacific Division with a close loss to the Ducks (14-9-5) in a back and forth affair in southern California Friday night. Goal scoring has been an issue for this Sharks team all season, entering Friday’s action 27th in the NHL in total goals with 62 and 24th in goals per game with 2.38. Add in a back up goaltender with a reputation for inconsistency, and you’ve got a recipe for misery. Being outshot 32-24 doesn’t make it any easier.
No doubt you remember these two teams’ last meeting, dear reader, and if you’re foaming at the mouth a little bit at the thought of it, we don’t blame you. The Ducks walked away from that game with a 3-2 victory (sounds familiar), including a controversial “goal” by Ryan Garbutt in the first period. If it makes you feel any better, Garbutt cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL earlier today, so we can’t blame him for this one.
True to form, the Sharks struggled early to create high quality scoring chances. The Ducks did some solid work early in the first to hold the Sharks to the perimeter, and limit their looks at goaltender Jonathan Bernier. The Sharks, however, did not reciprocate, and were punished early. Rickard Rakell clearly missed hockey, as he scored in his first game back from a lower body injury at 4:44 of the first period. A point shot from Shea Theodore generated a delicious rebound right to Rakell in front, who swiped the puck past Martin Jones’ outstretched left leg into the net to secure a 1-0 lead for the Ducks.
The Sharks had a few bursts of hope through the first, particularly during an extended offensive zone stretch by the third line, but a missed assignment by Joel Ward left face off wizard Antoine Vermette in front of a 3 on 2 break and he tucked a beautiful pass from Theodore through Jones’ five-hole to secure the Ducks a 2-0 lead at 15:06.
Tommy Wingels avenged the deficit with a scrap with Joseph Cramarossa at 15:13, but it wasn’t worth as much as the Brent Burns goal at 19:54. Patrick Marleau walked along the right boards on the power play that had looked pretty anemic up until this point, and threaded a great pass to Burns at the right circle. Burns did what Burns does (which apparently is shoot with his eyes closed, according to his intermission interview), and shortened the deficit to 1 just as the penalty expired.
The Sharks started to get some energy going early in the second, getting some good chances on the rush from Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Kevin Labanc made the difference however, with a ridiculous shot at 8:40. Logan Couture wired a bullet of a pass right to a wide open Labanc in front of Bernier, where he waited patiently for Bernier to get back into position like a true gentleman, and beat him anyway. This kid’s hands are just filthy. The Sharks took a nice, clean tie into the second intermission, despite being outshot 22-18 through two.
The Ducks came out flying (heh) to start the third, and a back and forth period turned nothing into something at 14:22 when Hampus Lindholm placed a far side shot past Jones off a feed from Nick Ritchie’s slick zone entry to break the tie, and finish the Sharks off 3-2.
- The Sharks won 43% of their attempts in the faceoff dot tonight, which is less than surprising considering they came into this game ranked 22nd in FOW% at 48.8, and Anaheim came in 1st at 56.9
- Brent Burns is a goaltender now, I guess?
- What happened to Ryan Getzlaf? It felt like it wasn’t that long ago that he was one of the top three or five dominant centers in the league, and now he looks like an $8 million dollar caboose on the Corey Perry train.
- Antoine Vermette is one of the more regularly underrated centers in this league, in my opinion. He’s consistently at or near the top of the list in faceoff wins, and makes the players around him better (big you’re welcome to Nick Ritchie). What more do you want from a depth center?
FTF Three Stars
- Antoine Vermette
- Kevin Labanc
- Shea Theodore