The New York Islanders ended their two-game losing streak by defeating the San Jose Sharks tonight at SAP Center. Though the Sharks dominated the majority of the game, they were unable to get more than a single goal past Thomas Greiss.
The Sharks led the charge early on. Kevin Labanc took just four minutes and sixteen seconds to score while Calvin de Haan sat in the box for slashing.
Unfortunately, that left nearly 56 minutes of the game where the Sharks didn’t score. The Islanders’ Anders Lee added a goal last in the first to tie things up, followed by a goal early in the second from Brock Nelson.
Though the scoreboard didn’t reflect it, the Sharks outplayed the Islanders in every aspect. They won 65.4% of faceoffs, scored on their only power play while also killing all three penalties they received, and out-shot the Islanders 41-23. The players were pretty clearly frustrated; it’s hard when you’re the better team and still losing.
Tomas Hertl’s two-way game is seeing improvement. It’s only been two games, but the Hertl - Logan Couture combination is proving to be a strong two-way line that can shut down some heavy offense.
The Sharks’ offense, though, just couldn’t crack Greiss, even with Pete DeBoer shaking up the lines for the third period. The top line remained in tact, but the wingers on other three shuffled, moving Timo Meier to the fourth line and reuniting Jannik Hansen and Mikkel Boedker on the third line. The switch didn’t pay off.
Aaron Dell stood tall in net, stopping 20 of 22 shots. The low number of shots makes for a bad save percentage (.909) but don’t let that fool you: Dell looked like a true starting goaltender in the crease tonight. He might not make the flashiest saves, but he moves with a calm confidence and is nearly always where he needs to be.
The Sharks pulled Dell in the final few minutes of play, giving Cal Clutterbuck a shot at the empty net, putting the Sharks to bed with a two point deficit and less than two minutes of play left in the game.
One of the most noticeable struggles in this game is that the Islanders had Brent Burns figured out. They took away his lane every chance they got and there was no way Burns could have found himself on the scoresheet tonight. In the same vein, they might not have known what to expect from Tim Heed, who plays in a similar style to Burns and still managed a couple of good chances.
The good news is that the special teams are shaping up to be much better and the younger players have been adapting well. Losing this game is a tough pill to swallow because the Sharks looked good and there was plenty of room for them to come back and win it.
The final game of the Sharks’ opening home stand will be Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.