The Sharks were only able to find the back of the net a single time for the second night in a row, as San Jose fell to Chicago by a score of 3-1 tonight.
The Blackhawks put the pressure on the Sharks early in the first period, quickly jumping out to a 7-2 lead in shot attempts. The best chance for the Hawks in the first came just 30 seconds into the game, when Erik Gustafsson missed a glorious chance in the slot after a great feed from Patrick Kane.
As the first period went on, the game slowly started to tilt in the Sharks’ favor. San Jose was able to test recent call-up Jean-Francois Berube quite a bit, forcing him to make 15 saves in the first frame alone. The Sharks finished the first period leading the Blackhawks 26-19 in shot attempts, but the score remained empty.
The Sharks continued to pelt Berube with shots to begin the second period, but it was the Blackhawks who would break the deadlock. Nick Schmaltz started the play by finding Jan Rutta at the point, who was in the Chicago lineup for the first time in eight contests. Rutta took a shot from his point position that was blocked effectively by Melker Karlsson, but Rutta was able to find the loose puck and put it between Jones’ legs for his sixth goal of the season.
The Rutta goal gave the Blackhawks a jolt of momentum, and Jones was suddenly forced to deal with a barrage of shots. Moments later, Jones made the save of the game on a spectacular toe stop on Anthony Duclair from just 12 feet away to keep the Chicago lead at just one.
The Sharks were then forced to finish the second period on the penalty kill after Patrick Kane was able to draw a (very soft) holding penalty on Joakim Ryan with just under two minutes to go. The newcomer Eric Fehr saw a lot of time on the Sharks’ second-ranked penalty kill, and San Jose was able to kill the penalty with ease and go into the dressing room still within striking distance.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, the third period would start just as poorly as it did the previous evening in Nashville. A bad giveaway by Mikkel Boedker in the San Jose zone led to an easy back door tap-in for the birthday boy Nick Schmaltz after a nice cross-ice pass from Anthony Duclair. Martin Jones had absolutely no chance of stopping Schmaltz’s second point of the night and his 17th goal of the campaign.
Minutes later, the Sharks had one of their best chances of the game when Joe Pavelski hit the post looking at a nearly wide-open net during a delayed penalty against Chicago. San Jose finally got a chance on the power play for the first time in the contest, but the man advantage was negated by a Brent Burns penalty just 30 seconds later.
After some mixing of the forward lines by Pete DeBoer, the Sharks finally broke through with just over 12 minutes remaining. In his normal shooting position at the right point, Brent Burns made an uncharacteristic drop pass to a circling Timo Meier, who found some space in the high slot. Meier ripped a slap shot that found its way through traffic to beat a screened Berube, and the Sharks were suddenly within one.
However, the late goal by the Swiss international turned out to be too little too late for the Sharks. After some back and forth between the two teams, San Jose pulled Martin Jones with an extra attacker with under two minutes to go, but couldn’t get the puck deep to sustain a final push to tie the game. Artem Anisimov was able to find the empty net for Chicago, sealing a 3-1 win for the struggling Chicago Blackhawks.
- Martin Jones continued his recent run of solid play, stopping 33 of the 35 shots he faced. The burden of giving up the game winner to Schmaltz won’t lie on Jones’ shoulders, as he was hung out to dry on the play.
- Brent Burns picked up his 41st assist and 51st point of the year, and remains second in both categories among all NHL defensemen.
- The Sharks (33-21-8, 74 points, second in Pacific) will try to break the slump on the road in St. Paul on Sunday, when they take on the trending Minnesota Wild (34-20-7, 75 points, third in Central).