The Sharks had already clinched a playoff spot going into tonight’s match up against the Dallas Stars and while that pressure was off, they needed a tune-up game after losing three straight. The Sharks needed one point out of tonight to lock up home ice advantage in the first round.
The Sharks dominated this game early on, as it seemed that Dallas had traded their skates for snowshoes, only mustering five shots on goal in the first period, and had maybe three or four chances in their offensive zone in the final 10 minutes of the first half. San Jose came out swinging. They looked fast, and skilled and somewhat refreshed, even without Evander Kane, who was sitting this one out resting his injured upper body.
The Sharks were also without the services of the injured Eric Fehr, allowing them a chance to get a first glimpse at Dylan Gambrell, who just signed his first NHL contract last week. Gambrell opened his night as the fourth line pivot, being flanked by Marcus Sorensen and Joel Ward. The rookie showed speed and awareness on a few nice plays in their offensive zone in his debut.
The Sharks opened the scoring just under ten minutes into in the first with a career-high 33rd goal from Logan Couture. This was only the Sharks second power play goal in 23 attempts.
Team Teal was absolutely dominant in the first period driving possession and generating pressure in their own zone and five minutes after the Couture goal Timo Meier netted a second goal for the Sharks on a bad angle shot for his 20th goal of the year.
After the Meier goal came what would be the game changer: Kari Lehtonen was forced to leave the game after taking a puck to the throat. Enter NHL Legend Mike McKenna, playing his first game of the year for the Stars, and his first NHL game in three years. At the end of the first period, it was 2-0, Sharks. The Sharks out-shot the Stars 18-5 in the first stanza in a game that had started looking like a cake walk for San Jose.
The Sharks looked the same for the beginning of the second period. They were driving possession, and getting chances on McKenna, who stoned them throughout the period.
It was in the second when the Sharks seemed to have gotten complacent, turning the puck over in their own zone, making careless passes, and being out of position. It was Brent Burns who was out of position when the Sharks conceded Dallas’ first goal of the game from Jamie Benn, on a redirect from John Klingberg. Benn was unimpeded to the net, as Burns was up the ice already, and Martin Jones, who was bailing the Sharks out all night, had no chance at this one. With 31 seconds to go in the second period, it was 2-1, San Jose. The Sharks, at the end of two, out-shot Dallas 30-11. What could go wrong?
The third period is where it all fell apart for the Sharks, who were playing more like guppies at this point. Another turnover(s) in front of the net from Brent Burns opened up Gemel Smith with five minutes left in the third to tie the game on a scrum in front of the net, which Jones had as much chance at saving as I would.
That was all the momentum Dallas needed, because it was roughly a minute and a half later that Jamie Benn netted his second goal of the game on a poke check from Tomas Hertl in the defensive zone. Benn had a clear path to the net and did not disappoint, putting Dallas up 3-2 late in the third. Benn put this one on ice with 23 seconds to go adding an empty netter, for his 32nd goal of the year, and a hatty in an absolutely gritty and, dare I say, Sharks-like win at the Tank.
- Make no mistake about it: the Sharks were outplayed, and outworked during the second half of the second period, and all of the third period. They did not deserve to win this game tonight. San Jose could only manage one shot on goal in the third, and seemed like they were skating in mud. They got complacent, and were punished for it. No two ways about it.
- That Meier goal made Timo the fifth-youngest player in franchise history to score 20 goals, sitting under a 21-year-old Patrick Marleau, whose 27-goals have been successfully replaced by this Sharks squad.
- With two assists on the night, Brent Burns has passed John Klingberg in the defensemen scoring race. He’s one point behind the Washington Capitals’ John Carlson. His last three seasons are the top three scoring years for a defenseman in franchise history.
- This was the first time this season the Sharks lost in regulation after leading for two periods.