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Quick Bites: Sharks shut down in shootout loss

I’m tired, y’all.

The San Jose Sharks celebrate after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period at United Center on April 14, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

Raise your hand if you’re over the Chicago Blackhawks. From a sexual assault cover-up to the locker room and organizational culture issues, the system sucks — add that to last night’s shootout win extending the San Jose Sharks’ losing streak to eight … I’m over them.

The first period began with a flurry of early shots from San Jose, but on Patrick Kane’s first shift, the scoring opened with a give-and-go goal with Alex Debrincat. The thing about the Blackhawks is that they’re very, very good with dynamic passing plays and creating space in the offensive zone. Combine that with the Sharks’ struggles when it comes to maintaining player coverage, well. You can imagine how the rest of the goals against were scored.

In most areas, the two teams are relatively equal in offensive and defensive power, but Chicago had an edge when it came to corralling turnovers in the defensive zone and converting into scoring chances.

After the first five minutes expired, Timo Meier tied the score at one, snagging a turnover behind the net and rifling it up the boards for Brent Burns, who then sent it back to the net for Meier to get the rebound.

Just a few minutes later, Jeffrey Viel tangled with Riley Stillman, sparking what would become a spirited game. Each received a penalty, but the rest of the period went on without so much of a hitch.

Jaycob Megna (who, if you read last game’s recap, has impressed lately) continued to be excellent in shutting down odd-man rushes, and blocked shots. Nicolas Meloche, too, made several smart defensive plays by shutting down scoring chances in front of the net.

Most of the first period was spent tied up in the neutral zone (which usually means that there are plenty of giveaways and turnovers to go around), but the final five minutes were all Sharks. Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl and Meier were among those driving to the net, and were stymied only by Chicago netminder Kevin Lankinen.

The second period was filled with unsuccessful power plays, solid penalty kills and a memorable fall by Rudolfs Balcers out of the penalty box that otherwise would have sprung a shot on goal. Nick Bonino nearly struck gold halfway through the period with some energetic, end-to-end play, but despite the penalties and physicality, the second period was not one for explosive offensive chances.

With six minutes left, Jake McCabe smushed Viel into the boards, which left him clutching his head on the ice before he was able to get back on his feet and deal McCabe a retaliatory cross-check. Noah Gregor was maybe two inches away from the hit, and he went at McCabe, who then wrestled Gregor down to the ice, nearly throttling him.

In a twist of fate that rubbed salt in the wound, both Gregor and Viel received penalties, while McCabe was the only Blackhawks player who sat. The ensuing power play led to Taylor Raddysh banking the puck in from Seth Jones.

Things were getting … shall we say … scrummy, and Scott Reedy was able to feed off that energy to find a seam on Calvin de Haan to equalize the score, again.

Then, in the final minute, Calvin de Haan and the rest of Chicago’s forwards split the defense, and de Haan was left with a wide-open net on Reimer after getting the step on Balcers.

The third period would have felt like a do-or-die situation if not for the resignation I feel over San Jose continuing to lose. Whereas the team brought fire and frustration last game, the Sharks felt equal parts exhausted last night. The physicality felt more personal and borne of irritation at Blackhawks players themselves, and quite frankly, I couldn’t relate more.

The first five minutes of the final frame were Chicago’s, with a four-man passing play that left Reimer wide open on the left for Dylan Strome. Reimer had no chance, but some goal support would have been nice. Strome’s goal extended the lead to 4-2, but Balcers, whose second period was nothing to write home about, turned it around.

The puck was stuck in the blue paint after a failed clear from Chicago’s defense. Karlsson’s (who was fabulous) shot went high, ricocheting off the back glass, where Balcers was able to corral the rebound to bring the goal deficit back to one.

After an exchange of penalties and a short-handed opportunity from Couture, Megna spent the final four minutes working hard, and he was rewarded with the tying goal, with assists from Meier and Hertl.

The first half of the season was populated by a string of overtime wins, although as of late, it’s been the Sharks’ downfall. The extra point doesn’t hurt, and this time, the team was able to squeak through into a shootout.

With Reimer on the backend, it gave the Sharks a real opportunity to finally — after so much frustration, hard work, and mental and physical struggles — win.

They did not take advantage of the opportunity, although it wasn’t without effort. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were stopped by Reimer, while Hertl, Couture, and Karlsson were stopped by Lankinen, but it was DeBrincat’s goal that ended it, 5-4, in overtime.

I’m tired, y’all. And I can assure you, the Sharks are even more tired after another disappointing close loss.