Corey Perry notches a hat-trick as Anaheim stomps San Jose 6-2
It's been awhile since the Sharks were on the wrong end of a score this lopsided.
November 26, 2010 to be exact, when an inconsistent early-season Sharks team went into Rogers Place in Vancouver and got handed a 6-1 loss.
It wasn't prettier tonight in Anaheim as Corey Perry became the first (and likely only) player to break the 50-goal mark this season, scoring a trio of impressive goals to bolster his case for the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL's most valuable player. Perry's first goal was a beauty, undressing Marc-Edouard Vlasic before sliding through the middle of the ice and finding a soft spot in the Sharks defense to unleash a backhand shot that beat Niittymaki up high. Perry's second goal saw him come from behind the net and cut across the front of the Sharks net yet again, this time beating a sprawled out Niittymaki to put Anaheim up 3-0.
And while his first two goals were relatively good examples of what went wrong for San Jose tonight, none was as pertinent as Perry's third-- the Sharks on the penalty kill, the Ducks hounding the puck in the zone, and some soft defensive coverage in front of the net. It was a tap-in for the Anaheim winger, and a 4-1 deficit that proved to be the point in the game where the fat lady came out to sing.
Antero Niittymaki's first appearance since January 13th wasn't a pretty one for the Finnish netminder as six goals against will attest to. However, despite Niittymaki's struggles with over-committing in his positioning, there's no doubt that the coverage in the Sharks defensive zone was the biggest culprit in the 6-2 loss.
To say nothing of the penalty kill which, despite it's recent momentum in the previous five games, looked lost and disinterested as they gave up four shorthanded markers.
A lack of physical play in front of Niittymaki and a lack of discipline to keep the dangerous Anaheim power play unit off the ice were the biggest factors tonight-- from the top line to the bottom pairing the Sharks just flat out didn't show up to play, something that would be concerning this close to the postseason if San Jose hadn't been handing these types of losses out to opposing teams with regularity over the past two and a half months.
How San Jose responds to this will be paramount-- with the postseason so close, a loss like this can become magnified, especially when it comes against a divisional rival that is a potential first round opponent. Judging by San Jose's recent displays of perseverance, character, and resilience however, expect the Sharks to come out flying on Friday night against Phoenix.
If tonight taught the Sharks anything, it's that taking a night off this late in the year is inexcusable and a recipe for disaster. Far too early to call it an epidemic of course, but also far too late in the year not to strike a line in the southern California sand and say that this is the last time they will let it happen again this year.