Late comeback not enough to lift Sharks past Avalanche
Lately, it doesn't matter who the Sharks are playing. Tough teams, weak teams... they've all looked like world beaters against San Jose over the last eight games. It was hard not to assume that the Sharks would make the Avalanche appear like the class of the conference.
The game started out in a fashion that wouldn't make anyone in San Jose happy, as the Sharks played a lethargic twenty minutes highlighted by two moments that have happened too often in the recent streak of poor play. First, the Sharks wouldn't be able to capitalize on their first power play of the game. One for twenty-eight is bad enough, but what makes it even worse is that the team was held without a shot during the two minutes of man advantage time. More bad news? That's the fourth time in the last four games that's happened. "Unacceptable" is a word that comes to mind.
Second, the Sharks lost intensity in the end of the first frame, and that led to a goal against yet again. Stefan Elliott took the puck end to end and wristed one past Antti Niemi who was out of position on the play. Headed into the first intermission, it looked like San Jose was having the same problems they've suffered for the last few weeks; they were losing 1-0 as a result.
Despite the recent struggles, there have been some positives for San Jose lately. Jamie McGinn's long-awaited emergence as a goal scorer has finally happened, and it continued tonight. In the waining seconds of the Sharks' second power play, Dan Boyle pushed a shot towards the net which McGinn deflected past Semyon Varlomov for his seventh goal of the year and his fifth goal in seven games. One of the lone bright spots for San Jose this season, McGinn is three off his career high of 10 goals in a season just 28 games into the year; he's now on pace for 20 this season.
Dan Boyle would get another point, this time his first goal in fourteen games, as he jumped into the slot and pounded home a rebound that Joe Pavelski generated. It put the Sharks up 2-1 at the time, but I don't think anyone would argue that San Jose was playing in a fashion that was deserving of the lead.
In the third, the Avalanche would prove that thought to be true; Daniel Winnik tied the game on a four on four on a nice wraparound goal. Just a few minutes later, with Colin White in the box, Matt Duchene received a cross ice pass that beat everyone on the Sharks PK. Duchene loaded up, and sniped Niemi with a brutal wrist shot.
The Sharks would apply pressure in the third, dominating zone time in the waining minutes of the game and then even more with Niemi pulled for the extra attacker. With under a minute left, and puck bouncing around on everyone, Logan Couture made some beautiful moves to control the puck and found Patrick Marleau in front of the net. Marleau slid the puck past the sprawling Varlamov, who just didn't have enough to scoot over to the far post.
That goal would have likely proved much more important if the Sharks went on to win the game, but after an overtime that saw even action, Colorado would finally twist the dagger in the shootout.
Who knows how San Jose would respond to this loss, as recent losses have seemed to matter little in the amount of effort displayed by the team on the ice. Other top teams saddled with high expectations like Washington and Los Angeles have already made drastic changes... it remains to be seen how long Doug Wilson will sit on his hands faced with an underperforming squad.