Quick Bites: Ladies & Gentlemen, The Best of (George) Michael Eyssimont

Losing (against New Jersey) is like the sun going down on me.

The San Jose Sharks suffered another heartbreaker on MLK Day at SAP Center. This one came as a 4-3 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils in a hard-fought, but ultimately frustrating game.

Coming into the day’s game, New Jersey presented an excellent challenge for San Jose, who were looking to redeem themselves after a miserable 7-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The Devils, the youngest team in the NHL with an already incredible road record, seemed like a good test for the Sharks’ resolve. Of note, Kevin Labanc was a healthy scratch, replaced by Noah Gregor.

A mere 29 seconds in, the game featured a nightmare start reminiscent of the game against the Calgary Flames last month. Starting in his own defensive zone with a blocked shot on an  attempt by Erik Karlsson, Swiss star Nico Hischier carried the puck to lead an offensive rush that led to a goal from defender Ryan Graves. Timo Meier showed good effort by skating hard on the back check, but accidentally ran into James Reimer, preventing the goaltender from getting into a good position to make the save.

San Jose responded well, however. For the rest of the first period — which was interrupted by a broken board that needed to be replaced — the Sharks controlled play and made better of the offensive opportunities. If it weren’t for New Jersey’s tight defensive formation and netminder Vitek Vanacek’s fantastic play, San Jose might have tied the game before the “first intermission.”

The aforementioned interruption happened when Steven Lorentz’s skate clipped the yellow kickboard behind the net, causing a crack that could have been dangerous to continue play near. While the SAP Center staff worked hard to replace the board, the teams went to a full intermission with 3:59 left in the first period. When play resumed, the Sharks continued the rest of their dominant first period play.

Tying the game, Timo Meier scored his 25th goal of the year. San Jose created a turnover on a tenacious forecheck, bringing the puck to Karlsson at the point. Karlsson then found Mikey Eyssimont in the slot with a lot of room, who then patiently fed Meier for an open tap-in. This marked Eyssimont’s first point in his fourth game in teal. Eyssimont would finish the game with two primary assists.

Play then picked up on both ends. James Reimer was forced to make a strong blocker save on the very next shift, before Gregor forced a turnover and set Nico Sturm, who was denied on a good save by Vanacek. Gregor showed the advantage of his speed in a few bursts throughout the game. Only a few minutes later, he earned a clear breakaway with his footwork — however, he would be left off of the scoresheet.

Then on a power play, Karlsson scored his 14th goal of the season with just 3.7 seconds left in the first period. Before the game, we asked if the struggling power play could find a spark with some quality shots on goal, and it did. Alexander Barabanov and Logan Couture provided an excellent blockade in front of Vanacek, who had no chance to find the missile of a shot by Karlsson.

The second period began with an unorthodox quick dry scrape and a minute of rest for each team before switching sides. San Jose lead in shots to start the second, but were about to be outworked throughout the next 20 minutes. An early New Jersey power play was killed off, but not without some heroics from Reimer, who had to make several stops in high-danger areas. Half-way through the period, the shots were 10-1 in New Jersey’s favor. Their star player Jack Hughes looked primed to either score a goal or set one up. His flawless puck control and skating looked dangerous and forced San Jose’s defense to scramble multiple times.

Through all of the anxious moments, San Jose finished the period unscathed on the scoreboard, retaining a one-goal lead.

This would not last. Nico Hischier scored 12 seconds into the final frame to tie it. James Reimer was once again interfered with by his own teammate, this time the offender was defender Jaycob Megna.

The Sharks took the lead again after a spirited back and forth. Just after a power play expired, the second unit put San Jose up ahead 3-2. Nick Bonino placed a shot through Vanacek’s legs on a beautiful spinning shot, finishing a rebound created by an Eyssimont one-timer.

New Jersey carried nearly the rest of the play, really pressing hard to tie it once again. Dougie Hamilton hit a post, Reimer made good saves, while Tomas Hertl and Karlsson combined to prevent a sure goal from recently-returned Ondrej Palat.

Reimer was only 8.6 seconds away from earning his 200th career NHL win, but a shot from Jack Hughes deflected off Karlsson’s stick tied the game 3-3 in disappointing fashion. The Sharks were unable to finish the game in overtime or the shootout, despite having good chances to do so. Reimer did his best to try to spare his team, making a clutch save on Hughes in overtime, then being aided on a great block by Alexander Barabanov.

Ultimately, the Sharks found a way to lose yet again. The team mostly played well and saw enough chances and good defensive plays to keep it competitive. However, mistakes at key points — giving up a goal in the first minute of the first and third periods and not capitalizing on open opportunities to score — helped New Jersey claw back to find a win in the shootout.