The San Jose Sharks ended their 2013 preseason schedule with back-to-back road games against long-time Pacific Division rivals. After losing the first game to the Phoenix Coyotes, they bounced back against the Anaheim Ducks Saturday, Sept. 28.
To this point, San Jose had given up no more than two regulation goals in a game, with just one overtime goal yielded and at least two goals scored in every game. This added up to an impressive 3-0-1 record through four games.
Preseason games may mean absolutely nothing in the standings (the NHL should make it the seventh tiebreaker), but good habits are established in training camp and exemplified in exhibition games. The Sharks were turning the puck over less and playing their characteristic defensive game. They were getting contributions from rookies they will have to rely on after the injury to Raffi Torres.
Then the scoring left them Friday in Phoenix. The 2011-12 Pacific Division champs have lost a lot of talent in the last two years, but have a strong blue line and goalie combination in Mike Smith and former Shark Thomas Greiss, in net against his 2013 teammates. San Jose has lost less talent even in the one extra year it has been since taking the division crown for 2010-11, but the team's offensive woes from the past two seasons reared their head again.
Neither team scored until the final minute of the second period, when Radim Vrbata beat Alex Stalock. Bracken Kearns strengthened his position with San Jose this season with a goal in the sixth minute of the third period, but a Scott Hannan penalty led to the eventual game-winner by Oliver Ekman-Larsson with 2:28 left. Even a power play and a pulled goalie did not result in a goal for the road team.
Saturday was totally different. Neither the Ducks nor Sharks defended well, giving up 11 goals between them.
Another former Shark got things going when Daniel Winnik beat Antti Niemi in the fifth minute of the game. Patrick Marleau answered just past the midpoint of the period, but it took just 21 seconds for Andrew Cogliano to regain the lead for Anaheim.
About three minutes later, Joe Pavelski beat Jonas Hiller to tie the game back up. Before the end of the period, Jason Demers strengthened his chances of getting ice time during the 2013-14 season with a power play goal to give the Sharks their first lead—one they would not relinquish despite giving up five goals.
Outside of that he struggled, going minus-4 with just one blocked shot. Fortunately for him, the veteran he is competing for that time with was paired with him for all the goals allowed, and Hannan had just an assist and two hits.
John McCarthy did his best to make the NHL roster with a goal 3:13 into the second, and Dan Boyle added a power play goal 2:18 later. With a 33-10 edge in shots on goal at the second intermission, San Jose went into a shell to let the 2012-13 Pacific Division champions back into the contest.
Two goals were scored in a 14-second period on either side of the seven-minute mark, but a penalty 18 seconds later almost immediately resulted in Boyle's second power play goal. After that 45-second, three-goal outburst, the Ducks managed to bring it back to a one-goal game with 2:47 on the clock, but the Sharks held from there.
It is interesting to note that the better game in net was played by the likely backup goalie. Matt Tennyson, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Tomas Hertl sat out the win while Boyle, Marleau, Pavelski and Logan Couture sat out the loss but made the list of San Jose's stars in the win.