These are still the same old San Jose Sharks. Their rematch of the first round of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs against the St. Louis Blues came Saturday, March 9. They began it throwing their weight around to the tune of 19 first-period hits, but left it having lost in overtime.
They built a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes. It was just the second time they reached three goals in their last 18 games, and they lost it just like the first time.
I'll take that loss in overtime...because of the hard work from the San Jose Sharks, the physical play, the hit-for-hit, all the little things, the push back in the first period...secondary scoring, power play goal for the second unit...
He is right that the Sharks pushed back. The game was fairly even in the first period, but the ill fortune of a Kevin Shattenkirk rebound to the stick of Vladimir Sobotka about five minutes in provided both the game's first goal and a portend of things to come.
Tommy Wingels returned to the lineup and skated with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. He was the spark for the game-tying goal, taking the puck from Matt Irwin deep into the zone and attacking the net. Couture cleaned up the resulting rebound and the game was tied in the final five minutes of the first.
Despite being out-shot 12-7 in the first period, the Sharks registered 19 hits. San Jose carried that energy over to the offense in the second period.
The new third line of James Sheppard, Scott Gomez and Ryane Clowe got the go-ahead goal about eight minutes into the second. They also scored by attacking the net: Sheppard's point-block shot rebounded to Clowe in the crease, and his attempt to kick the puck to a better spot succeeded when Gomez reached it with an open cage in front of him.
Later in the period, St. Louis captain David Perron took a goalie interference penalty. On the resulting power play, Gomez passed the puck back to Justin Braun, who found Irwin for the seeing-eye slap shot from above the slot goalie Jake Allen never saw.
Through this point, Hedican was right: 25 hits, three goals including one from the third line and one from the power play for a 3-1 lead. But then the Sharks exhaled and the Blues took over.
The Sharks registered just five more hits, six more shots and no more goals. It took the Blues under five minutes to take advantage of the lower intensity. Just 80 seconds apart, Sobotka got the two tallies needed for his first career hat trick.
The first was a soft goal on a tough angle shot. The second was slapped from the high circle on a power play, trickling in between Antti Niemi's left arm and pad. Coach Todd McLellan made the decision to put recent call-up Alex Stalock in to finish the game.
We had two options. We could pull the goalie or take a timeout. We pulled the goalie. You could walk into that locker room and everybody will tell you how important Niemi has been to our team and how much he has meant. He's been our most valuable player, but tonight he struggled a bit.
Stalock made a tough save later in the period to preserve the one point, and had no chance on the overtime goal: Patrick Berglund reached over the vertically-challenged Dan Boyle and redirected Barrett Jackman's shot from the boards as it reached the crease. It is worth noting that Jackman has never been known for offense, yet would be second in scoring on San Jose's blue line by three points.
This was not the game where the team played well enough to win but their goalie finally let them down. This was a game where the entire team played well enough to win for 40 minutes, but enough of the team—for once including Niemi—did not bring that same intensity for the rest of the game.
In the end, the Sharks only had two edges, winning one more draw and registering eight more hits. The Blues attempted 11 more shots and got 10 more on net but still had eight more blocks, six more giveaways and 11 fewer takeaways.
It is really hard to lose all those stats and be considered playing well enough to win at this level. The positives Hedican referred to are there, but the only one is the one point for the NHL standings. Couture pointed to help from the schedule with the game coming up at the Colorado Avalanche at 5:00 p.m. PDT on Sunday, March 10:
With a 3-1 lead going into the third, obviously you don't want to give it up. It's tough right now to get over, but we have a game tomorrow that we have to focus on. You think about the mistakes you made, move on, and get better from it.
Unfortunately, the loss drops the Sharks back to seventh in the Western Conference standings, while they could have ended the day high enough to earn home ice in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Blues jumped back up from seventh to fifth with the win. The three stars of the game are all easy calls:
- Sobotka not only had the three goals (four shots) but a takeaway, three hits and was 12 of 22 in the circle.
- Shattenkirk had two assists, two blocks, two takeaways and two shots on seven attempts.
- Wingels got the first score going, led the Sharks with five hits and blocked two shots while winning his only draw.