The San Jose Sharks continued their streaky ways by dropping a second game in regulation over the last two nights Friday, December 6. This time they did not lose to an elite NHL team, but the previously 12-win Carolina Hurricanes.
The hosts have most of the pictured stars because it was hard to find much good for San Jose in this loss. The CSN Bay Area broadcast team again cited fatigue, but just as with the 5-1 loss at the Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina was coming off an equally difficult schedule.
This was the first time that the Sharks lost two in a row without taking either to overtime. Two games is not worth much concern for most NHL teams, especially on back-to-back nights three time zones from home.
The Sharks are not most NHL teams. Their maddeningly-streaky tendencies run deeper every year.
Even with one 48-game season and the 2013-14 NHL season only 29 games underway, they have had both winning and losing streaks of at least five games in every season under head coach Todd McLellan since his first. They still managed to lose six of seven in that President's Trophy season.
In his next two seasons, the Sharks had three streaks that accounted for over half their wins. In the shortened last season, two streaks accounted for 56 percent of the wins. After starting with seven wins, they lost the next seven.
So far in the 2013-14 NHL season, they have followed that pattern of going quickly from hot to cold and even back already: 10-1-1 immediately followed by losing five before winning the next nine of 10. Their two six-game winning streaks account for 63.2 percent of their victories.
A loss can be isolated, but all seven times they have lost two in the 2013 calendar year it has been part of a slump of at least three of four.
It did not seem like San Jose was headed for trouble early. Jason Demers slapped a loose puck on net that Tommy Wingels deflected past Cam Ward just over seven minutes into the game.
With over three minutes left, Tomas Hertl passed the puck down to the goal line on the left wing. When he was covered headed for the slot, Joe Thornton fed the puck back up to the point for Marc-Edouard Vlasic to put home through traffic.
To that point, shots were even at nine each. Carolina held a 26-16 lead from there and erased a two-goal deficit.
Just past the mid-point of the game, backup Alex Stalock finally cracked. After turning away 20 shots including two of the best saves of the season, Riley Nash won a faceoff against Logan Couture. That led to Zach Boychuck feeding Jay Harrison for the score.
In the third period, the dam broke. Less than five minutes in, Elias Lindholm hit Justin Braun in the attacking zone and got the puck to Harrison. This time Nash tipped in the shot to tie the game.
Lindholm started the next official scoring a couple minutes later by retrieving an Andrej Sekera shot and getting the puck to Nathan Gerbe. Already twice the victim of a great save by Stalock, he instead got the puck to Jordan Staal for the go-ahead goal.
Almost three minutes later, the Sharks overcame the momentum and kept the puck in for an extended time with a new line: Joe Pavelski fed Patrick Marleau, who put a pass in Braun's wheelhouse for a one-time slap-shot game-tying goal through traffic Couture helped provide.
San Jose also kept Eric Staal in check, but his brother chalked up the secondary assist on the game-winning goal with six minutes to go. He fed Sekera, whose shot was tipped home by Lindholm. All that was left for the more accomplished brother was an empty-net goal that gave Carolina as many goals as Pittsburgh had scored in the previous night's loss.
With the loss, the Sharks no longer hold the best point-percentage in the 2013-14 NHL season. The last game of the road trip is in Minnesota Sunday to take on the Wild, who are tied for the eighth-most points in the league.