SAN JOSE- Through 40 minutes Saturday night against the Predators the Sharks were delivering their most consistent outing since beating the Red Wings by a 4-2 final on Oct. 28. A goal at even strength, a goal on the power play and solid penalty killing had the Sharks up 2-1 after the first two periods.
In their previous three games (albeit two of them victories) San Jose had not been pleased with their performances. Unfortunately for team teal, that full 60 minute effort would remain elusive against Nashville.
Unlike Thursday’s victory over the Penguins, in which the first period caused the problems, this time around the Sharks simply couldn’t finish.
In fact, it was a nearly a complete reversal from Thursday night’s 4-3 shootout win. Instead of being out-shot 15-4 like they were against Pittsburgh, the Sharks out-shot Nashville 19-7 in the opening frame as they created numerous scoring chances with their new-look line combinations.
Despite failing to score in the first and allowing an early tally to David Legwand in the second, the Sharks continued to execute.
The Sharks would tie the game at one a piece on a beautiful passing play just minutes after falling behind. Joe Thornton initiated the sequence by muscling a pass through a couple of Predators to Logan Couture who had snuck behind the Nashville defense. Couture then swiftly backhanded a pass across to Pavelski who wired a one-timer past Predators netminder Pekka Rinne.
A little over five minutes later, the Sharks would take the lead while on the man advantage. Martin Havlat would chip in his first goal as a Shark after Ryane Clowe tried to shovel home a puck from the left post. The ensuing scramble in the crease saw the puck squirt free to Havlat who roofed it top shelf.
At that point San Jose was executing to a tee in all three phases. Even strength they were carrying the bulk of the chances, the power play not only converted but had tremendous zone time on all their opportunities and the penalty kill was a perfect two-for-two including two gigantic shot blocks off the powerful slap shot of Shea Weber—one by Michal Handzus and one by Brent Burns.
“Definitely an improvement” commented Pavelski on the way his team started. “There were definitely aspects of our game that were better but in the end we didn’t find a way tonight.”
Logan Couture added to San Jose’s lead with a goal in the first minute of the third but tallies from Patric Hornqvist at even strength and Ryan Suter on the power play quickly tied the game up at three with still 14 minutes left to play in regulation.
For the majority of the remainder of the third the Predators controlled the play. After tying the score, Nashville had seized momentum away from San Jose as the Sharks just didn’t match their level of play from the first two periods.
“We wanted to get in on the fore-check and we didn’t” added a subdued Couture. “We just didn’t play the way we did in the first two periods”.
The Sharks nearly made up for a lackluster third period when Torrey Mitchell drew his second penalty of the night putting San Jose back on the power play with a little over a minute left in regulation. Nice skating by Burns allowed Pavelski to find open space for yet another one-time opportunity but this time around Rinne made the save of the night with his right pad to send the game to overtime.
In the extra session the Predators would catch the Sharks on an odd change that caught Pavelski playing defense and Legwand was able to re-direct a shot-pass into the cage past Niemi giving Nashville the 4-3 win.
“We’re fighting to find a full 60 minutes from our guys” chimed Sharks head coach Todd McLellan on the loss. ” But obviously the effort tonight was much better than it was against Pittsburgh.”
Overall the effort was indeed better on San Jose’s end but two good periods and one abysmal period usually ends with a team taking zero points away from a contest. Therefore the Sharks ought to feel fortunate to have picked up three out of a possible four points these last two games.