SAN JOSE- Three critical mistakes and just not enough pucks behind Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller. Yup, that about sums up the San Jose Sharks’ 3-2 loss to Anaheim on Boxing Day.
San Jose came into the game riding a four game winning streak with points in six straight and that strong play continued throughout this first contest post-Christmas. Unfortunately two iffy goals found their way past Antti Niemi and an ugly turnover by Sharks captain Joe Thornton saw Anaheim put up three goals on the scoreboard.
At the other end, the Sharks managed to bury just two chances behind Hiller, who turned the Sharks away 36 times on 38 shots.
While the game can’t be single handedly blamed on Niemi and Thornton, as each were just as excellent at times, the mistakes hurt as the Sharks otherwise continued to dominate the opponent in terms of zone time.
The Sharks had a chance to tie the score while up 6-on-4 with Corey Perry in the box with 38 seconds remaining but despite chance after chance, the Sharks could not find a way to equalize for the third time in the contest.
“We have to win that game, it was in our control for awhile” said Joe Pavelski. “A few tough plays and it ends up in our net. That being said we had enough chances.”
Pavelski scored the initial equalizer with less than a minute to go in the first period. Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa had given the Ducks an early lead on what looked like a stoppable point shot less than three minutes in. But Pavelski was able to put home a Thornton rebound at 19:33.
The Sharks would carry the momentum from the Pavelski tally into the second period and forced the Ducks to take their timeout on an icing just a few minutes into the second with the score tied.
Unfortunately, shortly thereafter is where Thornton gave the puck away to Bobby Ryan at the offensive blue-line. Ryan then took it the other way for a wide open breakaway and beat Niemi glove-side.
“I have to make a better decision at that point,” commented Thornton with regard to his turnover.
San Jose stuck with it though and managed to equalize later in the frame when a nice cross ice feed from defenseman Justin Braun hit Jamie McGinn in the low slot. McGinn then fired a wrister top shelf glove side on Hiller for his eighth goal on the season.
Five minutes later though Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano threw a wrister on net off the rush from near the top of the left circle and the puck somehow beat Niemi but not the post. The shot hit iron and went in past the outstretched pad of the Sharks netminder.
“I thought Nemo made two or three incredible saves. Really, really good saves that kept us alive,” commented Sharks head coach Todd McLellan on his goaltender. “But he’ll tell you that he’d like to have a couple of them back. A little frustrating for him and a little frustrating for us as well.”
As McLellan pointed out, Niemi was stellar, especially on a couple of odd man rushes preventing goals. Two of the bigger saves McLellan may have been referring to came in spots where they absolutely had to be made and they were.
However, as McLellan put it, his team overall has to be better even though they did finish the game with a strong third period.
“We should be disappointed,” he said. “The ability to rebound in the third was a good sign but the swings within the game, the game changing moments are something we can’t be pleased about.”
The line of Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, and Ryane Clowe had the majority of the chances for the Sharks, as they were by far the strongest line for Team Teal.
Frazer McLaren played instead of Andrew Murray on the fourth line.
McGinn saw some shifts with the top line pair of Thornton and Pavelski after his goal tied the game at two a piece.