After picking up three out of a possible four points on their two game “road trip” in Sweden last week, the Sharks were finally back in action on Saturday and the rust was evident.
While extra rest in the middle of the season is often seen as an advantage when going up against an opponent playing the second of back-to-backs, it was clear on Saturday that the Atlanta Thrashers were the team with the stronger legs.
Despite jumping out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals 21 seconds apart by Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe, the final 40 minutes of hockey proved to be a pivotal turn around.
Atlanta scored four unanswered goals, two in the second and two in the third to come away with the 4-2 final.
San Jose did manage to out-shoot the Thrashers 39-28 and won the faceoff battle 41-25 but costly turnovers and bad penalties led to an opportunistic Thrashers attack.
In the third period with the game tied 2-2, Heatley took an inexplicable interference penalty in the neutral zone and Dustin Byfuglien cashed in the game-winner on the ensuing power-play.
Just over two minutes later, Dan Boyle’s blind backhand pass in the offensive zone led to an three-on-one rush the other way. Second year Thrasher winger Evander Kane finished off the attack with a tap in goal off a beautiful pass from line-mate Rich Peverley.
Now even though Byfuglien go-ahead tally came with over six minutes remaining, the Sharks and Boyle specifically seemed to press as if there were less than a minute left.
Boyle’s costly turnover serves as a prime example of just how collectively out-of-sync team teal has looked these first three games.
Picking up just three points out of a possible six against two clubs whom both missed the playoffs last season can’t leave head coach Todd McLellan and the rest of the Sharks in a good mood moving forward.
However, with just three out of 82 games in the books, no major alterations are needed.
In fact, Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker put it best when he said that all San Jose needs is “more games” in order to start picking up their play.
In other words, it is only a matter of time before the Sharks start putting together better performances and rolling off victories.