SAN JOSE — Despite rolling off impressive victories in Chicago and in Los Angeles to finish off a three game road trip, the San Jose Sharks stumbled in their return to the HP Pavilion Monday night, losing to the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3.
The white-hot Canucks have now won six in a row, are 15-1-2 in their past 18 games and with the victory over the Sharks, sit in sole possession of first place in the entire NHL. However, as hot as Vancouver has been, Sharks winger Ryane Clowe was more vividly upset than would might expect after a one-goal loss.
“We wanna cheat at times,” he said. They’re not afraid to play a sound defensive game, they’ll stick to it and we got guys that wanna do it occasionally.
“I guarantee you right now, there are guys who don’t feel that tired after that game,” Clowe added. “Do you wanna score four goals or do you want to win a game? You happy losing with five goals, losing 6-5 maybe? Or would you rather like an LA 1-0? Are guys happy then? I don’t know. Maybe they wanna score goals and get points.”
Harsh words from the 28-year-old Clowe, whose now 35 points in 40 games is on pace to shatter his career point totals.
Clowe scored his 11th of the season just over five minutes into the middle frame to tie the score at one a piece.
After the Sedin Twins (Henrik and Daniel) gave their team a 1-0 lead at 6:09 of the first on a combined giveaway between Joe Thornton and Jason Demers.
But at 5:08 of the second. Demers made up for his mistake and helped the Sharks tie the game at 1-1. The Sharks defenseman pinched in along the right-hand boards and quickly gathered the puck and fired it to the crease where Clowe was in perfect position to re-direct it into an empty net behind Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider.
However, the Canucks would re-take the lead on a power-play as Alexander Edler snuck a shot through Niemi on the power-play just 3:06 later. The Shark netminder got a piece of the shot but was beat under the glove, short-side.
The Sharks responded with a power-play goal of their own a little over four minutes later when Patrick Marleau put home a rebound of a Dan Boyle point shot. It was only a matter of time on the power-play before Marleau scored as the Sharks’ top unit created chance after chance, moving their feet and switching positions quite effectively.
The Sharks would keep that momentum going a couple minutes later when Jammal Mayers, who won a decisive bout with Vancouver’s Tanner Glass earlier, put home is second goal of the year off the rush when Schneider had stumbled over in the crease.
From there, it looked as if the Sharks would carry a one-goal lead into the third until Jannik Hansen quickly pounced on a rebound and jammed home his fifth of the year with just 1:25 remaining in the second. Canucks center Ryan Kesler wristed the puck towards the net from outside the right face-off dot but nobody tied up Hansen who skated from behind the net and buried the rebound past Niemi.
Unfortunately for San Jose, the third period was their demise for the third time in the past five games. The Canucks out-shot San Jose 21-13 in the final period and scored the lone goal in the frame.
While Alexandre Burrows’ goal at the 8:57 mark should have been whistled down for a high stick, the play was not reviewable. Since he re-directed the puck with his stick above the cross bar, it should have been whistled down since he was the first one to possess the puck after the high touch. However, since the referees missed the high stick and the goal itself came on a legal shot, the goal can not be reviewed and taken off the board.
The Sharks battled to tie the game and force overtime in the closing minutes. But even with Niemi pulled for an extra attacker for well over a minute and a half, the Sharks couldn’t find a way to tie the score in the final moments.
Obviously no team likes to lose, but the hatred that Clowe expressed for his team’s performance echoes what Boyle said after San Jose’s previous game on home ice, a 4-0 thrashing by the Kings a week ago. Boyle said after that game that many of the Sharks had take the night off that night, and as mentioned above, Clowe felt confident that some of his teammates didn’t put in adequate effort against Vancouver. Neither of them would name names but constant questions over effort, something that each player can control, does not look good moving forward.
San Jose is now a game away from the halfway point but the chemistry amongst the players doesn’t seem to be there off the ice.
While the goaltending from Niemi has been solid lately, including Monday’s 43-save effort, the team as a whole just doesn’t seem like a group united in a common goal.
Many will say that San Jose is a top-four defenseman away from being as good as anybody in the league, but right now the mix in the room just doesn’t give the vibe of a true top contender.