San Jose Sharks Lose Third Straight, 3-2 against Anaheim Ducks

The Sharks season got off to a rocking start eight days ago against the Phoenix Coyotes, but that now seems like a distant memory. Since that dominant performance, the Sharks play has been riddled with inconsistency. Tonight’s effort was better, particularly late in the game, but then again you would expect it to be when the opposition is on the back end of back-to-backs, and only playing to protect the lead.

Things did not get off to the best start for the Sharks as Teemu Selanne opened the scoring for Anaheim on their second power-play mid-way through the 1st period. The Sharks had a power-play right before that, but were unable to capitalize, where the Ducks eventually did. On the goal, Douglas Murray had blocked a shot a few moments earlier, which hobbled him to the point where he dropped his stick in agony. He then got up and attempted to tough it out, which prompted Michal Handzus to give him his stick. This proved to be a mistake, as Saku Koivu made a great cross-crease pass to the far post, where Teemu Selanne was waiting. Michal Handzus attempted to break up the play by sliding towards Selanne at the last moment, but without his stick he couldn’t reach the passing lane in time, and Selanne banged it home.

Teemu followed up his first tap-in goal with another goal from the crease later in the first. Saku Koivu took a quick shot from the right half boards, which rebounded oddly off Niemi right into the crease. Selanne quickly spun off his defender, and all in one motion shot it towards the net. The puck squeaked through under Niemi’s right armpit to make it 2-0 Ducks.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic broke the shutout with a fortuitous goal in the second period. The Sharks had been mounting typical second period pressure, and Vlasic shot a backhand on net from the left faceoff circle, which rebounded out off Ducks’ goalie Dan Ellis, and then off the skate of an onrushing Bobby Ryan and into the net. Ryan was skating directly towards his own net in an effort to cover his man, and the puck hit directly off the front of his skate and through Dan Ellis’ legs.

The score remained 2-1 Ducks despite more pressure by the Sharks through the 2nd period, and a few quality chances for the Ducks going the other way. It wasn’t until the 3rd that more goals were scored.

First it was Corey Perry for the Ducks. At the end of a long shift, with near dead legs, Corey Perry decided against dumping the puck in and going off for a change, and instead skated slowly across the blueline one against two. He crossed from the right side of the ice to the left high in the offensive zone while doing a slow-motion spin-o-rama, and Dan Boyle made the mistake of backing up instead of pressuring the slowed Perry. This allowed Perry the space to release a wicked wrist shot against the grain right as he came out of his spin-o-rama, using Dan Boyle as a screen. The shot beat Niemi far-side top corner.

Then it was the Sharks who got on the board again, once more in strange fashion.

The Ducks had just finished killing off the latest of a string of Sharks power-plays, as the Ducks did not receive a single power-play since they took the lead early in the 1st period (a very disturbing trend we’re seeing more and more in the NHL).

But right as the Sharks power-play expired, Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa, with all the time in the world to skate the puck out of his defensive zone, decided to shoot it not just out of his defensive zone, but over the far end glass as well. This gifted the Sharks yet another power-play only seconds after the Ducks had finished off killing the previous one. But the Ducks were not phased, as their penalty kill unit proceeded to kill off the early part of the Sharks power-play with ease. It was going so well for them, in fact, that one of their penalty killers found the puck on his stick on the right half-boards of the Sharks offensive zone with no Shark in front of him, and, once again, all the time in the world to skate the puck out of the zone and get a clear.

It stopped going well about the time he tripped on his own skates, and then in an effort to still clear the puck from his stomach, somehow managed to loft the puck over the glass behind the benches even though he and he stick were absolutely horizontal along the ice, and he had zero leverage to lift the puck.

But if you watched the Sharks play at all last season, with all of their crazy comebacks, this is just what happens in a Sharks game. Can’t score a goal? No problem, the other team will just kick one in for you off their skate. Can’t score on all your 5 on 4 power-plays? No problem, the other team will just fall down on the penalty kill, and then magically shoot it over the glass to make it a 5 on 3. This type of craziness seems to happen constantly for the Sharks, to their benefit, which you have to consider a credit to them at some point in addition to luck.

And sure enough, the Sharks scored on their 5 on 3 on a blast from Brent Burns, his 2nd of the season (this time a real blast of his own doing, no lucky deflections). This brought the seemingly inevitable comeback that much closer to fruition. But curiously enough, the Ducks managed to hold on for the win, despite a late flurry by the Sharks with Niemi pulled.

That’s three games in a row now opposing teams have been able to hold one goal leads in the 3rd period against the Sharks. The Sharks have had their power-plays, their long 6 on 5 pulled-goalie opportunities, but no dice. They’ve come ever-so-close, but the magic from last year has been missing so far this year when the Sharks need it most.

However, to all the Sharks fans out there, I wouldn’t worry. If the insanely fortuitous circumstances surrounding tonight’s 5 on 3 are any indication, the magic is already 90% back, and that 10% that governs the difference between tying the game in the final moments and not will probably return in short order. Let’s see if it doesn’t just show up next game.

I’ve got a feeling it will.

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