Disastrous road trip ends with a loss


Disastrous road trip ends with a loss


ST. PAUL Thankfully, mercifully, finally, the Sharks nine-game road trip has concluded.

But, not before yet another disheartening loss to a team that isnt likely to make the playoffs, and a scary moment in which coach Todd McLellan collapsed after getting hit with a stick behind the bench.

Matt Cullen and Jed Ortmeyer scored late in the third period as the Minnesota Wild came from behind to beat the Sharks at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, 4-3. Brent Burns had given the Sharks the lead with a power play goal earlier in the period, breaking a 2-2 tie, but the team could not hold it.

San Jose finished with just five out of an 18 possible points (2-6-1), in what can only be deemed a catastrophic trip that saw the club lose what looked to be, at one time, a rather comfortable lead in the Pacific Division. The Sharks remain in seventh place in the Western Conference with 71 points (32-22-7), perilously close to falling out of the top eight. They are just three points ahead of Los Angeles and Colorado, which are currently tied for ninth.

Were aware of it. Its not good, Dan Boyle said.

Jamie McGinn said: Its going to be a long flight home.

Theres more bad news. The Sharks lost dynamic winger Logan Couture in the third period, after Greg Zanon hit him early in the final frame. Couture also absorbed a jarring hit from Kyle Brodziak in the first period, prompting a visit the Sharks locker room before he emerged to start the second.

The team is calling it a lower-body injury, and there was no more detail provided.

Early in the second, just after the Wild tied the game at 2-2, McLellan was struck in the head by the stick of Marco Scandella after the Wild defenseman collided near the bench with McGinn. McLellan had to be helped to the locker room after he had trouble staying on his feet moments after taking the shot.

McLellan was alert while being attended to by doctors, and remained in his office at the Xcel Energy Center to watch the duration of the game.

I could tell I hit something pretty hard, but I didnt know what it was, Scandella said.

Assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft took over from there, and Shaw met with the media after the game.

I saw Scandella come into the boards and I saw our guys kind of push him out, he said. Then I looked and Todd was trying to compose himself and stay upright, and you could tell he was in some discomfort. I just kind of grabbed him.

McLellan was well enough to fly home with the team, but did not speak with the media.

After Brent Burns gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead with a power play goal at 8:45 of the third period, Cullen and Ortmeyer scored on deflections just 72 seconds apart. Cullen got his stick on a point shot by Scandella at 14:33, sending a bouncing puck past Thomas Greiss, while Ortmeyer deflected a shot by Jared Spurgeon at 15:47.

Minnesota scored three of its four goals on deflections, including Nick Schultzs power play goal early in the second, when his blast from the point hit Patrick Marleaus stick before sailing over Greiss right shoulder at 1:43 of the second.

They did a good job of getting shots through from the point and getting good sticks on them, said Greiss.

Shaw said: Things that you do to score goals these days in the league is you put pucks to the net. People in and around the net, if you cant control a body, you want to control a stick as best you can. We werent able to do that.

The Sharks came out like gangbusters to start the game with some revamped forward lines to take a 2-0 lead.

Just 1:22 into the game, Tommy Wingels scored on a nice feed from behind the net by McGinn. Less than two minutes later, Joe Thornton cleaned up some garbage in front of the net and the Sharks had a two-goal cushion just 3:21 into the game.

The top scoring lines included Thornton with Torrey Mitchell and Joe Pavelski, McGinn with Marleau and Wingels, and Benn Ferriero with Couture and Clowe.

Minnesota responded midway through the first, though. Cal Clutterbuck skipped an awkward shot on net that appeared to fool Greiss at 9:13.

After Schultzs game-tying goal and McLellans accident early in the second, the Sharks seemed to lose some steam. At least, thats how Shaw saw it.

I did think we were on our heels for a little bit, Shaw said. It was just an emotional moment for everybody to have that go on.

McGinn said: Its tough. Its such a freak accident, you dont want anything like that to ever happen, and to happen to a head coach it was definitely a curve ball thrown at us during the game. Things like that happen in a hockey game and you have to respond well.

The Sharks return home on Tuesday to open a four-game homestand with the Philadelphia Flyers, and are desperately looking for answers.

Nobodys feeling sorry for us, thats for sure, Thornton said. Weve just got to work our way out of this.
Odds and ends: The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Greiss made 22 saves, while Niklas Backstrom had 25. Patrick Marleau had two assists, while Brent Burns had a goal and an assist against his former team. The Sharks won 36 of 58 face-offs.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are


Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.


Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.