Sharks blow late lead, fall to Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime


Sharks blow late lead, fall to Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime


CHICAGO One of the strongest aspects of the Sharks game this season has been their ability to win faceoffs. But in a 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago on Sunday night at United Center, that may have been what cost them the extra point in the standings.

At least, thats how Joe Pavelski and Todd McLellan saw it. Pavelski lost a key defensive zone draw that led to Andrew Brunettes tying goal at 18:54 of the third period, before Patrick Sharp won it in overtime.

We cant lose the faceoffs at the end like that, said Pavelski, whose team lost the battle in the circle, 15-10, in the third period.

It sounds like such a little thing, but believe me, its a big factor when you think about it, said McLellan.

The Sharks entered the game second in the league at winning draws, at 53.8 percent, and had won the faceoff battle in 11 straight games. In the third period, their inability to win draws may have been the result of being worn out by playing their third game in four nights, while Chicago had been off since Thursday.

Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, the Blackhawks controlled play in the Sharks zone for most of the final 20 minutes and overtime, outshooting them 21-4 in the process. That was a complete opposite of the first two periods in which San Jose held a 33-13 advantage in shots.

I think it was pretty evident one team had played three games in four nights and the other one was fresh, said McLellan. We ran out of gas a little bit in the third.

Antti Niemi made some key saves in holding the fort for most of the final frame, including a brilliant pad stop on Hossa with about 15 minutes left.

But, the Blackhawks tied it when Brunette deflected a blast by Hossa from the point with 1:06 remaining and goaltender Ray Emery pulled for an extra attacker.

Sharp gave the Blackhawks the extra point with just 33.2 seconds left in overtime. Again it was Hossa with the primary assist, as he blasted it towards the net from the top of the circle with Sharp in position on Brent Burns to tip it in.

Hossa shot it on the ice, I got a stick on it and it bounced up, and their guy was the first there to the puck, said Niemi.

The loss put a damper on some noticeable improvements to the Sharks game as compared to some of their recent efforts, including back-to-back shutouts on the road to Los Angeles on Nov. 28 and St. Louis on Saturday night. For one, the power play, although it didnt convert, looked much improved.

In the first period, Patrick Marleau had a couple good looks at the side of the net, and Emery made a quick glove save on a laser from the stick of Pavelski.

Tonight our power play was definitely more dangerous and created good momentum, said Pavelski.

Even so, the Sharks are mired in a 1-for-27 slump over their last eight games, and didnt have any power plays after the first period.

The penalty kill was also better, going 3-for-3 in killing one Blackhawks power play in each of the three frames.

I think we played a pretty good game, especially the first two periods, said Niemi, who fell to 4-2 in his career against Chicago. I think we did lots of good things that we can take from this game tonight. I think we worked very hard tonight, and our penalty killing was pretty good, too.

I liked a lot of things about our game tonight, said McLellan. Its something we can build on. We played against a very good team and played very well for two periods.

The Sharks took an early lead thanks to Jamie McGinns fourth goal in the last six games. Michal Handzus threw a soft backhand towards the net, where McGinn whacked it through Emery after a couple tries at 16:25.

The Blackhawks tied the game in the second but not for long.

Niklas Hjalmarssons blast was deflected on its way to the net at least twice, including off of Marcus Kruger, who was credited with his third goal at 7:53 of the second period.

Just one minute and 45 seconds later, the Sharks fourth line generated a goal after providing good energy throughout the first two periods. Brad Winchester found Braun at the top of the circle, and the defenseman's wrister got nothing but net for his first this season.

San Jose continued to pressure.

On a two-on-one rush, Jason Demers skated the puck towards the net and tried sneaking it through the near post, but Emery made the pad save. With less than five minutes remaining, Martin Havlat got the puck alone in front of the net on a nice feed from Logan Couture, but Emery denied his attempted deke with a low pad stop, keeping Chicago in the game long enough for them to tie and eventually win it.

The shots were totally lopsided for the first two periods, and playing last night you wouldnt think so, said Thornton.

From there, though, the Blackhawks took over territorially in winning their sixth game out of eight.

We played well. We really did, said Thornton. We played 59 solid minutes and we probably should have had the two points. If we continue this, thats a pretty good team over there that we did a pretty good job against, and thats a good sign.

Odds and ends: Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) remained out. Defenseman Matt Irwin, recalled from Worcester earlier in the day, was a healthy scratch along with Frazer McLaren. ... Andrew Murray returned to the lineup after a two-game absence.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights


ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.


Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.

Sharks take risk as Dell draws Ducks on second night of a back-to-back


Sharks take risk as Dell draws Ducks on second night of a back-to-back

Aaron Dell last started two games in two days on April 29, 2016. Dell, then the starter with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, manned the net in Game 4 of the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

The Barracuda suffered a season-ending loss to the Ontario Reign that day, and Dell gave up three goals on 34 shots. That was the 20th time in three seasons in the AHL and ECHL that Dell started the first and second half of a back-to-back. 

Dell will end up starting both nights of a back-to-back for the 21st time since 2013 on Sunday. A night after stopping 31 of 32 shots against the reigning champion Penguins, Dell is set to start a pivotal Pacific Division matchup against the Ducks, who are only three points behind the Sharks for the second divisional playoff spot. 

His coach with the Sharks, Peter DeBoer, is no stranger to starting the same goalie on consecutive nights. He's done so seven times in his three seasons behind San Jose's bench, starting Martin Jones in all seven of those games.

Part of that is because of the team's confidence in Jones, who they view as a franchise goaltender. But on some level, these decisions have been driven by an initial hesitancy towards Jones' backups. 

Whatever the reason, DeBoer's been rewarded for rolling the dice and relying on Jones. On the second half of a back-to-back after starting the previous night, Jones has gone 5-2-0 with a .919 save percentage. 

With Jones out due to a lower-body injury, the Sharks once again appear hesitant about Dell's current backup, and rightfully so. Troy Grosenick has made two NHL starts and won the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL's best goaltender last season, but only has a .908 save percentage on 4336 shots in his AHL career, which is enough of a sample to say Grosenick's unlikely to establish himself as a regular NHL goaltender. 

DeBoer's decision to start Dell is thus understandable, but not without its downsides. Eric Tulsky, now the manager of analytics for the Carolina Hurricanes, and Broad Street Hockey associate editor Kurt R. found in 2013 that goalies perform worse on the second half of a back-to-back. That hasn't yet happened when DeBoer's rolled the dice, but it has happened to Dell. 

In his 20 previous starts on the second night of a back-to-back after starting the first half, Dell went 8-9-3, with a .915 save percentage, down from his .921 career save percentage in the AHL and ECHL. That may not seem like a lot, but such a drop in San Jose's save percentage this season would translate to about eight more goals against, which would leave the Sharks in the red in terms of goal differential. 

With only one established NHL goalie on his roster, DeBoer is then left with two bad options. Start Dell, knowing the risks of starting a goalie two nights in a row, or start Grosenick, a minor leaguer without a track record that warrants much confidence.

He opted for the former, and has caught lightning in a bottle before doing the same with Jones. That doesn't mean you can expect it again on Sunday against the Ducks.