Sharks prevail over Canucks in shootout, 3-2


Sharks prevail over Canucks in shootout, 3-2


VANCOUVER In what may have been their biggest win of the year er, season, so as not to be confused with a bad pun the Sharks defeated the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Monday night, 3-2, by virtue of Michal Handzus shootout goal.

It was the Sharks first victory in three tries against the team that has become their nemesis, and in another vastly entertaining game, it didnt matter if the win came in regulation, overtime, a shootout, extra innings, or a last second field goal.

Any positive result for us at this point is real important, but in this building and against that team is something that we needed, Todd McLellan said.

Surprisingly, it was the Sharks much maligned and 28th ranked penalty kill that led the way. Although Vancouver's Cody Hodgson tied the game at 2-2 with a power play goal midway through the third, San Jose managed to kill off five of the six Canucks opportunities, including a lengthy five-on-three advantage early in the final frame.

Thats no small feat against the leagues top ranked unit, which entered the game with a 24.2 percent success rate.

It was awesome. With that group, five-on-three they are the best in the league, Ryane Clowe said. We didnt really give them too much. It was a great job, and we worked on that a little bit in our practice time.

With San Jose nursing a 2-1 lead, Jason Demers and Brent Burns were whistled for infractions just 51 seconds apart. A couple of blocked shots and clears later, though, the Sharks still had their precious advantage.

The penalty kill has been a lot better significantly better for the last four or five games, now, Dan Boyle said. That was a huge turnaround. Weve been on the other side of that, and its a missed opportunity. They had their chance, but they missed it.

Still, the Canucks fought back and tied it with Clowe off for holding Alex Burrows. Vancouver nearly won it early in overtime, but Dan Hamhuis hit the far post while looking at an open net.

After the teams combined for five failed attempts to start the shootout, Handzus buried a shot past Roberto Luongo to put an end to San Joses four-game road winless streak.

I usually dont think too much about it, said Handzus of what he was going through his head with the game on his stick. Just go in and look where hes standing, and what hes doing. Then, just shoot it or fake it. Pretty simple. It went in for me, and its great for the team to get the two points.

Ryan Kesler, who shot immediately before Handzus, had Antti Niemi beat but fired it off of the post. The Sharks goaltender was happy to hear the chime of frozen rubber on iron.

Yeah, for sure, just to see the reaction of the people and they didnt cheer, Niemi said. At first, youre not sure if the puck goes in or not, and when you realize it didnt, thats a big relief.

Niemi started for the 16th time in the last 17 games, and recorded his 16th win of the season with 27 saves. Luongo took the loss, stopping 33 Sharks shots.

The Sharks used a strong second period to take a 2-1 lead after falling behind in the first.

Benn Ferriero tied the game at 1:34. Kevin Bieksa immediately fell to the ice after blocking a wrist shot by Logan Couture in front of the net. Ferriero took advantage of suddenly being alone in front the net, and deposited his third goal of the year from Clowe.

I was pretty open in front, Clowie found me, and I buried the rebound, Ferriero said.

Patrick Marleau gave San Jose its first lead. A long shift by the Sharks in the offensive zone had the Canucks scrambling, and Marleau banged in the rebound of a soft Justin Braun wrist shot from the point midway through.

The Sharks outshot the Canucks 17-7 in the second period.

Although the five-on-three kill was the most noticeable, the unit came up big early in the second when Vancouver was looking to build on its slim advantage. A high-sticking call on Demers at 19:05 of the first period carried over into the second.

I think the penalty kill going out to begin the second period was important for us, and about five or six minutes later we got a power play and we were dangerous, McLellan said. We felt good about ourselves at that point.

The Sharks were playing for the first time after a four-day break, off since last Wednesdays 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver at HP Pavilion. The Canucks, meanwhile, continued on to Anaheim and Los Angeles following that game and were concluding a stretch of four games in six nights.

McLellan thought his club might be able to capitalize on what may have been an energy discrepancy.

We knew they had played four games in six nights, and we were fresh. We didnt do anything other than practice, so we wanted to use that to our advantage, the coach said.

Ferriero said thats exactly what happened. We definitely were pretty fresh. We had a good solid break there and some good practices, and I think we expected to come out and play with some jump. We did that tonight.

The Sharks got a scare early in the first period. Couture, who leads the team with 16 goals, limped off of the ice and up the tunnel when a wrist shot from the stick of Keith Ballard caught him in the knee as he lowered down to block it. Couture didnt spend much time in the locker room, though, and the Sharks breathed a sigh of relief as he returned later in the period.

Vancouver opened the scoring on a Jannik Hansen goal. On a three-on-one rush, Hansens centering pass deflected in off of a backchecking Jamie McGinn at 15:42.

It was the 26th time the Canucks had scored first, tied with Detroit for the most in league. They fell to 20-5-1 when doing so.

Odds and ends: The Sharks had 24 blocked shots to the Canucks seven. Vancouver won 61 percent of faceoffs (38-24). Cody Hodgson had a goal and an assist. Colin White, Frazer McLaren and Antero Niittymaki were the Sharks scratches. Vancouver is 5-0-2 in its last seven games against San Jose. Nine of the last 10 Sharks games have been decided by one goal (4-2-3). The Sharks are 9-1-1 when Patrick Marleau scores, and 3-0 when Benn Ferriero gets a goal. Seven of Ferrieros 10 career goals have come on the road. San Jose visits Anaheim on Wednesday. The Sharks are 0-3 against the last place Ducks this season.

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens


There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

The San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens could not be more different in terms of tradition. But, on the ice this season, they couldn’t be more similar.

Both teams have placed their faith in a goalie that wears #31. The top defensemen on each team, Brent Burns and Shea Weber, are 32 and signed until 2025 and 2026, respectively. Tomas Hertl and Alex Galchenyuk are 2012 first round picks playing on the wing after being drafted as centers. Tomas Plekanec and Joe Thornton are favorites on the wrong side of 30, who may head elsewhere next summer.  Heck, both teams miss defenseman David Schlemko, who San Jose lost in the expansion draft and was eventually traded to Montreal, where he hasn’t yet played due to injury.

And both have struggled mightily so far. San Jose and Montreal have combined to win just two games, and sit 29th and 30th, respectively, in goals scored this season. It’s hard to imagine the Sharks and Canadiens scoring so little with all of that talent, but they can’t bank on good fortune, either.

Something’s got to give when the two face off at SAP Center tonight. After tonight, one team will feel much better about themselves, and the other team will be much closer to hitting the panic button.

That’s where the critical difference lies: Montreal’s already hit it, and San Jose probably won’t.

Last season, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien in February. Seven months after essentially siding with Therrien and trading star defenseman P.K. Subban, Bergevin ended Therrien’s time in Montreal, too. He surely can’t fire another coach, but a Galchenyuk trade is reportedly a possibility, according to TSN.

The Sharks, on the other hand, likely won’t do any of that. Even with the burden of high expectations in his tenure, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson’s never traded away a star player or fired a coach midseason. Even though Vegas pegs Peter DeBoer as the odds-on favorite to lose his job, it’s hard to envision Wilson making a change behind the bench during the year. He didn’t in 2015 when Todd McLellan seemed to lose the room, so why would he now?

Patience is what truly separates the Sharks and Canadiens, and that difference will likely determine how each front office reacts if their teams continue to struggle. Wilson’s shown a willingness to swing for the fences under these circumstances. He acquired Joe Thornton in 2005, after all.

But if you’re waiting on Wilson to take a page out of Bergevin’s book and fire the coach or trade away a key piece approaching their prime? Don’t hold your breath.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.