Sharks shut out in Phoenix, fall from 8th place


Sharks shut out in Phoenix, fall from 8th place


PHOENIX Radim Vrbata scored twice and the Phoenix Coyotes leapfrogged the Sharks into eighth place in the West with a 2-0 win over San Jose on Thursday night at Arena.The Sharks (39-29-10, 88 points) are now on the outside looking in to the playoffs due to their second consecutive regulation loss. Phoenix (38-27-13, 89 points) is one ahead of San Jose, and both have just four games remaining in the regular season.The Coyotes, last in the league in power play percentage, scored a rare goal with a man advantage in taking a 1-0 second period lead.A blast from Oliver Ekman-Larsson rattled around in front of the net before Vrbata slammed it home at 3:49. The goal came with Patrick Marleau in the box on a boarding call in what was the first penalty of the game.The Sharks had a chance to tie it on a power play of their own later in the period, but were generally ineffective and for the final 30 seconds of the advantage didnt have a single player standing near goaltender Mike Smith.San Jose nearly tied the game seven minutes into the third. Logan Couture had a chance in front of the net on a nice pass from Marty Havlat, but couldnt find the handle with Mikkel Boedker defending in front of the crease and tying up Coutures stick.That missed opportunity hurt even more when Joe Pavelskis shot from the high slot was blocked, leading to a two-on-one the other way. Ray Whitney fed Vrbata for an easy tap-in at 8:17, giving the Coyotes a two-goal cushion they would not relinquish.Smith recorded his third shutout against the Sharks this season, as Phoenix ended the season series with a 4-1-1 mark against San Jose. Smith surrendered six goals on opening night to the Sharks in a 6-3 loss at HP Pavilion, but just six goals total in the five subsequent matchups.For the second straight night, the Sharks had the better of the scoring chances in the first period but could not convert.Havlat missed from the side of the net on a nice pass from Ryane Clowe about seven minutes in. Later, Smith stopped a Torrey Mitchell one-timer as well as the rebound attempt by Dominic Moore with less than eight minutes to go in the frame.Smith stopped Pavelski, who was probably the Sharks most effective forward in their 3-1 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday night, on a three-on-one rush with 6:14 to go in the first on a wrist shot from the circle.Phoenixs best chance in the opening period came on a breakaway by Boedker with four and a half minutes left, but Antti Niemi poke-checked it away with the handle of his stick, keeping it scoreless.The Sharks fell to 1-6-2 in their last nine road games. In their last 21 away from home, theyve won just four (4-13-4), all against teams not currently in playoff position.Phoenix welcomed three key players back to its lineup for the game. Vrbata missed five of the last seven with an allergic reaction to penicillin; defenseman Adrian Aucoin was out for six in a row with a lower body injury, while captain Shane Doan missed the last three games due to suspension.The Sharks host Dallas on Saturday, visit the Stars on Tuesday, and end the season with a home-and-home against Los Angeles.

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.

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks


Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks


SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss guided the New York Islanders on a night when they played it a little bit too safe.

Greiss stopped 40 shots, Brock Nelson scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the New York Islanders rallied to beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.

The Islanders improved to 1-1 on their three-game, five-day West Coast trip. The Sharks are 1-3 on their season-opening five-game homestand.

Nelson made it 2-1 at 13:33 of the second period, capitalizing on an open look in front of the goal after Joshua Ho-Sang's pass from behind the net.

"After we got the lead we just kind of held on, we bent but we didn't break and we needed some big saves from Thomas," Islanders coach Doug Weight said.

"These teams, when they're down, they're gonna push. ... You don't want to sit back but I think it's human nature. We have to get it out of our heads. We want to play aggressive and we want to put the puck in good spots. We started making some shoddy decisions, our feet stopped moving for a while, but give (the Sharks) credit, they made a good push. Tommy was great."

The Sharks led after Kevin Labanc's power-play goal at 4:16 of the first. Labanc was in the left circle when he rebounded a deflection and fired a wrist shot that slipped through Greiss' pads.

The Islanders tied it when Anders Lee tipped one in at 17:02 of the first.

Cal Clutterbuck scored an empty-net goal at with 1:10 left in the game.

"It's nice, first road win of the year, a good bounce back," Nelson said, referencing a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

"I thought we did some good things in Anaheim and weren't rewarded. It's nice to come out on top here."

The Islanders failed to score on three power plays. The Sharks penalty killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over its last three games.

The Sharks had a short-handed scoring chance after Joakim Ryan was called for holding at 14:33 in the third period, when Greiss turned away Chris Tierney's shot in front of the goal.

Greiss survived relentless pressure in a third period in which the Sharks had 15 shots on goal.

"It felt like it was going to break, it just never did," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "A little bit of credit to Greisser over there, but with us, we've got to keep pushing and find a way.

"I thought we were going to tie it, but encouraging to see the way guys played for a second straight game here. Wanted a better result, for sure, but guys played hard."

NOTES: Islanders C Alan Quine (wrist) is with the team on its West Coast trip and has been practicing. He'll likely go to Bridgeport of the AHL on a conditioning assignment if he's ready when the team returns home on Monday. ... RW Clutterbuck (hip) was in Saturday's lineup after missing the last three games and C Jordan Eberle was on the ice a day after missing Friday's practice with an injury he suffered in practice the previous day. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer said the injury is day-to-day.


Islanders: At the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.

Sharks: Host the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night.