Monday night’s Sharks-Capitals game changed when Joe Thornton fought Tom Wilson. Not because the dust-up, a response to Thornton’s hit that ended T.J. Oshie’s night, gave the Capitals “momentum,” or “fired up the boys,” or whatever hockey cliche you find most fitting, but because of what came after.
Timo Meier picked up not one, but two roughing penalties after Thornton and Wilson dropped the gloves. Barclay Goodrow caught John Carlson with a high-stick on the forecheck, and answered for it in a fight of his own.
Brenden Dillon picked up an elbowing penalty, and then in the final five seconds of the game, a five-minute slashing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. He may face supplemental discipline from the league for the slash, too.
Meier told reporters (via The Athletic) that the Sharks “showed [Monday] that [they] can push back.” That may be the case, but the display undoubtedly cost the Sharks the game.
At the time of Thornton’s fight, San Jose trailed by two goals, but controlled the pace of play. They were out-attempting the Capitals 46-39 in all situations, and 40-32 at even strength.
Following the fight, Washington held a slight edge in five-on-five shot attempts (8-6), as San Jose effectively took themselves out of the game thanks to their parade to the penalty box. The Capitals all but sealed the game with Jakub Vrana’s power play tally while Kevin Labanc served Goodrow’s high-sticking penalty.
Thornton’s major was set to expire with 12:46 remaining in the third period. That would have been plenty of time to possibly mount a comeback, even for the scoring-starved Sharks.
Meier picked up his first roughing penalty 39 seconds after Thornton fought. 3:14 after his penalty expired, Goodrow went to the box.
There’s no guarantee that the Sharks would have come back successfully, but they never even gave themselves a chance.
It was the second straight game that lost composure cost the Sharks. At the end of the second period of Saturday’s loss to the Lightning, Thornton slashed Tyler Johnson, and Tampa Bay scored on the ensuing power play to take their first lead of the game.
They would never relinquish it.
Hockey is an intense, high-collision sport. Emotion undoubtedly plays a role, and a vital one, as long as it’s kept in check and focused in the right direction.
In the last two games, the Sharks did not do that, and lost. It’s not the only reason behind their losing streak, and may not even be the main one. However, their lack of composure cost them in critical moments.
The Sharks may have demonstrated they won’t get pushed around on Monday, but all they have to show for it is a loss.