SAN JOSE – Some fluky bounces, a marginal goalie interference call, and strong team defense by the Penguins in front of their own net all contributed to a 5-1 Pittsburgh win over San Jose that was much closer than the score would indicate.
Did Pittsburgh deserve to win? Yes. But in what was an evenly played game at SAP Center on Tuesday night, the Penguins seemed to get all the breaks in giving San Jose its worst loss since a 4-0 defeat in New York on Oct. 19.
The hockey gods started messing with the Sharks just two-and-a-half minutes into the first period, when Phil Kessel’s pass from behind the net hit Paul Martin’s skate and found daylight above Martin Jones’ shoulder, and continued in the second when Matt Cullen banked one in from below the goal line off of the back of Jones’ skate.
“A couple bounces here and there today,” Jones said.
Tommy Wingels said: “At times you’re going to get good bounces, at times you’re not. It happens. I think we’ve gotten our fair share of bounces thus far this year, so we’ll look to create more opportunities for ourselves going forward.”
Evgeni Malkin’s wraparound goal at 6:35 of the second gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead on a play that Jones admitted he overplayed, but the Sharks didn’t sag. They got back to within 3-1 on Patrick Marleau’s power play goal at 15:35, and the third line, with Wingels and Tomas Hertl in particular, got in the offensive zone right away on the next shift.
When Hertl whacked in a loose puck in the blue paint at 15:52, the Sharks should have been back to within 3-2. It was immediately waved off due to goalie contact by Wingels, though, and upheld despite a Pete DeBoer challenge.
Instead of trailing by just one goal headed into the third period, the score remained 3-1 Pittsburgh.
“That’s a critical turning point right there,” DeBoer said. “We just got rolling, it could have been 3-2 at that point. I’m still a little unsure on how the decision was made based on my views of it, but that’s all part of it.”
Wingels, said he didn’t think there was contact: “It’s tough. You need a big shift there, and you think you have a goal but you don’t. It is what it is. These guys make the calls that they think are right and we live with it.”
Although their only marker came on the power play, the Sharks had a number of chances at even strength early and late. They generated 34 shots on goal, and on numerous occasions were searching for loose pucks lying in and around the crease.
On one such occasion in the third period trailing 3-1, Melker Karlsson found himself alone in front of the net with a loose disc at his skates, but he couldn’t quite get a stick on it to jam it through Marc-Andre Fleury.
“There were some rebounds there that [Fleury] kicked out and we had some second chance opportunities, but it seemed like they were always there to whack it into the corner and have us start over again,” Martin said.
Joe Pavelski said: “You’ve got to give them a little credit there. Whether it’s bad bounces or not, when the score ends up like that you’ve got to look at yourself. We didn’t do enough and didn’t find a way.”
Although the Sharks are still struggling to establish consistency at home despite owning the second-best road record in the NHL, certain aspects of Tuesday’s loss encouraged DeBoer, including the play of the bottom two lines.
The Hertl-Wingels line, along with winger Matt Nieto, was probably the Sharks’ best trio of the night, building off of the momentum gained in Saturday’s win over Calgary.
“I liked our third and fourth lines tonight. I thought they really gave us some positive energy, some positive shifts,” DeBoer said.
Despite losing seven of 11 home games, it’s still about the process to the first year head coach who could soon welcome the valuable Logan Couture back into the lineup.
“I thought our game was much better than the score indicated,” DeBoer said. “I’m very comfortable that we get some of the people we have out back and keep playing this way, that we’re going to be fine.”