(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
By Mary Walsh
Three quick first period goals from Blackhawks’ defensemen were too much for the San Jose Sharks to overcome in a 5-2 loss Sunday. Two goals from Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks life in later periods but they could not catch the skilled Chicago team.
After the loss, Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized the Sharks’ performance: “We didn’t play well in the first period, we didn’t do anything right and fell behind three-nothing. It’s tough to come back against a team like that.”
Before Sunday, the Blackhawks had lost three home games in a row. Of that fact, Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said:
I don’t care if they’ve won three in a row or lost three in a row, you’re going to get a team’s good game at home and we didn’t get the start we wanted. We didn’t do hardly anything right in that first.
Despite losing by three goals, the Sharks did make a game of it in the second and third periods. That was little consolation right after the game. Of the Sharks’ strong second and third periods, Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi said: “It’s obviously better than losing it all the way, losing it every period but it doesn’t give much satisfaction in the end because we didn’t get any points.”
The first period started out free-wheeling, with turnovers and takeaways preventing either team from setting up or maintaining pressure. Near the half way mark, the Blackhawks took control. Of the first period as a whole, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan detailed the things that went wrong for his team: “We can’t give the puck away like we did, we gave up three on twos, two on ones, we lost faceoffs. We were unengaged the whole period, everybody.”
Between the 12:00 mark and 14:34 of the first, Chicago defensemen scored three even strength goals. The first was a slapshot from Trevor Van Riemsdyk, his first NHL goal. That came off of a pass from Jonathan Toews. The second came from Brent Seabrook, deflecting off of Andrew Desjardins’ skate. Assists went to Brad Richards and Peter Regin. The third goal was from Niklas Hjalmarsson, with assists to Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger.
The Sharks managed to stop the bleeding with a goal from Joe Pavelski just under a minute later. A Justin Braun shot from the blue line went off the inside of Pavelski’s stick, then bounced off his hip and into the net. The assists went to Braun and Joe Thornton.
At the end of the period, the Blackhawks led the Sharks in shots 20-9, as well as 3-1 in goals.
For the second game in a row, the Sharks had a four minute power play to work with. 2:57 in to the second period, Joe Thornton took a stick to the face that drew blood. Andrew Shaw went to the box for that and the Sharks went to work against the NHL’s leading penalty killers. It took them almost two minutes but Joe Pavelski scored his second of the game to bring the Sharks within one.
In their shift after the power play expired, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun went on a shooting frenzy, firing as fast as the forwards could get the puck back to them. The sequence did not change the score but it seemed to ramp up the momentum for San Jose.
With eight minutes left in the period, Barclay Goodrow had a clean breakaway but he could not beat Corey Crawford. His linemate, Adam Burish, was right behind him and though they did not convert, it was a very good chance for that line and it kept the Sharks’ momentum going.
Chicago is not a team to wilt easily and they came back with their own series of attacks in the Sharks’ zone. Antti Niemi had to be quick and the Sharks had to work hard to push the Blackhawks back out. The last six minutes of the period were a more refined version of the first period, with play going back and forth fast, but without the sloppiness.
The Sharks led the Blackhawks 13-6 in shots for the period.
Early in the third period, the Sharks had to kill their first penalty of the game. Jason Demers went to the box for a high stick to Bryan Bickell. The Sharks’ penalty kill was very effective, with Patrick Marleau spending a good deal of time in Chicago’s end of the ice interrupting their attempts to get through the neutral zone and set up.
Half way through the third period, the Sharks were rescued from a two on one by a late whistle as David Rundblad was called for holding James Sheppard, as Sheppard and his linemates buzzed the Chicago net.
With under five minutes left, the Bryan Bickell escaped Mirco Mueller behind the net and was able to put a quick shot past Niemi to give the Blackhawks a two goal lead. With just over two minutes left, Joanathan Toews scored into the empty net.
A couple of fights followed, one between Kris Versteeg and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the other between Adam Burish and Jeremy Morin. Of his encounter with Versteeg, Vlasic said after the game: “He was just holding my stick. I didn’t know he was going to drop his gloves, he kind of got the advantage on me. But I know what to expect for next game.”
An extra roughing penalty to Adam Burish put the Sharks on the penalty kill for the final minute and a half. During that penalty kill, Brent Burns was called for tripping, putting the Sharks down by two men and three goals. Seconds later, Scott Hannan was called for boarding.
Out of men to remove from the ice, and out of time to extend the power play, officials could only note the penalty in the record. Andrew Desjardins, Justin Braun and Jason Demers had the honor of finishing that penalty kill. It was not the prettiest way to end the game, but killing the five on three salvaged something of the Sharks’ game.
Antti Niemi made 32 saves on 36 shots. The Sharks’ power play went 1/3, their penalty kill was perfect. Joe Pavelski led the team in shots with five. Brent Burns led the team in hits with five. Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the team in ice time at 22:41.
Corey Crawford made 32 saves on 34 shots for the win. Brandon Saad led the Blackhawks in shots with five. Marion Hossa led his team in hits with three. Niklas Hjalmarsson led his team in ice time at 25:32.
Tye McGinn, Matt Irwin and John Scott were the Sharks’ scratches.
The Sharks next play on Tuesday at 4:40 PT in Sunrise Florida against the Florida Panthers.