(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
SAN JOSE- A 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators was not the game the Sharks were looking for. Home is where the heart is, or maybe it’s just where they have to let you in when you come knocking. In any case, home has not been a very lucky place for the Sharks. After seven straight losses, the Sharks were looking for their first home win in February. They finished the month with not one home win.
Sharks goals were scored by Tommy Wingels and Patrick Marleau. Wingels is the only Shark to have faced Senators’ goalie Andrew Hammond before Saturday, as they played against each other in college. Ottawa goals were scored by Mike Hoffman (2), Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson. The loss left the Sharks still two spots and three points out of a wild card playoff position, with just 19 games left to play. Eight of those will be played at home, for better or worse.
The game started auspiciously for the Sharks. Matt Irwin battled his way past one Senator then eluded three more to put the put in the vicinity of the blue paint. From there, James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels took over to push the puck past Ottawa goaltender Hammond. Coming off of back to back shutouts, it ended his streak at 122:27. Assists on the goal went to Matt Irwin and Matt Nieto.
The Sharks continued to assert themselves through the rest of the first period. The shot gap was as high as 9-2 at one point, which did not accurately reflect how disorderly the Senators were. Their best chance came during the final minute of the period, when a couple of shots and rebounds made Niemi work in the Sharks’ net. The Senators buzzed but the Sharks pushed them back out.
The first ended with the score 1-0 Sharks and the shots 12-10 Sharks.
A couple of minutes into the second period, Tommy Wingels was called for hooking. It was the first penalty of the game. The Sharks handled the penalty kill well, and a couple of minutes later Brent Burns was called for interference after taking Colin Geening into the boards a little bit late.
The Senators’ power pay had a good chance early when Mika Zibanejad got around the Sharks defenders. He skated in close enough to push Niemi back a little but the Sharks netminder gloved the puck anyway. It took the Sens another try to tie the game. A shot from the point came off the back boards to Erik Karlsson. Karlsson put the puck under Niemi’s pads for his 15th of the seaosn. Kyle Turris was given the assist.
The teams were also tied on the shot clock near the midpoint of the game, with 17 shots each.
To balance things further, each team sent a player to the box at 9:10: Logan Couture for tripping and Mark Stone for cross-checking. The game did remain pretty even for a while, with the teams trading shots and not scoring.
The Sharks got their first power play with 7:03 left in the second period, when Colin Greening went to the box for boarding. It took the Sharks 22 seconds to sort out their power play. A shot from Brent Burns at the blue line hit Pavelski in front of the net and bounced to Marleau on the side. Marleau put it past Hammond for his 14th of the season. Assists went to Pavelski and Burns.
The calls kept coming. With 5:42 left in the second, Kyle Turris went to the box for holding. The Senators started their penalty kill better this time, making the Sharks chase them around the ice for a bit. The Sharks got control of the puck with almost a minute gone in the power play, and then they were called for icing. Their next attempt produced a shot but did not hold the zone for long.
The second power play was a mess but the shift after it ended was good. Barclay Goodrow made a legitimate nuisance of himself for the Sens, at both ends of the ice. The fourth line seemed to lead the way back for the Sharks, as the Thornton-Pavelski-Hertl line came back with a better shift than they had had in some minutes.
The Senators had a good last minute of the second period, as they had in the first, but they only gained ground on the shot clock, not the score board. The second ended with the Sharks still ahead in both categories, 23-22 in shots and 2-1 on the scoreboard.
The Senators tied the game up again when Antti Niemi could not corral a rebound, leaving a gap for Mark Stone to shoot through. The goal came at 3:52. The assist went to Kyle Turris.
Brendan Dillon went to the box for tripping, a reasonable penalty to take as he was stopping a dangerous-looking breakaway. The gamble did not pay off, as the Senators took the lead during the ensuing power play. A shot from the point went close by the outside of one post, came off the backboards perfectly for the Senators’ leading scorer Mike Hoffman. The assists to Mika Zibanejad and Erik Karlsson.
There were moments in the latter part of the third period that looked like a mirror image of the first period, with the Sharks struggling to get through the neutral zone and the Senators stopping them at every turn. The Sens crept ahead on the shot clock and held fast to their 3-2 lead.
In the last five minutes, the Sharks did show more composure, minimizing turnovers and throwing the puck away less. But the Senators had their game in order and the lead made them steadfast. When the Sharks pulled Niemi for the extra skater, it did not take long for the Sens to take the puck off of them. It was Mike Hoffman who scored in the empty net.
Line changes: Tye McGinn was inserted on a line with Andrew Desjardins and Barclay Goodrow. Matt Nieto moved to a line with Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard. Tomas Hertl got another shot at the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. That left Melker Karlsson on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau.
Joe Pavelski led the Sharks in hits with five, and in shots with four. Marc-Edouard Vlasic blocked four shots and Brent Burns led in ice time at 25:17. Antti Niemi made 27 saves on 30 shots.
Six Senatoers had three shots apiece, while only four had no shots. Mark Borowiecki led the Sens in hits with six and Erik Karlsson was their ice time leader at 28:22. Andrew Hammond made 28 saves on 30 shots for the win.
The Sharks next play on Monday against the Montreal Canadiens.
With the trade deadline looming, Sharks fans may have no more than trade envy to look forward to. To that end, the Blackhawks have acquired pending UFA Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes, in exchange for defenseman Klas Dahlbeck and a 2015 first round pick. They also added Kimmo Timonen from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for conditional picks.
The Anaheim Ducks acquired Tomas Fleischmann from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Dany Heatley and a third round pick.
The Panthers added Jaromir Jagr to their lineup in exchange for picks to the New Jersey Devils. With the Dany Heatley addition they must have felt a need for some veteran playoff experience to guide their thriving young group forward. They got it.
The LA Kings acquired Andrej Sekera from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a prospect and a first round pick. The Winnipeg Jets acquired Jiri Tlusty from the Hurricanes, in exchange for a 2016 third round pick and a 2015 conditional sixth round pick.
Out of the conference but still worth noting for Sharks fans: Daniel Winnik has been traded from the Maple Leafs and has joined the Pittsburgh Penguins for the playoff run.