(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
It took the Montreal Canadiens four games but they finally scored against the San Jose Sharks. It may have been the worst possible time for them to do that, as far as the Sharks are concerned, but the Sharks can not say they did not put a strong effort into the game. Montreal Candiens goalie Carey Price was trying to catch the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury’s league leading nine shutouts on the season. Montreal broke their Shark shutout streak at 18:46 of the first period, and Price caught Fleury with the 2-0 win over the Sharks. It was a well played game all around, with neither team clearly dominating the other. Montreal goals were scored by Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher. Except for how calamitous any loss is for the Sharks right now, it is worth noting that San Jose played a very good road game.
The was very even from the start, and in the end the shot count was 29-29. Joe Pavelski was asked whether the Sharks had taken a peek at the Winnipeg game going on at the same time. He said no:
The guys in here did a tremendous job just focusing, I think we played hard up and down the lineup, guys handled the puck pretty well, Nemo was good for us when he had to be. So, obviously we’ll look at the games now but it really doesn’t matter whether they win or lose, we’ve got to win, we didn’t do that.
Through the first period, shots favored the Candiens 13-8, but the Sharks had some very good looks. Penalties were minimal, with only matching minors being assigned to Justin Braun and Brendan Gallagher for holding and embellishment respectively. Six different Sharks had shots on goal, with two from Brent Burns. The rest of the game was the same, making it easy to think the Sharks would tie it up. As Joe Pavelski put it: “It felt like we were going to get it, it felt like we were going to get it all night. There really wasn’t a time when it didn’t feel like that for us on the bench or in the locker room.”
With just a minute and 14 seconds remaining in the first period, Montreal entered the Sharks zone after taking the puck and leaving the Sharks forecheckers at the other end. The Canadiens outnumbered the Sharks four-on-two and a half as they came across the blue line toward the net. The Sharks defenders were a little disorganized, but not terribly so. Had Justin Braun not gotten his stick hung up in Niemi’s pad, he would have been in the right place to stop the shot from Tomas Plekanec. Assists went to Alex Galchenyuk and PA Parenteau. The Canadiens went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.
3:39 into the second period, the Sharks got the first power play of the game when Tomas Plekanec was called for slashing. The power play was thwarted by a couple of giveaways by Patrick Marleau. His third pass found its mark which led to a good chance for Logan Couture but Montreal goaltender Carey Price was there. The next chance the Sharks had went awry when Joe Thornton missed an open net. In all, the Sharks had three shots on their first power play.
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi had to be very sharp, especially in the second period. Finding pucks through trffic and making some fairly acrobatic saves, he was not the reason the Sharks lost. The second period was scoreless, but not for lack of trying. The Canadiens again won on the shot clock, 12-10. Matt Irwin and Brenden Dillon added their shots to the count.
Midway through the third period, Matt Irwin handled a two on one against Parenteau and Pacioretty, adding to what was a very solid game for him Saturday. His stats sheet only showed one shot and one hit but the two takeaways were more indicative of his performance. He is thriving with the additional playing time.
At 11:53 of the third, the Sharks went on the second power play of the game after Devante Smith-Pelley went to the box for slashing. This power play did not feature giveaways by the Sharks, but several shots turned into hard rebounds that San Jose could not control.
With under two minutes to play, the Sharks made a nice clean entry into the zone, and a hard shot from Brent Burns went just off the post. The game was very close to being tied. The Sharks pulled Niemi after a timeout and a neutral zone faceff win. The Sharks then had one of their better empty net shifts of the season, with multiple chances to score. But as the clock ticked down, the puck was finally went out when a hard Burns shot went wide. The Sharks could not get back in. After three tries, the Brendan Gallagher scored into the empty net to make it 2-0.
Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec picked up the assists.
The Sharks’ playoff chances are fading by the minute, with Winnipeg, Minnesota and Calgary all winning their games today. Vancouver beat Los Angeles but that is small consolation for the Sharks. The Dallas Stars are closer to catching the Sharks than the Sharks are to catching Calgary. Today’s loss let Colorado get ahead of San Jose too.
The Sharks’ forward lines Saturday were the same as they were Thursday in Toronto, with Patrick Marleau playing with Chris Tierney and Tomas Hertl, and Logan Couture playing with Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto. Daniil Tarasov was in the lineup again, with Ben Smith and Barclay Goodrow. As is now usual, Thornton had Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson as his wingers. The defensive pairings were also unchanged: Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon with Mirco Mueller, and Brent Burns with Matt Irwin.
The Sharks next play on Monday in Ottawa at 4:30 PT.