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Ducks Defeat Sharks With Ferocious Start

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks lost a hard-fought game to the Anaheim Ducks Saturday. They lost by just one goal, the only goal scored in the game. The Sharks remain without a power play goal at home, despite having four chances on Saturday. That one goal was scored by Corey Perry.

The Sharks did not come out with intensity to match a desperate Ducks team. After the game, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said:

I thought the first ten minutes, they obviously had the jump on us. We were standing around watching, I don’t know why. But from that point on I thought we played a hell of a game. I thought our goalie was great, we put a lot of pressure on them, put a lot of pucks on the net, had a lot of opportunities. Obviously our power play didn’t click but it’s not like we’re not establishing possession, getting in, looking dangerous, getting chances. So we just got to stick with it, and know that eventually those are going to go in for us.

Ducks goaltender Anton Khudobin made 30 saves for the shutout win. Martin Jones made 16 saves on 17 shots for the Sharks. That the Sharks could limit the Ducks to so few shots after the first period was a feat, but not enough to change the outcome.

The only line change from the previous game was to the fourth line. Thursday, that line included Matt Nieto, Bryan Lerg and Michael Haley. Saturday, it was Mike Brown, wearing a cage, instead of Lerg. The power play also saw a couple of changes, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic moving to the top unit, and Joel Ward moving back to the second.

The Sharks looked quite outmatched for the first five minutes of the game. The Ducks had played the night before, but they started with more jump than the Sharks.

At the 4:56 mark, Corey Perry escaped detection as he lurked along the boards, then darted through the neutral zone. He received a pass from Ryan Getzlaf just outside the Sharks’ blue line and skated in to beat Martin Jones. Assists went to Getzlaf and Patrick Maroon.

By the midpoint of the period, the Sharks were being outshot 7-2.

Four minutes later, the Sharks had added a couple of shots, but the Ducks had added four more. With 6:09 left in the period, Sharks goalie Martin Jones had to make not one but three stops in a row as Ryan Kesler and Chris Stewart shot the puck at will.

With 4:42 left, Tommy Wingels drew a penalty as Jakub Silfverberg was called for interference. The new first power play unit (Vlasic, Burns, Marleau, Pavelski and Thornton) held the zone and took a couple of shots but at the first stoppage were replaced with the second unit: Braun, Burns, Wingels, Ward and Hertl. Evidently, as Brent Burns is already leading the team in ice time, he will play all the power play time too. The second unit also took a couple of shots, though they got ousted from the zone before the penalty expired.

What the power play did, and the Sharks did for the final minutes of the period, was stop the Ducks from shooting. When the first 20 minutes expired, the teams were tied at 11 shots each.

The Sharks came out with a lot more energy in the second period. Early, the fourth line had an excellent chance but Matt Nieto was moving too fast as he came to the net. He just missed a chance to put the puck in as it bounced around in front of the blue paint.

Another excellent chance came at 7:28, when Tommy Wingels broke through the neutral zone and beat the Ducks defenders to the circle. He took his shot from there, which Anton Khudobin slowed down but did not stop. The puck twirled through the air, hit the corner of the crossbar and came out again. The goal light went on, everybody cheered and the official review took it back.

The Sharks got their second power play at 11:20 of the second. Kevin Bieksa went for interference. The power play lasted 13 seconds before Joe Thornton was also sent away for interference. For the ensuing 4 on 4, Hertl skated with Donksoi, Vlasic and Braun. Goldobin and Pavelski replaced Hertl and Donskoi before the penalties expired.

As the second period wound down, the Sharks had taken a 16-13 lead on the shot clock, had not allowed another goal, and in general were showing more energy. With 3:22 left, Clayton Stoner took Joe Thornton down with what may have been a slew foot. It was at least the second time he bothered Thornton, and Michael Haley took issue with that. A fight ensued, and then another between Brendan Dillon and Chris Wagner. Wagner and Dillon both received game misconducts along with fighting majors.

Shortly after play resumed, Justin Braun was called for slashing. The Sharks penalty killers kept the Ducks at bay and during the few seconds left after the penalty expired, San Jose did take the game to the other end. At the end of the second, the Sharks still led on the shot clock 18-15.

They say that, in the case of back-to-back games, a team does not really feel it until the third period. As the third began, the Ducks still did not look especially tired. They closed the gap in shots and kept the Sharks off balance for the first five minutes of the period.

During the next five minutes, the Sharks looked more promising. They even mustered a breakaway for Marleau, and Khudobin had to scramble to stop him from scoring.

Coach DeBoer has not done a lot of line juggling during games this season, but to start the third period, he moved Matt Nieto up to the third line with Tommy Wingels and Nikolay Goldobin. That moved Tierney down to the fourth line. By the middle of the period, Tierney was back on the ice with the third line. By necessity, the defense pairs were a mix and match, since the Sharks were without Dillon.

The Sharks had some good chances in the second half of the third, but Khudobin fended them off with some impressive saves.

With almost five minutes left, Andrew Cogliano tripped Thornton near the boards and Thornton went down for a spell. He did get back up and was on the ice to start the power play. The Sharks got another chance at 17:36 due to a delay of game to the Ducks. Despite pulling their goaltender and having two more skaters than the Ducks had, the Sharks still could not get a puck by Khudobin. They finished the game leading in shots 30-17 but still trailing by that lone goal scored back in the first.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday at SAP Center, against the New York Islanders. Puck drop shortly after 7:30 PT.

It was hard to ignore the trade rumors about Patrick Marleau that were buzzing around before the game. The presence of several scouts at SAP Center spurred those rumors. Whatever Patrick Marleau’s future, the day’s NHL-AHL double-header gave scouts a chance to see Sharks and Ducks prospects all in action. There were a lot of players for them to look at Saturday.

Of course the question came up post-game. Asked if he had heard the rumors, Marleau observed jovially that they were “starting early this year.” Asked whether the Sharks had asked him to waive his no-trade clause, he said no. Beyond that, he would not confirm or deny the possibilities that he may or may not be willing to consider a trade.

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