ANAHEIM, Calif. — Three games ago — after edging the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout at the Tank — San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan wondered to reporters if his then-surging team was showing signs of the sniffles.
By Monday night in Anaheim, the Sharks’ sniffles had given way to general malaise, as a one-goal lead in the final period was erased by a bad bounce and an easy goal by Anaheim’s Saku Koivu. The Ducks scored again on a blast by Sheldon Souray to hand the Sharks a 2-1 loss, their first defeat in regulation of the young season.
The game-changer came when the puck took a weird bounce off the end boards and a perfect angle right to Koivu, who simply backhanded the puck past goalie Thomas Greiss who had his back turned and never saw the puck:
“It was a bad bounce … just bounced right into his stick. It came out so straight. It doesn’t happen that often. I saw it go around and I turned and all of a sudden it was in my back side.”
Forward Tommy Wingles told SFBay that Greiss played well and covered a lot of net despite the unfortunate bounce:
“I think you just have to forget about those ones.”
Wingles assisted the Sharks lone goal late in the first period. Andrew Dejardins took the shot from the left circle and Couture stickhanded his way around young Viktor Fasth and scored on his backhand. Couture said after the game:
“Desjardins was able to get the puck on the net from the wall. I got the rebound and scored.”
Team Teal would not score again at the Honda Center, where a crowd of 14,324 saw the second of five matchups between these California rivals.
The Sharks missed defenseman Dan Boyle for a second game this season as he recovers not from the sniffles, but a nasty flu. Boyle was also shelved for the Sharks’ first matchup with Anaheim last week.
Anaheim scored the game winner 13:21 into the final period when Souray skated in and fired a howitzer from the point. Sharks center Scott Gomez tried to defend the shot, but the puck grazed off the blade of Gomez’s stick and ended up going top shelf over Greiss’ left shoulder.
For coach McLellan, it wasn’t the Ducks’ lucky goal or even their second one that cost his team the game.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan
“Where I thought we failed a little bit was the power play. I thought that let us down and that was, has been and will be a huge part of our team so we didn’t get it done six times. We had every opportunity to at least put two up on the board, through the power play and didn’t do its thing.”
Even as San Jose has struggled on the man advantage, their penalty kill has been 100 percent, neutralizing 27 straight power play chances by the opposition.
And there was no greater challenge than in the third period, when the Sharks took two penalties 24 seconds apart giving Anaheim a 5-on-3 power play for 1:36. Captain Joe Thornton said:
“Just to kill it is good. We didn’t grab the momentum, but it was a great kill. We had a couple of chances to score there, too. It was just a good competitive game, but it’s tough losing that way.”
The save of the game has to go to defenseman Jason Demers. With eight minutes remaining, Andrew Cogliano took aim at a wide open net when Demers stretched out as far as he could to somehow deflect the puck away.
The Sharks’ glaring problem of late has been not scoring enough goals, particularly on the man advantage. The team is having a power outage, just 1-for-18 in the last four games and 0-for-6 against Anaheim.
McLellan thinks he knows why the team is struggling so much of late:
“When you come into this building you’ve got to be ready to go and I didn’t think we fired enough pucks early in the game again. We did that in our building as well. Later on we started shoot from some bad angles and started to create some chances. We still have guys that are pass first guys that need to be shooting and I think when they do that, and they get in and around the blue paint a little bit more we’ll get some production from other people.”
“We have to figure it out. We can’t score one goal and win in this league. We need to score more. We have to find a way to get a point out of that game. It’s disappointing. They found a way to win and we didn’t.”
The good news with the shortened season is that the bad taste won’t linger for long. The Blackhawks invade the Tank for a special showdown with an Original Six team Tuesday night. Chicago has the best record in the NHL at 7-0-2 with 16 points.