Sputtering Sharks continue scoring drought

HP PAVILION — Whenever the Sharks and Detroit Red Wings meet: Win or lose, it’s always an entertaining hockey game.

Unfortunately, Thursday night’s tilt was the latter, and the Sharks continue to struggle to put pucks in the back of the net.

Detroit’s Damian Brunner won it for the Wings in a shootout by the final of 2-1.

Logan Couture scored the lone goal for the Sharks. In the third period, Couture and Thornton stole the puck away from Justin Abdelkader. Couture took the pass from Joe Thornton on the weak side and fired a howitzer from the right circle. The puck slipped in just under the glove of goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who made his first career start with the Red Wings.

It was the second goal in two games for Couture after he went eight games without lighting the lamp. But Couture knows that scoring one goal won’t get you the two points you need in the standings:

Sharks center Logan Couture

“It’s the same story every game, we’ve got to find a way to score more goals. Personally and as a team we’ve got to find a way to put them in the back of the net. You’re not going to win many games scoring one goal and we’ve found that out lately.”

Team Teal would blow chance after chance after chance Tuesday night.

One of the Sharks’ golden opportunities was a 2-on-1 breakaway in the second period when Thornton and Martin Havlat skated in side-by-side.

At the last possible moment, Thornton elected to pass to Havlat, but the puck knuckled and the Sharks never got a shot on goal. Fans groaned loudly with disappointment, which seemed to set the tone for the rest of the night.

Thornton’s was asked if he had a missed opportunity on that play.

“Yeah….it’s going to happen. I’m a passer and that’s going to happen.”

Coach Todd McLellan made it clear how he felt when asked the same question.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan

“Yep, how’s that for an answer? I want to see (Patrick) Marleau shoot the puck more too. We talked about it between periods. We haven’t been exactly lighting it up. They’re smart people, they can watch the game. They know they’ve got to shoot the puck to score so it’s disappointing when we have those opportunities we’ve got to make good on them. Other teams in the league are … we have to.”

Ryane Clowe returned to the ice after serving his two-game suspension. Clowe was sluggish at times on the ice, and he too missed on a great scoring chance on a partial breakaway in the first period. He would also be the last hope in the shootout and after stickhanding the puck, he was stopped by Gustavsson on the forehand. He described to SFBay his strategy on his shootout attempt.

Sharks forward Ryane Clowe

“It was just a move I try a lot…forehand, backhand, forehand. I came in with a little more speed. I don’t know what happened, if the puck dropped or I just missed my shot. And it wasn’t a very good shot. It was the move I like to do, it just wasn’t executed.”

Clowe has six points, all assists and has yet to score a goal in 17 games this season.

After the Sharks took a 1-0 lead — just as they had in Tuesday’s game vs. Colorado — the cushion was short-lived. Less than two minutes later, Patrick Eaves redirected a shot from the point by Niklas Kronwall that somehow made its way through traffic, off two posts and into the net for the equalizer.

Thornton said the Sharks felt confident they’d score again after a scoreless game through two periods.

Sharks center Joe Thornton

“It would have been nice to put that second one in but we’re having problems getting that second one right now and when they scored it definitely kind of kicked us in the butt but it was a good hard fought game. It’s just too bad we didn’t get the two points.”

The one positive continues to be the defense, anchored by goalie Antti Niemi who made 33 saves. Detroit didn’t score on two power plays and is 0-for-33 with the man advantage on the road this season. Niemi has a .933 save percentage and has a microscopic 1.88 goals against average. He admits a few things have made his season to this point a successful one.

“It’s a combination of things. We’ve played really good in the ‘D’ zone for a long time now. Also, I’m more patient and I think I’m moving a little bit better.”

The schedule has shown no love for the Sharks in February, as Team Teal has lost 10 of 12 games and are eager to turn the page on the calendar.

Thornton agreed.

“Let’s get into March.”