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Niemi pulled as Sharks slip to Canucks

SAP CENTER— When Sharks captain Joe Thornton scored a quirky early goal Thursday night, it appeared that perhaps their “losing ways” might have been behind them.

Sadly, that was not the case.

The Sharks’ two-season domination over Vancouver came to an end as poor defense and puck handling continued to plague San Jose in a 4-2 loss to the Canucks.

Thornton put it plainly after the defeat, the Sharks just didn’t play well:

“I didn’t think we played very well in the first and the second. That’s twice we stink up the joint in the first and second. Have a good third. But tonight we just couldn’t catch up.”

Following Tuesday night’s shootout loss to the worst team in the NHL, Thursday’s loss was quite possibly the Sharks worst performance of the young season.

The Sharks fell short on both ends of the ice, posting only 11 shots on net through the first 40 minutes of play, and having starting goaltender Antti Niemi — whose game has been off as of late — getting pulled following Vancouver’s fourth goal in the second period.

Head Coach Todd McLellan said bluntly:

“It’s about the work ethic and the commitment. We were clearly outworked. When you’re in the real world, you work for eight hours. When you’re in the hockey world, you work for 60 minutes. And we didn’t even come close to that.”

Thornton cleared the puck off the boards before it skipped over and into the goal off Roberto Luongo’s shoulder pad to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 1:17 in the period. Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels tallied assists on the bizarre goal.

Vancouver tied it up not three minutes later because of more poor play in the Sharks’ defensive zone. Brad Richardson took advantage of a turnover behind San Jose’s blue line and wristed the puck past Niemi. Mike Santorelli added to the lead, finding room in front of the net some five minutes later to give the Canucks a 2-1 advantage.

But the Sharks retaliated quickly. With a break down the ice, James Sheppard fed the puck as clean-as-could-be to Mike Brown for a one-timer past Luongo that tied the game up 2-2.

The tie didn’t stand to the end of the first stanza. The Sharks’ defense turned the puck over right in front of their own net, giving Chris Higgins an open shot. Niemi couldn’t make the stop and the Canucks took a 3-2 lead before the first intermission.

After five minutes of strong play to start off the second period, Kevin Bieksa’s long shot from the point deflected off of Zack Kassian’s skate and made it to the top corner of San Jose’s net to widen Vancouver’s lead 4-2.

At that point McLellan took Niemi out of the game and put Alex Stalock between the pipes.

Stalock would keep Vancouver from scoring again, but San Jose would fail to put another point on the board.

The solution to this losing streak? Logan Couture said:

“Our go-to guys have got to be better, myself included. Tonight, go home, look in the mirror, realize that we all have to be better. Come to the rink tomorrow and work.”

The Sharks head back onto the road for a five-game trip starting Sunday in Winnipeg. The next home game is Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Follow @SFBay and @ChelenaGoldman on Twitter and at for full coverage of the San Jose Sharks.

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