Sharks stung by sub-.500 Panthers

SAP CENTER — We aren’t sure what it is about sub-par Eastern Conference teams, but the Sharks can’t seem to close them out when they come to town.

Photos by Aris Bernales/SFBay

Tuesday’s tilt against the Florida Panthers was no exception.

Sure, Team Teal broke an 0-for-30 streak for goals at home on the power play, and got some out-of-town help as the Washington Capitals beat Pacific Division rivals the Anaheim Ducks.

But the Sharks weren’t clean enough or tough enough to skate away winners, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Panthers.

Starting netminder Antti Niemi (21 saves) didn’t have his sharpest performance either, giving up three goals in the second period. Yet head coach Todd McLellan kept No. 31 between the pipes heading into the final frame.

McLellan said critically of the team post-game:

“It was really disappointing. I’m sure (the players will) tell you that too. We started average, and we didn’t get better… It doesn’t matter what league you are in, you can’t win like that.”

After a very slow opening period on both ends of the ice, the Sharks got the early jump on familiar nemesis Roberto Luongo in his first start against San Jose since being traded from the Vancouver Canucks.

Marty Havlat beat the Florida goaltender top shelf to break San Jose’s goalless streak on the man advantage at home. Brent Burns and Matt Nieto registered assists as San Jose took the 1-0 lead.

Florida struck back with two quick goals later in the period. The first, a shot by Brandon Pirri, bounced off Niemi’s back and into the blue paint.

Pirri attacked again on the next shift when he found Quinton Howden whose backhanded shot left Niemi frozen. Within 17 seconds, the Panthers had taken a 2-1 lead.

Captain Joe Thornton commented on the impact of the two quick goals:

“You see that all time. A team will get one goal and then come right back at you (on the next shift) and score another one. That just took our push away.”

San Jose gained momentum and created a few great chances in the final minutes of the second period. But it was Panther Scottie Upshall with the slapshot past Niemi with 14 seconds left before intermission, digging the Sharks into a 3-1 hole.

Four Panthers skated to the penalty box in the third period, but San Jose’s power play woes returned they were unable to put the puck in the back of Florida’s net.

San Jose’s top line did find the back of the net with just a little over three minutes left to play. Brent Burns got hold of a loose puck off the face off and shot it past Luongo to close the score gap 3-2.

But it wasn’t quite enough to take the match into overtime, as Luongo would wall off 29 Sharks shots in the third period (52 saves overall) seal the Florida win.

Dan Boyle said of the overall effort in the final frame:

“We definitely worked hard in the third. We got opportunities and we had our chances… But I think the overall effort in the third was desperate.”

The Sharks will have to leave the desperation by the wayside and buckle down to prepare for their next game against the division rival Anaheim Ducks. Puck drop for the game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Notes

The Sharks outshot Florida 29-2 in the third period, setting a franchise record for most shots on goal in a single period of play (Previous: 26 shots, 10/4/99 vs. Chicago, 3rd period)… San Jose outshot Florida by 30 shots, tying a franchise record for largest margin of outshooting at home (Previous: 30 shots, 3/21/08 vs. Anaheim, ANA 13, SJS 43)… The Sharks had a total of 54 shots in the game. It is the sixth time this season they have put 50+ shots on net, and the 14th time they have done so in franchise history… Marty Havlat scored his eight goal of the season, capitalizing on the power play during the second period. Havlat now has five points in his last six games... Matt Nieto registered his 12th assist of the season on Havlat’s power play goal. Nieto now has six points in his last six games. He is only the 12th Sharks player in franchise history to score at least 10 goals and 10 assists during his first season of play... Joe Thornton registered the 1,184th point of his career to move into a tie with Rod Brind’Amour for 46th place on the NHL all-time points list.


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