SAP CENTER — With a chance to overtake first place in the Pacific Division — and with a non-playoff team coming into their building — you might have thought that the Sharks would have brought their A-game Saturday.
But the emotion that fueled the San Jose to victory over the LA Kings on Thursday night was absent in their season finale against the Nashville Predators.
A third period push with several great looks wasn’t enough to garner Team Teal a victory as they were shut out 3-0 by Nashville netminder and former Worcester Shark Carter Hutton (35 saves).
Logan Couture put it bluntly:
“We didn’t play well again, and it’s disappointing after a win against a rival. We came out pretty bad in the second period. Desperation time in the third, played better. But (shrugs) too little too late.”
The second period was, in fact, where the Predators did all of their scoring. Head coach Todd McLellan explained the middle frame was what did the Sharks in:
“We didn’t mind our first. We did some things, didn’t get rewarded, but waded our way into the game. The second was real disappointing. I could stand up here and use cliches or whatever, but we were emotionally not attached to the game in the second period.”
While the Sharks’ power play had shown great improvement over the last few weeks, Nashville’s first two goals in the second period came on shifts after San Jose couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage.
Antti Niemi (21 saves) was still on both knees in the crease from blocking a shot by Matt Cullen when Patric Hornqvist snatched the rebound and fired it over the goaltender’s right shoulder, putting the visitors on the board 1-0 in the second period.
Hornqvist got the jump on Niemi again later in the period following San Jose’s second power play attempt of the evening.
With momentum shifting back down to the Sharks end of the ice after teams returned to even strength, Hornqvist got the puck up to the blue paint and slapped it into the Sharks net to give Nashville a 2-0 lead.
Poor defense didn’t help the Sharks as Roman Josi’s backhander upended Niemi and dug San Jose into a deeper 3-0 hole before the second frame was over.
San Jose finally began to maintain puck possession and put shots on net in the final frame, but Hutton wasn’t letting anything past him.
McLellan explained after the game that now more than any other time so far this season is an important time not to carry the loss into the next game:
“We’ve got to leave this behind us. It’s that time of year now where you can’t have baggage. And you can’t carry things forward.”
The Sharks get a few days rest to get their game back together before hitting the road for Anaheim to face the Ducks on Wednesday. Their final home game of the regular season is Friday, April 11 against the Colorado Avalanche. Puck drop for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Sharks finished the game with 33 hits. … Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a game-high six shots. … Patrick Marleau was 67 percent (8-for-12) from the face off circle. … James Sheppard led both teams with seven hits… Dan Boyle led all Sharks skaters with 22:24 minutes of ice time.