SAP CENTER — In a rare Saturday afternoon contest, it took until the third period for the San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres to wake up.
When they did, Buffalo sprang to life first, netting two consecutive goals within three minutes for a 2-1 win that handed the Sharks their fourth-straight loss.
Just over two minutes, the Sabres took a 2-0 lead, as more sloppy play by the Sharks in front of Alex Stalock resulted in Nicolas Deslauriers punching home a rebound from point-blank into a gaping net.
Only then did the urgency kick in for the Sharks against a Sabres team that had just one win in eight games this season coming in.
Thirteen seconds after Deslaurier’s goal, Brent Burns’ wrist shot from the point found its way past Sabres’ goaltender Michael Neuvirth (W, 29-30 saves) to halve the Buffalo lead.
The Sharks kept the pressure on for the rest of the period, trying in earnest for the tying goal. But despite outshooting the Sabres 17-6 in the third, and pulling goaltender Alex Stalock for the last minute and a half, they could not beat Neuvirth.
Postgame, the consensus was that the pressure needed to arise earlier. Said forward Tommy Wingels:
“We played a more energized game in the third. When we went behind, it was like there was a panic button in a good way. We’ve got to find a way to get those chances and that energy in the game earlier.”
Both teams started sluggish. The Sharks mustered just five shots in the first period, where neither team sustained much pressure.
Wingels also generated a scoring opportunity late in the first period, splitting defenders down the middle but backhanded a shot wide of Neuvirth.
The lethargic action carried on to the second period, as the Sharks again could not muster much offense. They were held without a shot until nearly halfway through the period and looked sloppy on their lone power play.
Head coach Todd McLellan lamented the slow start:
“The urgency was the disappointing thing. We were cute through the first two periods and it was different in the third when we were able to play in their end.”
The Sharks did hold the Sabres to just 15 shots — just two in the second period — but McLellan thought the focus on defense took away from the Sharks’ offense:
“I thought we just played with them rather than putting our foot on the gas. And that’s disappointing. Guys should be able find the happy medium and make sure their foot is on the gas pedal going the other way.
Like Wingels in the first, Matt Nieto tried to spark the lifeless Sharks. With San Jose shorthanded late in the period, Nieto generated a scoring chance, which led to Logan Couture drawing a tripping penalty on Tyler Ennis.
The Sharks will really need to wake up tomorrow when they take on the Ducks, who lead the league with 14 points early on in the season. Couture knows this type of play can’t continue:
“We play one of the best teams in the league tomorrow, and if we play the way we have in the past couple (then) we’re going to get blown out of the rink. We need a better effort from everyone.”
Announced attendance was 17,370 — a non-sellout at SAP Center for the first time since Dec. 3, 2009 vs. St. Louis. … San Jose outshot Buffalo 30-15. … The Sharks are 1-9-0 against the Sabres since the 2007-2008 season. They have lost seven in a row and four straight home games to Buffalo. … The Sabres were the league’s lowest-scoring team coming in and have not scored a power play goal through nine games. … The Sharks had scored the game’s first goal in six of eight games this season coming into this afternoon. … Forward Eriah Hayes was reassigned to Worcester on Friday. …Jason Demers and Tye McGinn were scratched today for the Sharks, while rookie defenseman Mirco Mueller returned to the lineup.