Sluggish Sharks fall short in Canucks loss

SAP CENTER — In as pivotal as a December regular season game can get between two divisional opponents, the Sharks fell flat at home against the Canucks 3-1 Tuesday night.

San Jose outshot the Canucks 32-21, but could not sustain much pressure on Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller (W, 31-32 saves, 19-7-1, 2.50 GAA). The Sharks failed to score on any of their four power plays, nor could they squeeze a late goal with the net empty.

Head coach Todd McLellan was disappointed with his team’s effort:

“I didn’t think we were particularly good, and the score indicated that. To me, there’s a price that our team has to pay to win, and right now we’re not reaching deep enough. We want everything on sale and take the easy way out.”

The two teams entered the night tied for second in the Pacific Division with 43 points along with the Kings and Flames, but now Vancouver jumps ahead of the Sharks with the two points earned tonight. With the Kings gaining a point as well, the Sharks drop to fourth in the division

Two goals by the Canucks in the second period were all they needed in this one.

Photos by Trevor Will/SFBay

Fifty-one seconds into the middle period, Canucks winger Jannik Hansen was penalized for a blow to the head of Tommy Wingels. But not only could the Sharks not score on the ensuing power play, Hansen would rub salt in the wound by taking a feed from Alexander Edler right out of the penalty box to beat Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock (L, 18-21 saves, 4-4-1, 2.23 GAA) on a breakaway for a 2-0 Canucks lead.

McLellan said postgame that Wingels was fine, but disapproved of Edler’s hit:

“I didn’t like the hit. I didn’t like the fact that he came out of the box and scored the winning goal and got to play the rest of the night. Those are breaks that can go for or against you, and it went against us tonight.”

Four minutes later, Radim Vrbata fluttered a shot from the left circle that Stalock wasn’t prepared for, and it trickled past his right glove for a goal that he’d probably like to have back.

Stalock, who made his first start in six games tonight, agreed:

“That’s one I got to have. It’s save you have to make in this league. I’ll take a look at it and see what happened.”

Sandwiched in between the two Vancouver goals was a penalty shot tally for Joe Thornton, who momentarily cut the lead to 2-1 after being dragged down on a break. Coincidentally, it was Thornton who scored the last penalty shot goal for the Sharks back in 2009.

That goal provided the lone offense for the Sharks tonight, as their inability to capitalize on the power play cost them.

Thornton cited the importance of scoring on the man-advantage:

“As a power play, if we score, we usually win the game. If we don’t score, we usually lose the game. There’s pressure to perform on the power play and the last two games we haven’t been good enough.”

McLellan tied everything back to lack of effort:

“We had six to eight shots [on the power play] and I don’t think we had anybody near the net or around [Miller’s] eyes. We were sloppy enough to give them a lead in a number of different ways, and then they checked their butts off down the stretch, so full marks to them.”

The Canucks used some luck to strike first a little more than three minutes into the first period. A shot by Bo Horvat deflected off of Brenden Dillon’s skate and careened into the net.

The Sharks had a chance to respond midway through the period when Joe Pavelski drew a penalty shot himself after being pulled down on a breakaway generated by a pinpoint flip pass by Thornton.

Pavelski, however, like so many other Sharks tonight, was stymied, his shot ringing off the crossbar.

The Sharks have now dropped three straight after winning five in a row, and the losses are starting to become a concern, remarked Pavelski:

“I’m always concerned when we lose games. You can win as many as you want but if you lose one or two, it turns the other way. It’s on each guy to turn his game up a little bit, simplify it, get back to what makes us successful.”

Notes

The Sharks wrap up 2014 with a tough tilt against the Ducks tomorrow night in Anaheim…Before the game, the Sharks reassigned Chris Tierney to Worcester and activated Matt Nieto, who missed last nine games with an ankle injury. … Matt Irwin, who had been a healthy scratch the last eight games, drew back in tonight….Scott Hannan and Tye McGinn were scratched tonight. … Joe Thornton has 54 points in 46 career games against Vancouver. … Attendance tonight was 17,562, a sellout.


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