Sharks stymied by Lundqvist, Rangers

SAP CENTER – Try as they might, but a 2-0 deficit against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers was just too much to overcome for the Sharks.

Two first period goals from Martin St. Louis and Chris Kreider were enough for the Rangers to defeat the Sharks 3-1 on Saturday night at SAP Center thanks to Lundqvist’s 30 saves.

The effort was there, according to the postgame consensus in the locker room. Said head coach Todd McLellan:

“The moral victory is the commitment level and the effort level. It was evident. If we apply ourselves that way most nights, we’ll give ourselves at least an opportunity to win.”

The Sharks managed to cut a 2-0 lead in half in the third period. On the power play, Melker Karlsson knocked in a rebound off a shot by James Sheppard at 7:14. It was the fifth goal in as many games for the first-year forward, tying a Sharks rookie record.


Photos by Thomas Mendoza/SFBay

When asked about Karlsson’s grit and propensity for getting in front of the net for rebound opportunities, Joe Pavelski remarked:

“That’s how they go in, especially on the power play and especially for this guy. Their goalie is good and it usually takes 2-3 whacks at it to get it in and that’s how it was. It definitely gave us momentum to make a push at the end.”

Momentum, however, only goes so far when Lundqvist is in between the pipes.

Despite generating a number of prime scoring chances in the second period, the Sharks’ efforts were for naught. Lundqvist denied Sheppard point-blank after giving up a rebound early on.

At the 16:41 mark, Pavelski had all kinds of room and time in front of Lundqvist, but he hit the crossbar. Late in the period, Patrick Marleau drove hard to the net, knocking it off its moorings, but the puck stayed out.

It was more of the same in the third period. The Sharks ramped up the intensity after Karlsson’s goal, but could not find the equalizer.

On a Rangers power play, San Jose put together a few shorthanded chances — a Matt Nieto wrist shot and an opportunity for Marc Edouard-Vlasic for a tip in front off a hard pass by Andrew Desjardins — but Lundqvist stood tall.

A couple of minutes later, Marleau made another hard move to the net, undressing former Sharks’ defenseman Dan Boyle, but could not get the shot away.

Rick Nash scored an empty-net goal with 59 seconds left to conclude matters.

So it goes for the Sharks, in need of a feel-good win after a rough 7-2 loss to the Blues, but instead running into “King Henry” and a hot Rangers squad that has now won 13 of its last 14.

Again, the effort was there, but as Pavelski stated, there is little moral victory in any loss:

“We rip off eight straight, there’s no frustration. We could have won every one of the those games 1-0 and there wouldn’t be much there. It’s the losing part that’s tough to swallow, and we’ve got to find ways to win.”

Nieto echoed those thoughts:

“Losing is not ideal, but I thought our mindset coming into the game was good. We left [the loss to St. Louis] behind us and came to play tonight. Unfortunately, the result didn’t go our way.”

The Sharks opened the game with a pep in their step – Nieto rang a wrist shot off the crossbar four minutes in – but it was the Rangers who wound up taking charge in the first.

After an icing call resulted in a faceoff in the Sharks zone, Martin St. Louis scored the game’s first goal on a one-timer from close range at the 10:40 mark. Joe Thornton won the draw, but Chris Kreider snuck in behind the defense and found St. Louis in front with a nifty one-handed pass.

Thornton described what went wrong:

“It felt like I won the draw. I don’t know how [Kreider] got underneath. It happens. We’ve just got to communicate a little bit more. It was just a little breakdown that cost us the goal.”

Five minutes later, Kreider recorded a goal of his own, out-battling Justin Braun in front and scoring on a rebound allowed by Niemi after a shot by Dan Girardi.

Niemi, however, did his best to keep the Sharks in the game. At 15:36 of the third period, he made a spectacular diving glove save on Mats Zuccarello, a save that stood after a lengthy video review, and the deficit remained at two.

The Sharks’ next game is on the road on Tuesday against the Coyotes, but following that will be a seven-game homestand and an opportunity to rack up some points in a tight playoff picture.

It’s uncertain how the next few weeks will play out for the inconsistent Sharks. As Pavelski states, duplicating their effort tonight will go a long way:

“We’ve got to get wins, and that’s the biggest thing. It’s a loss, but the effort was there and it was a lot better. It felt like we had chances and energy all night. We can’t go up and down. We can’t lose that next game or two. It’s got to be there every game.”

Notes

Before the game, the NHL announced defenseman Brent Burns as the Sharks’ lone All-Star, snubbing Pavelski. … Joe Thornton returned to the lineup after missing the last four games with a shoulder injury. … Former Sharks’ defenseman Boyle returned to SAP Center for the first time since being traded in the offseason. Midway through the first period, a video tribute was shown for Boyle, which was followed by a rousing ovation from the crowd. … Tommy Wingels played in his 200th NHL game. … Tonight’s attendance was 17,562, a sellout.


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