Sharks sunk by last-place Hurricanes

SAP CENTER — The Sharks once again showed a maddening inability to beat inferior teams, falling 5-4 in regulation to the lowly Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night.

The loss comes just two nights after a convincing road win over the Canucks, a playoff team. Yet the Sharks were stagnant for much of the game except the third period against the Hurricanes, who have the third-lowest point total in the league.

The Sharks rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to tie the game at 3-3 only to have the Hurricanes score a killer late goal at 15:09.

To add insult to injury, it was an own goal, the shot by Andrej Sekera going in off the skate of Sharks’ defenseman Brenden Dillon for a 4-3 Carolina lead.

After an empty-net goal by Victor Rask, Patrick Marleau responded with 54 seconds to play to draw the Sharks within one again, but it was too little too late.

Logan Couture was succinct in his summary of the game:

“We weren’t very sharp in the first two [periods] and came alive in the third. We gave up that fourth one, which was kind of unlucky. Couldn’t find a way to tie it back up.”

It was an action-filled third period, one that saw the Sharks come alive with two goals in 82 seconds to tie the game.

Photos by Thomas Mendoza/SFBay

Tomas Hertl, who had two goals on the night, scored his second at 2:27 of the third period, using pinpoint hand-eye coordination to tip the puck to himself and knock it in out of mid-air with a backhand after a shot by Scott Hannan.

Hannan described the goal:

“I just saw him in front of the net and he was all by himself. I just wanted to get it to the net, even on the ice. He just tipped it up, made a great play and batted it in.”

Added Hertl on his effort:

“It was just me in front of the net. It was an easy goal for me because nobody was around me.”

Then, Couture‘s 19th goal of the season evened it up at 3-3. Taking a pass from Matt Tennyson, Couture ripped a slap shot from just outside the right circle and past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward after it deflected off his own defenseman, Justin Faulk.

The third period intensity from the Sharks was a far cry from the previous two frames.

The Hurricanes jumped ahead 2-0 five minutes into the second period on a goal by defenseman Andrej Nestrasil. Entering the zone, Nestrasil caught a perfect pass from Alexander Semin, kicked the puck to himself, split two Sharks’ defenders – James Sheppard and Hertl – and finished with a wrist shot pass Niemi’s glove side.

Postgame, Hertl took the blame for the goal, and coach Todd McLellan lamented the defensive breakdown:

“It was disappointing. That’s a situation we work on a lot and it should be handled better than it was.”

The Sharks got one back halfway through the middle period. Rookie forward Chris Tierney walled off John-Michael Liles on the forecheck behind the Hurricanes’ net and fed a backhand pass on his knees to Hertl, who buried it past Cam Ward from point-blank range to cut the lead in half.

It was one of two assists for Tierney on the night, who was lauded by McLellan for his strong play:

“He had a lot of fire in his game. He was involved and created the turnover on Tomas’ first goal. We’re deep into the season where there has been a lot of miles from the guys who play a few more minutes, and we’re looking for energy from the younger guys that are up.”

The good feelings, though, were only temporary.

A minute and a half later, Matt Nieto took a hooking penalty, and Elias Lindholm capitalized on the ensuing power play with a wrist shot from the right point that went through the legs of Mirco Mueller and in to give the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead.

Lindholm’s goal was the Hurricanes’ first power play goal in four games, snapping an 0-for-9 streak.

The Sharks had a prime scoring chance late in the period, when Joe Thornton set up Joe Pavelski with a beautiful between-the-legs drop pass, but Pavelski missed the net with his shot.

It was a rather sleepy first period, with neither team sustaining much pressure. The Hurricanes had the advantage, however, outshooting the Sharks 14-9 and managing several quality scoring chances.

Jiri Tlusty hit the post on the first shift of the game, and then the teams traded scoreless power plays.

The Hurricanes got on the board first with just 58 seconds left in the period. After the Sharks failed to clear the zone, Eric Staal jammed the puck in past Antti Niemi’s right pad after a shot by Tlusty caromed off the back boards and in front of the goal.

McLellan acknowledged his team did not start out strong:

“We were on our heels a little bit to start with. That shouldn’t happen. I didn’t think our first period cost us; I thought it was our second period. The first goal was one that we can’t allow, and the second goal is one that we can’t allow.”

In all, it was much of the same story for the Sharks, a lackadaisical showing against a team far beneath them in the standings.

Said Couture when asked what needs to change:

“Be more consistent. We’re an inconsistent team this year. We need to fix that going forward. We’ve got a stretch coming up where we need to win a lot of games to get into the playoffs.”

Notes

McLellan stays at 299 career wins, one shy of 300. … For the second straight game, the Sharks dressed six rookies. … Marc-Edouard Vlasic fell ill and was scratched, along with Tyler Kennedy and John Scott. McLellan said after the game that Vlasic had an upper-body injury and had no timetable for his return … Thornton recorded an assist tonight, giving him 1,239 career points and tying him with Peter Stastny for 36th on the All-Time Points list…Attendance tonight was 17,139.