Late go-ahead goals in regulation are back-breakers, and the Sharks are learning that in a painful manner.
Two nights after giving up a late game-winner to Ottawa at home, the Sharks (15-11-1) fell 3-2 to the Ducks (14-9-5) in Anaheim on Friday as Hampus Lindholm netted a wrist shot from the right face-off circle with just over six minutes to play.
Like last game, head coach Pete DeBoer said this one was hanging in the balance until the opponent took control late:
“It was real similar to last game. Two teams fighting it out to the end. Right now we’re finding ways to lose instead of win, and we’ve got to get on the other end of that.”
The teams entered the third period tied 2-2, with the Ducks scoring two goals in the first and the Sharks answering with a pair in the second.
The Sharks had chances in the third — Joe Pavelski, in particular, had two great opportunities, both set up by Joe Thornton. But Pavelski missed an open net on the first and was stopped by Jonathan Bernier on the second.
The captain said he had “plenty of room” on the open-net look:
“It rolls up, catches the blade. Not even close. Those are the moments you have to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”
A hectic finish with the San Jose net empty couldn’t yield the game-tying goal, and a penalty to Dylan DeMelo out of a scramble in front of the Anaheim cage in the final minute ended the Sharks’ chances.
Pavelski lamented another close outcome not going his team’s way. The Sharks have struggled to score this season, which is fine when the defense stands tall, but concerning when potential wins turn into excruciating one-goal losses:
“We kept plugging away. We had some good looks. We’ve got to start putting them in the net. It’s frustrating when you know a goal could change a game like that and you miss a great opportunity.”
A late power play in the first period got the Sharks on the board. They had little going on the man-advantage, surrendering a prime shorthanded chance to Jakob Silfverberg, but a keep-in by Marc-Edouard Vlasic gave San Jose life heading into the second. The play cycled down low, where Patrick Marleau found Brent Burns for a one-timer past Bernier with 5.7 seconds left in the period.
The goal seemed to pump some energy into the SHarks heading into the second period, where they found the equalizer midway through. Kevin Labanc deposited his third goal of the season, finishing from point-blank after Logan Couture found him with a perfect centering feed.
Labanc said he out-quicked Bernier, who was out of position:
“He didn’t give me a lot of room. I just wanted to get that off as quick as I could. Goalies, they can’t react to it quick enough.”
The pace picked up from there as the game opened up, though the teams entered the third deadlocked at two goals apiece. Labanc thought his team was a little too confident heading into the third:
“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in and working hard in the corners. That’s a good learning experience for the next game, and we’ve just got to play a full 60.”
The Ducks struck first less than five minutes into the game as Richard Rakell cleaned up a rebound in front off a shot by Shea Theodore.
Despite coming up short, DeBoer thought his team was ready to play, and credited them for responding from the early deficit:
“I knew they were going to start hot and they did. But we didn’t hang our head. We battled and we’re just finding a way to lose right now instead of win. We’ve been winning games like that.”
Indeed, a game in which the Sharks had plenty of scoring chances and received a stellar performance from their goaltender —Jones made 29 saves on 32 shots, and kept the game close — typically ends up with a San Jose win.
But not these past few nights, as the Sharks drop below the Ducks and fall to fourth in the tight Pacific Division. They’ll have little time to dwell on it, as they are back at it on Saturday night at home against Carolina.
Still, they missed their chance to head into the second of a back-to-back on a high note. DeBoer said:
“Up until they scored the goal at the five-minute mark, we could’ve easily won that game … We were close, but not close enough.”