San Jose completed its five game road trip Sunday with another loss, 6-5, dropping their record on the trip to 1-1-3.
Losing to the New Jersey Devils at the end of a road trip, on the fourth game in less than six days, is nothing to push the panic button over. Making the loss even more understandable, the Sharks were without defencemen Dan Boyle (flu) and Brad Lukowich as well as forwards Marcel Goc, Jeremy Roenick, Jody Shelley, and Torrey Mitchell, plus lost Tomas Plihal early in the contest.
However, only two of those players is on a first or second line or pair. Moreover, New Jersey was still without all-world goalie Martin Brodeur and recent addition Brendan Shanahan.
What is disturbing to me is that San Jose has had chances that they did not take advantage of and made mistakes that cost them in all six recent losses. Some bad habits that have led to their 1-2-4 record in their last seven games include the following:
- It was the second straight game they gave up six goals and three power play goals
- It was the fourth straight game the Sharks took more penalties than their opponents
- The Devils’ goal on their very first shift assured that San Jose gave up the first goal in every game on the road trip
- The Sharks deficits have come because of turnovers in their own end, exposing Evgeni Nabokov to quality scoring chances
- It was the second straight game that San Jose lost a lead in the third period
On the plus side, the Sharks answered each of the Devils’ first three goals. Brian Gionta got a hold of a puck after a turnover, and put a backhand past Nabby for the lead 30 seconds in; Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus got the assists. About four minutes later, Rob Blake took a Mike Grier pass and advanced it into the zone just inside the blueline on the right point, then put a slapshot past Scott Clemensen stick-side.
That lead lasted just over three minutes, as Brian Rolston put a sharp angle goal past Nabby from about ten feet, with assists going to John Madden and Gionta. Despite giving up five other goals, this was the only one that Nabby really has to take the blame for.
On a power play a mere 30 seconds later, Joe Thornton won the first faceoff back to Christian Ehrhoff, who put a slapshot-pass to Patrick Marleau, who redirected it out of the air for the quick goal. But about four minutes later, Rolston took the puck from Bryce Salvador and slapped it on net from the left point; David Clarkson tipped the puck home to give his team the lead again.
The Sharks did not answer back until late in the second, when Ehrhoff advanced the puck to Marleau, who gave it to Jonathan Cheechoo on the wing, whose slapshot from the back of the right faceoff circle went in. Then the Sharks took their first lead of the game with 13 seconds left in the period on a five-on-three power play, when Blake got the puck back to Thornton, who fed it through a defender to Devin Setoguchi just outside the crease on Clemmensen’s stick side for the easy one-timer.
But the Sharks got into penalty trouble of their own in the third period, and all four remaining goals were scored with San Jose short-handed. Elias scored less than five minutes in with Zach Parise and Jaime Langenbrunner getting the assists. Three minutes later, Langenbrunner took advatage of a horrible hooking call on Setoguchi, putting home a rebound of a Parise shot (Travis Zajac got the secondary assist).
However, the Sharks can hardly complain about a bad call when they had already committed four legitimate ones. Their sixth penalty actually resulted in a Sharks goal, when Joe Pavelski scored on a backhand from a terrible angle on a one-on-two shorthanded rush.
But Thornton took a very dumb cross-checking penalty with five minutes to go that allowed the Devils to grab the lead for good. With 3:32 left, Clarkson once again redirected a Rolston shot from the point; this time Gionta got the secondary assist.
My three stars are all Devils for this one, despite how close it was:
- Clarkson was the only player to get more than one goal in this game
- Rolston had a goal and two assists, including on the game winner
- Langenbrunner also had a goal and two assists