On Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks finally got an opponent with nothing to play for. It did not help them, as they fell 4-3 to the host Phoenix Coyotes.
Evgeni Nabokov, so good on back-to-back days over the weekend, finally looked tired. He let in three goals in nine shots, including two that he would normally save, and was replaced by Brian Boucher for the beginning of the second period.
The first goal was on the first shift. After getting the puck out of their own end, Phoenix captain Shane Doan took a slapshot from the blueline that Nabby failed to control, and Kyle Turris tipped it past the netminder all too easily.
Their second goal was on the power play, and no fault of Nabby’s. In fact, Dan Boyle scored the goal when the puck went off his hand, but Turris got credit for this one, with Doan and Kalinin assisting. The three combined for the third goal when another rebound Nabby was unable to control put the penalty killers in a scramble, and eventually Dmitry Kalinin was left with a lot of net to shoot at.
The period also featured a hit from behind on Dan Boyle that was not called, perhaps because Boyle did turn late. But Rob Blake took exception and dropped the gloves against perpetrator Daniel Winnick on the very next shift. There were two more fights in the second, first between Jody Shelley and Josh McGratton and then featuring Brad Staubitz and Brandon Prust.
The fights did seem to get the Sharks motivated. Just seconds into a power play, Joe Thornton swung around the net and caught Ilya Bryzgalov cheating too far to one side, and circled around looking to give it to someone in position. Instead, Patrick Marleau was well-covered, so he just rode the defender out of the way and Joe put the puck in at the 8:01 mark of the second. Cheechoo and Blake got the assists.
That was the last goal of the middle stanza, but the Sharks got another early in the third. In a power play scramble just four minutes in, Cheechoo took a shot that deflected off a defender, and Rob Blake got just enough of it to get it clear to Thornton, who backhanded it home past a sprawling defender trying to cover for an out-of-position Bryzgalov.
The Sharks were not done, with Marleau finishing off a rebound of a Blake shot that Thornton was able to pass across to him for the one-timer with almost 12 minutes left. The Sharks kept the pressure on, but with less than a minute to go in the offensive zone, Cheechoo was called for interference when a Phoenix player tripped over Joe Thornton’s stick.
I guess because it was the only penalty of the period, Drew Remenda and Randy Hahn complained, “after all the grabbing and hooking this period, you’re gonna call that?” But it was a trip, so even though it should have been called on Joe, we were better off having Cheech in the box.
(And while we are on the subject of dumb things said by these two during the game, Remenda declared “Anaheim’s gonna be in the playoffs. They have too much talent not to be.” No, Drew, they did have too much talent. They traded some of it away because even they understand that a two game deficit and four teams ahead of them is not realistic.)
It took just six seconds for Shane Doan to score, facing Boucher one-on-one at point blank range after coming up with the loose puck. Boucher tried to reach out and take the puck off Doan’s stick, and it turned out to be the wrong call as Doan was quicker. The attempt left Boosh out of position, and Doan slid the puck under him easily; Scottie Upshall and Turris got the assists.
Peter Prucha blocked the Sharks only shot after that, and Phoenix had bounced back for the win. It was another case of the Sharks not playing a full sixty minutes, and they now have dropped behind Detroit in point percentage as well as points.
I feel bad for Boosh, who saved the other ten shots he faced, because he is going to get blamed for this one. Maybe he should not have attempted to prevent the shot, but the penalty killers were the ones who put him one-on-one against the only real stud on the Coyotes. The same PK unit that was one for four (25 percent) against one of the worst power plays in the league.
Because of a loss for the Dallas Stars, the Sharks are the first team to clinch their division. But one is left to wonder if this is as much a product of weak competition as strong play: the loss dropped the Sharks to 14-4 against the Pacific.
My three stars:
- Shane Doan scored the big winner when his team had lost all momentum assisted on the other three goals, and was +1.
- Kyle Turris was also +1 and in on all four goals, scoring two.
- Joe Thornton almost single-handedly assured the Sharks a point by scoring the first two goals and getting the primary assist on the other. He also won 15 of 26 faceoffs (.577).