The San Jose Sharks (10-2-4, 24 points) lost to the red-hot Vancouver Canucks (11-5-2, 24 points) 4-2 at the SAP Center Thursday night and have now lost four games in a row. This loss is also their first in 10 games against the Canucks dating back to last season.
It was a rough game for the Sharks, who only put 24 shots on net, including just 11 combined in the first two periods. The Canucks were great in the defensive and neutral zones all game and were able to nullify the high-powered San Jose offense. That offense was also very sloppy and ended the game with 22 giveaways and the top line of night for the Sharks was the fourth line. When that happens, that usually means you things did not go well offensively.
This was also another tough outing for San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi, who was chased from the game early on in the second period after the Canucks netted their fourth goal. While at least two of the goals were not his fault, Alex Stalock came in anyway and performed admirably, although it was not enough for the team. He stopped all 21 shots he faced this evening.
San Jose actually got off to a good start when they got a lucky bounce after Joe Thornton dumped a puck into the Vancouver zone. The puck ended up bouncing off of the end boards, ramped up the back of the net, then bounced off of Roberto Luongo as he was trying to stop the puck from going in. That occurred just 1:30 into the game and all seemed well.
Unfortunately, the Canucks scored two goals quickly on goals by Brad Richardson and Mike Santorelli. The Richardson goal was definitely preventable as the Sharks were too quick to exit their zone and get out on the rush. The problem was the puck was still in their zone and it ended on Richardson’s stick and he took advantage of the opportunity.
The Sharks would then answer to tie the game at two apiece on some great passing by Mike Brown and James Sheppard. The end result was a two-on-none down low against Luongo and Brown tipped in a Sheppard pass for his first goal as a Shark.
Once again, however, Vancouver had an answer before the end of the period after a couple of bad plays by Jason Demers in his own end. Demers went to pass the puck across the ice to his defensive partner Scott Hannan but fanned on it, resulting in a loose puck in the slot. Then, instead of trying to make a sound defensive play, he went for the big hit and ended up knocking Hannan out of the play as well, leaving Chris Higgins all alone against Niemi. Higgins picked the top corner to make it a 3-2 Canucks lead.
The Canucks, who would go on to add one more goal on a Zack Kassian deflection, ended up shutting down the Sharks from that point on. Again, the pulling of Niemi was more because the team needed some kind of spark rather than the fact Niemi was playing very poorly. Also, the continual laziness and lack of awareness on defense is starting to get a bit worrisome as the team starts to slide just as they did last year. Here’s to hoping they pick it up agianst the the Winnipeg Jets Sunday. Do not be surprised if Stalock ends up getting the start as well considering he earned it tonight.
GGS 3 Stars
1. Chris Higgins (1 goal, 1 assist)
2. Brad Richardson (1 goal)
3. Alexandre Burrows (2 assists)