The San Jose Sharks (45-18-7, 97 points) fell to the Florida Panthers (26-35-8, 60 points) by the final score of 3-2 at home snapping their six-game win-streak.
The loss comes despite the Sharks firing 54 shots on net including a franchise-record 29 in the third period where they had five power plays, two of which overlapped leading to a minute-long five-on-three man-advantage. However, the Panther’s netminder Roberto Luongo was at his best this evening and did everything to to keep pucks out of the net including using his head on a couple of occasions. He also got some help from the post.
Offensively the San Jose Sharks looked pretty good, especially in that third period onslaught, but as it has been recently were unable to get a key goal on the power play when the situations (all five of them in the third) arose. They did get a power play goal, the first goal of the game, when Martin Havlat scored with a snapshot from the slot after he happened upon a loose puck. That goal looked to spark the team, but the Panthers were the ones who scored the next one just four minutes later.
That goal, scored by Quinton Howden, was the product of some bad luck for Antti Niemi who made the original save. After it hit his blocker the puck popped up and landed on his back where it proceeded to roll towards the net. Scott Hannan made a last ditch effort and swiped at the puck while he was behind Niemi but missed.
Then, just 17 seconds later, Florida made it 2-1 on a two-on-one chance down low. The goal was scored by Brandon Pirri on a rebound opportunity. Dan Boyle, the defenseman on the play, was down on one knee to take away the pass, but was unable to recover in time to take away the stick of Pirri who tucked the rebound home.
Later on in the period the Panthers scored once more, a heartbreaker with just 14.8 seconds left in the second period, on a Scottie Upshall one-timer. The chance came after an errand pass found its way in onto a Panther stick in the slot who found Upshall open on the far side of the ice. Upshall didn’t hesitate and fired the shot on net and may have benefited from not getting all of the puck which may have fooled Niemi just enough.
In the third period the San Jose Sharks kicked into another gear firing 29 shots on net, but were only able to score once with about three minutes left in the period.
After all the fantastic saves Luongo made it was sort of a softie by Brent Burns that went in. Burns was battling for a loose puck a few feet from the crease and was able to sweep the puck on net and through the five-hole of the Florida goaltender. That goal made it 3-2, but that would conclude the Sharks’ attempt at a comeback.
Even after pulling Niemi the Sharks could not score, and despite their best effort in the third period the Sharks could not come all the way back.
The loss tonight especially sucks because they had a chance to gain some ground on the Anaheim Ducks who still have a game in hand on the San Jose Sharks. The win would have vaulted the Sharks into first in the division after the Ducks lost this evening, but instead met a brick wall named Roberto Luongo and had to take the loss. Instead they will get a chance to beat the Ducks themselves on Thursday at home in what will be a very important divisional matchup.
GGS 3 Stars
1. Roberto Luongo (52 saves)
2.Brandon Pirri (1 goal, 1 assist)
3. Martin Havlat (1 goal)