Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sharks Struggle to Beat Avs

The San Jose Sharks came into Sunday's contest leading the league in fewest shots allowed, were second in the league in shots on goal, and had the best shot differential.

Sunday, for only the second time this season, they were outshot in this game (36-29). For the second game in a row, they were outshot in the third period. This time it was 18-7; against Detroit the difference was 14-6. The Sharks still managed to keep up with both on scores (two a piece Sunday, one a piece Thursday).

It is still a point of contention in the locker room: "We've got to have better third periods," said Devin Setoguchi. "They were putting on the pressure and we didn't match their work ethic."

When dealing with a group as successful as the Sharks have been so far this season, the coaching staff needs to seek for things like this to have the team work on in order to maintain their focus. The Sharks are tied for the league lead in wins with 10 and are just one point behind the New York Rangers, who have played two more games. Only Montreal has more of their potential points (.850 vs. .833).

The game was relatively penalty-free, with the Sharks taking three penalties and the Avs taking two, one of which came six seconds into their first power play. However, it featured a lot of end-to-end action and frequent scoring chances and rebound opportunities that were not cleared and made the goalies statistics look worse than they played.

Late in the game, Nabokov made multiple saves as Colorado kept the pressure on. This may have been Nabby's best game this season, and he should be a fugitive in Colorado after his theft of this victory.

The Sharks got out to an early lead with a slapshot goal by Milan Michalek at 7:02 of the first. Brad Lukowich got his first point as a Shark with the headman pass to Joe Pavelski, who got a cross-ice feed between a defender's legs to Michalek streaking across the blueline.

Exactly two minutes later, Devin Setoguchi punched a loose puck past an out-of-position Peter Budaj, who had to slide out to confront a breaking Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff got the puck to Joe Thornton, who shot it toward the net; Joe was not credited with a shot on goal, so Setoguchi must have gotten his stick on it before it reached Budaj.

Six shots, two goals. But Colorado had a quick answer: Jordan Leopold shot a rocket from the point off a Peter Stasny face-off win past a partially screened Nabokov with 5:36 left in the first.

The Sharks best period was once again the second, as they were even with Colorado in shots at 12. At one point, they controlled the puck in Colorado's end for 1:17 with Ryan Clowe able to hold the puck along the boards, allowing the Sharks to get the only line change in the shift.

San Jose also scored the only goal of the period. With 7:17 left, Setoguchi got his second goal on a beautiful feed from Joe Thornton near the net. Captain Patrick Marleau had a secondary assist on the play, and leads the Sharks in points with 12 (6 G, 6 A); he is also second at +7 (Ehrhoff is +8).

Colorado came out the third dominating play against the Sharks third line. Just over a minute into the period, San Jose had to ice the puck; on the ensuing face-off, Milan Hejduk was able to intercept a clearing attempt and put it in behind a defenseless Evgeni Nabokov. Wojtek Wolski and Joe Sakic were credited with assists.

Michalek got his second goal of the game (he has eight career two-goal games, but no hat tricks) at 5:44 of the period, fighting off the defence to knock home a rebound of a Jonathan Cheechoo shot. Rob Blake got a secondary assist on that goal.

But the see-saw battle continued, as Colorado pulled to within one again with 6:19 left as John-Michael Liles got his second goal of the game, a wrister past Nabokov, with assists to Hejduk and Sakic. Ryan Clowe ended the scoring with his first non-power play goal of the season, a rebound of a Mike Grier shot in which Marleau got another secondary assist.

The Sharks next game is Election Night at HP Pavilion against the Minnesota Wild, 7:30pm PST.

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