Panthers Steal Game- Roberto Luongo reintroduced himself to the Sharks and their fanbase at the Shark Tank Tuesday night. Making 53 saves, including 28 in the final period alone, Luongo was easily the most dominant player on the ice as Florida shocked Team Teal 3-2. The loss snaps the Sharks six game winning streak. The Sharks returned home after a successful three game road swing in the east looking to extend their winning streak to seven, but their former in-divisional rival goalie in Luongo had different ideas. The Sharks undoing may not only have been because multiple missed opportunities, including several power plays (and including a five on three chance in the third period). During an eight and a half minute span of the second period, some bad bounces and dominant play by the Panthers led to a three goal outburst that would ultimately decide the outcome.
Slow Start- The Sharks and Panthers both played a somewhat pedestrian first period as neither team really was clearly dominant. Team Teal would outshoot Florida 10-8 however had few scoring chances that would materialize. The Sharks would get an early power play chance in the first period only to negate it just a mere few seconds after they went on it. In the second period Team Teal came out and started to pick up the pace launching several pucks towards Luongo. The Sharks would finally manage to get on the scoreboard on a power play goal from Martin Havlat just over four minutes into the second period. San Jose would have several more offensive chances as the period wore on but could not find a way to get another puck past the Panthers netminder.
Hard Luck- Things would start to become unraveled for the Sharks with just under nine minutes remaining in the middle period. This was where Florida would get two pucks past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi within a 17 second span to take a lead they would ultimately never relinquish. Former Blackhawk Brandon Pirri was able to drill a hard slap that Niemi was able to get a blocker pad on. However Niemi was not able to control the rubber biscuit as it popped up in the air and over Niemi’s shoulder. The puck would land on Niemi’s skate and bounce into the net despite Scott Hannan’s dive to try and keep it out. Just 17 seconds later Florida got control of the puck on the ensuing faceoff and brought it back into the Sharks zone. Pirri would once again be the catalyst as he was able to crash the net while getting a feed pass to Quinton Howden who was at the right place at the right time for the Panthers. Howden was able to tap the puck into an open area of the net giving Florida a one goal lead. The Sharks run of bad luck would continue throughout the remainder of the second period. Despite several attacks on the Florida offensive zone, the Sharks could not manage to get anything past Luongo who only got better as the game wore on. Scottie Upshall scored with :15 seconds remaining in the period on what would be all but a back breaker for the Sharks.
Dominance and Frustration- The third period may go down as one of the most frustrating in ones this season for Team Teal. In the final period the Sharks would outshoot the Panthers 29-2, have four power plays including a 51 second power play advantage. All of that and in the end all they could manage was a Brent Burns goal with just over three minutes remaining. The Sharks certainly did not lack in chances and may have not even lacked in effort. However the power play has become one of the Sharks biggest achilles heals this season and despite the number of chances they had they could not solve Luongo, who simply played some of his best hockey tonight. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau registered seven shots on goal each for the game. Marleau has two close calls in the first and early second that just missed going in as well. Pavelski’s last shot on goal inside of a minute to play was impaired by an excellent defensive play from the Panthers Joey Crabb. When the game had ended you could almost hear a pin drop as a stunned silence overtook a crowd who watched the Sharks miss several golden opportunities to take what should have been a winnable game. Instead, it was just another disappointment as once again another huge opportunity the Pacific Division standings was clearly missed.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks will host their arch rivals, the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night at the Shark Tank, The game can be seen on CSNCA in Northern California, and heard on the Sharks Radio Network.
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