Just Unlucky- “Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail.” That maybe is the phrase that best describes the Sharks game against the Washington Capitals Saturday night. In a contest that featured some rather odd and unlucky bounces, it was the Capitals who in the end would prevail in a 3-2 shootout win over Team Teal. For Washington it was an important win as they are trying to capture one of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. As for the Sharks the Overtime Loss though tough was not a total loss as they did pick up an important point in the standings to up their Pacific Division lead to three points over the arch rival Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks did plenty of things in the game to match the Capitals shift for shift and would even outshoot them 36-25 for the contest. However what the Sharks failed to do was capitalize on three power play opportunities and the majority of scoring opportunities they would get through the contest. The Sharks also would be denied a regulation win thanks to some tough luck when a failed clearing pass that deflected off a Sharks player lead to the Capitals first goal. Team Teal even successfully neutralized Alex Ovechkin despite his five shots on goal. In short the Sharks on the evening did everything except win the game.
A Tough Evening Summarized- In the opening period the Capitals were able to get five shots on goal at Antti Niemi in the first five minutes of the game. The Sharks then would start getting some scoring chances of their own but could not do much with them as Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was up for the challenge. The first sign that maybe this was not the Sharks night with just under eight and a half minutes to play in the opening period. Niemi had just blocked a shot on goal from Washington’s Eric Fehr with the puck bouncing to Justin Braun in front of the Sharks goal crease. In an attempt to clear the puck up ice, the attempt would fail as Braun’s clearing pass hit Matt Nieto’s skate and deflected back into the Sharks net. The Sharks would find the game tying goal with just 5.6 seconds remaining in the opening period when Nieto chased down a cleared puck from behind the Capital goal. Nieto tried to stuff in the rubber biscuit under Holtby who stopped the shot but gave up the rebound to Logan Couture. Seeing that he didn’t have a five-hole available, Couture passed the puck over to Marleau who was able to bury his shot attempt. The goal was Marleau’s 30th of the season which tied the game at a goal apiece.
In the second period neither team scored. This may have been the period where the Sharks should have made the most of their opportunities as they outshot Washington 16-6. Amongst the missed chances were two power plays by Team Teal. In the first man-advantage after a holding penalty to Washington’s Tom Wilson the Sharks managed two shots on Holtby from Dan Boyle and Marleau but nothing more. Logan Couture just seconds into this power play missed a wide open net as he fanned on a shot attempt. A second power play after another holding penalty to the Capitals Mike Green saw Joe Pavelski, Boyle and Marleau all denied by Holtby who was by now clearly on top of his game. Defensively Team Teal was fine as they held the Capitals to very few if any true scoring chances. The Sharks also successfully killed off one Washington penalty in the period and another that started late in the second stanza and carried over into the third.
In the final regulation period the Sharks would take the lead on a breakaway goal from James Sheppard who was able to block a shot attempt by Washington’s Jason Chimera. The puck would deflect towards the neutral zone to where Sheppard was able to take off with it and break towards the Capitals goal. Sheppard was able to slide the puck past Holtby five-hole to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead with just over five minutes gone in the period. The Sharks seemed to be in control of the game as they continued to pressure the Capitals in their own zone. However this time around Team Teal’s luck would not hold up. With seven and a half minutes remaining, the Capitals Chris Brown, playing in his 14th career NHL game, scored his first ever goal when his shot deflected again off both Nieto and Boyle. With just 2:19 remaining in regulation Team Teal would catch a huge break when Ovechkin went to the penalty box for high-sticking Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks in this power play effort got some good shots on Holtby but again could get nothing past him.
In the overtime period the Sharks had clearly lost their steam and were held without a shot on goal while the Capitals had five on Niemi. In the shootout Holtby was able to turn away Couture and Pavelski. Meanwhile Niemi denied Fehr but gave up a goal to Evgeny Kuznetsov. In the third round Marleau beat Holtby to tie the shootout. However Niemi could not deny Nicklas Backstrom who was able to slide the puck under Niemi’s left leg pad for the game winner.
Sharks Miss A Playoff Clinch- If the Sharks were able to win this game either in regulation or in overtime (not the shootout), they would have become the third team in the NHL to clinch a post season birth behind Boston and St Louis. The Sharks will have another chance come Monday when they make their third and final trip to Alberta this season. The Sharks take on the Calgary Flames Monday night. The puck drops at 6pm PDT.
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