CHICAGO – Concluding a stretch of four road games in six nights against the best team in the National Hockey League wasn’t going to be easy, and the Sharks surely knew that when they looked at their agenda for the road trip.
“This was the game we were worried about and wanted to win,” Joe Pavelski said.
Although they did enough to deserve more than just one goal, that second one never came. Pavelski’s marker early in the middle frame opened the scoring, but Chicago responded with four unanswered goals to beat San Jose, 4-1.
After a first period in which both teams looked sluggish and sloppy from playing so much hockey lately – Chicago was in the second of the back-to-back, after winning in St. Louis on Saturday night – Pavelski got the game going with one of his patented redirections from the slot at 1:13 of the second period.
San Jose continued to press, including a couple more open looks for Pavelski on a power play. The Sharks had 12 of the next 16 shots after Pavelski’s score, seeking to increase that slim one-goal advantage.
Duncan Keith had other ideas, when his slap shot cleanly beat Martin Jones on a night that the Sharks’ goalie was outplayed at the other end by Chicago’s Scott Darling, who was outstanding. That stretch of play from Pavelski’s goal to Keith’s was the turning point, according to Pete DeBoer.
“I thought the second period was probably the difference in the game, to come out 1-1 after we played the way we did,” DeBoer said. “I thought we deserved a little better.”
Pavelski said: “There were a few good looks. There’s more than one goal out there, I’d say that for sure. We didn’t get it, though.”
A tie game going into the third period was still a comfortable position for the Sharks, especially in a building that they had lost eight of their previous 10. San Jose was 6-2 on the season in a tie game after 40 minutes, to boot.
Chicago got the break it needed, though, when Ryan Hartman scored the game winner after Mikkel Boedker, who was only taking the faceoff because Logan Couture was kicked out of the circle, lost a draw to Vinnie Hinostroza and Kevin Labanc whiffed on his attempt to push it forward.
DeBoer, who was puzzled as to why Couture got kicked out of the circle, said: “It was just one of those ones where the puck is laying around, the guy got good wood on it, and put it in the right spot.”
The Sharks kept at it, though, including one extended shift by Chris Tierney, Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels in which they were in the offensive zone for a full minute. The chances were there again for them to tie it up at 2-2.
But Hinostroza’s conversion on a two-on-one with 2:20 to go essentially sealed it for Chicago.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Couture said. “We created enough, but we’ve got to find a way to score some more goals. It’s not enough right now.”
Tierney said: “We had a lot of chances. A bunch in the second. After they tied it up I thought we had a couple chances, too. We had that long shift there in the third where I thought we were going to get one, it just didn’t go in. That’s just how hockey works sometimes.”
The road trip was a bit of a strange one for the Sharks in that they didn’t play their best in shootout wins over the Maple Leafs and Senators, but played admirably, and lost, to the Blackhawks.
They ended up gathering six of eight points, which has to be considered an achievement. But, beating the NHL-leading Blackhawks in their own building would have made it that much sweeter.
“Good trip, but you leave with a little bit of an empty feeling after losing tonight, because I really thought this might have been our best effort of the trip,” DeBoer said.
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Melker Karlsson, who took a nasty shot to the head and had to be helped off the ice in the third period, was seen walking around the Sharks dressing room after the game.
“I think he’s OK, but we’ll see tomorrow," DeBoer said.