Sharks outperformed by NHL's top team
San Jose is in the midst of its longest losing streak since Nov. 5 – 30, 2005, just before the club acquired current captain Joe Thornton. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
CHICAGO – A season that began with such promise is turning into a complete and utter nightmare.
After winning their first seven games to start the season, the Sharks’ losing streak reached seven games (0-4-3) on Friday night in Chicago with a 4-1 defeat. The Blackhawks scored once in the first period, twice in the second and once more in the third to give San Jose its longest losing streak since Nov. 5 – 30, 2005, just before the club acquired current captain Joe Thornton.
Leading 1-0, the Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead in the second when Marcus Kruger dumped the puck towards Antti Niemi from center ice. It took an awkward bounce and hit the post before a charging Kruger knocked it in at 3:05.
The Sharks responded with a goal by newcomer Tim Kennedy less than two minutes later. Logan Couture made it happen bringing the puck up the ice and finding Kennedy, who went to his backhand to beat Ray Emery at 5:03.
Chicago regained its two-goal lead before the intermission, though. On the power play, Andrew Shaw managed to deposit the rebound of a Duncan Keith blast at 14:40 of the second.
Niklas Hjalmarsson’s point shot at 6:28 of the third period capped the scoring.
The final score could have been much worse, as Chicago outplayed and out-skated the nose-diving Sharks for most of the night. Early in the second period, Marian Hossa missed an easy slam dunk goal after Douglas Murray’s neutral zone turnover. Later in the period, Patrick Kane made a dazzling move around Brent Burns, turning the defenseman around – twice – before Niemi snuffed Kane’s short side attempt.
The Blackhawks have now gone 14 games out of the gate without a regulation loss. They are two shy of the record, set by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks.
The Sharks had a golden opportunity to open the scoring, when Jonathan Toews was called for boarding Thornton. The two captains dropped the gloves after some more pushing and shoving, and the result was a four-minute power play for the Sharks, as Toews earned an unsportsmanlike conduct minor as well.
Instead of taking advantage, the power play remained ice cold. Patrick Marleau’s interference penalty nullified the remaining 36 seconds of the advantage, and Chicago took the lead late in the first on Dave Bolland’s goal off his own rebound at 19:16 of the first period.
The Sharks have been held to two or fewer goals (not counting shootouts) in eight of their last nine games.
The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and are now just 2-for-38 in the last nine games. Chicago’s penalty kill entered the game ranked second in the NHL.
The Blackhawks were 1-for-5 with a man advantage, as Shaw’s goal came with Jason Demers off for roughing.
Niemi fell to 5-4-1 in his career against Chicago, allowing four goals on 37 shots. He’s just 1-3-1 at the United Center since he left the Blackhawks following the 2010 Stanley Cup run.
Chicago’s Ray Emery made his first start at home, and stopped 27 Sharks shots to improve to 4-0-0.
Regular starter Corey Crawford didn’t dress for Chicago, with a possible concussion.
Burns and Scott Gomez, who sat out in Nashville on Tuesday, returned to the San Jose lineup. Defenseman Justin Braun was a healthy scratch for the first time.
James Sheppard missed the game, after getting hurt in practice on Thursday (undisclosed).
The Sharks will return home and practice in San Jose on Sunday before flying to St. Louis for a game on Tuesday. They return to Chicago on Friday, Feb. 22, before wrapping up the six-game road swing in Dallas the next night.
The Sharks have surrendered points to their opponents in nine straight games. They have not won in regulation since Jan. 27 vs. Vancouver. … Couture’s assist halted his scoreless streak at four games.