Poor start dooms Sharks in another road loss


RALEIGHIf any further proof was needed that an NHL team cant play just 20 minutes and win, look no further than the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks match against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, Carolina, on Friday night.

Check thatthe team that's now tied for worst, as the Hurricanes beat the Sharks 3-2 at the RBC Center to gain two points and match Buffalo's total of just 55 this season.

Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, only to surrender it in the third thanks to goals from Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. But Jussi Jokinens deflection in the high slot with 8:05 remaining in regulation sent the Sharks to their fifth loss in the last seven games (2-4-1).

We obviously would have liked to come out a lot better than we did instead of starting down 0-2, said Patrick Marleau.

Marleau actually had a couple great chances to tie it late. His wrist shot from the circle with 2:15 was denied by Justin Peters, though, and the Hurricanes rarely used backup did the splits to deny Marleau once again with about a minute left and goaltender Thomas Greiss pulled for an extra attacker. Marleau gloved an airborne puck at the side of the net and quickly placed it on the ice, but that gave Peters just enough time to do the splits and make an impressive pad save.

It was the start, though, that did the Sharks in.

I thought we lacked a lot of energy and jump and determination in the first two periods, Todd McLellan said. We didnt win a lot of races to pucks. We didnt establish body position around them. They were bigger and stronger than we were, quite frankly.

Then, all of a sudden in the third period, we found it. Its a little disappointing. I thought if we were going to fade we were going to fade in the third period due to fatigue, but that desperation has to be there earlier.

McLellan is referring in part to San Jose having a kink thrown into its travel plans late on Thursday night after a 6-5 overtime loss in Tampa Bay. The Sharks were unable to fly out that night as originally planned, instead arriving in Raleigh the day of the game around 11:00 a.m.

The team was naturally not going to use that as an excuse, though, and lost for the third time in four games on its season-long nine-game road trip (1-2-1). The Sharks are just 6-7-5 in their last 18 road games.

After those two generally lethargic periods, a goal by Boyle brought the Sharks to life early in the third. After San Jose brought the puck into the offensive zone, it pinballed around a bit among the Hurricanes defensemen and popped out to Boyle in the high slot. Boyles low wrister through traffic got through Peters at 1:26.

I was just trying to put it to the net for a rebound and it snuck its way through, Boyle said.

Newcomer Dominic Moore wasted no time in making an impact by setting up the tying goal by Burns less than three minutes later. Moore originally fed Ryane Clowe for a shot in front of the net that was stopped by Peters, and the puck bounced behind the net. Moore stayed with it and sent a backhand to Burns for a one-timer at 3:52 to make it a 2-2 game.

The game-winning goal came at 11:55 of the third, when Jokinen deflected a hard slap shot from the point by Jamie McBain.

We were actually in real good position. The guy had the stick out above us and it was hard to get control of that, McLellan said.

In fact, none of the three goals the Hurricanes scored could be placed on the shoulders of Greiss, who made 22 saves and lost for the first time since Dec. 3 vs. Florida (4-1-1).

First, a hard forechecking Hurricanes team forced Boyle into a turnover behind the net. The puck ended up on the stick of Jeff Skinner, who was parallel with the goal line, but slid a hard, low shot towards the net that bounced in off of Boyles skate at 7:31.

Another fluky goal, said Boyle, who accidentally scored on Thomas Greiss back on Feb. 2, as well.

A power play goal at 10:34 made it a two-goal cushion. Jamie McGinn went off for a retaliatory roughing penalty, leading to the man advantage. Carolina showed good puck movement and the result was a slam-dunk goal for Justin Faulk on a pass through the slot by Jiri Tlusty in which Greiss was defenseless.

Otherwise, Greiss was solid.

In fact, McLellan left open the possibility he could start on Sunday in Detroit, saying: Well have to sit down and determine who starts next, but that wont happen tonight.

Regular starter Antti Niemi has been hot and cold in the past month, hitting a low point with his performance against the Lightning on Thursday.

Peters, making his first start since Jan. 7 at Nashville and just third this season, had 35 saves.

Moore, acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday started as the third line center in place of Michal Handzus, who was bumped to the fourth line, between McGinn and Torrey Mitchell before McLellan started drastically shuffling his bottom three lines in the second period.

Weve got to be real happy with his play, McLellan said of Moore.

As for the line shuffling: We didnt have much going, so we decided to start flipping guys around.

It seemed to work in the third, but it was too little too late. Now, San Jose will try to avoid its third straight defeat at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon, where the Red Wings have won an NHL record 22 straight games with their 2-1 win over Nashville on Friday.

It sucks losing three out of four, and now we go into a hot building in Detroit, where it doesnt get any easier, Joe Thornton said.

Odds and ends: Brad Winchester and Andrew Desjardins were the scratches for the Sharks, while Jim Vandermeer returned in place of Douglas Murray, who sat out after taking a puck to the throat on Thursday.Jason Demers remained out with a lower body injury.The Sharks won 39 of 71 faceoffs.Tommy Wingels, Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a team-high five shots apiece.Carolina had 18 blocked shots to the Sharks 10.

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