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Sharks overcome bad start to beat Pens 4-3 in shootout

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE -- Not even knocking out the Sharks' starting goaltender in the first 2:04 was enough for the Pittsburgh Penguins to end their victory drought in San Jose.

Deryk Engelland and Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead before many of the fans at HP Pavilion had settled into their seats on Thursday night. But the Penguins couldn't hold a pair of two-goal leads and wound up losing 4-3 in a shootout, their eighth loss in a row at the Shark Tank.

The Penguins haven't won at San Jose since Oct. 22, 1997, when Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis scored goals in a 5-2 victory against a Sharks’ lineup that included then-rookie Patrick Marleau and Tony Granato, now a Pens assistant coach. Since then, all they've managed in 10 games is a 1-1 tie in 1999.

"It’s just one of those things," Marleau said of the Sharks’ dominance over Pittsburgh at home. "You don’t know what it is, but I think teams do get up for them because they’re one of the elite teams in the League. They always have star players. We weren’t ready in the first, and you saw what happened. You have to make sure you come ready to play."

Forward Ryane Clowe scored the only goal in the shootout, beating Marc-Andre Fleury in the third round with a wrister to the stick side. Backup goalie Thomas Greiss, who replaced Antti Niemi after the Penguins' early blitz, then stopped Pascal Dupuis with a poke check for the win.

Clowe, Marleau and Jamie McGinn scored for the Sharks, and Greiss allowed just one goal after taking over at 2:04 in the first with the Sharks down 2-0.

Needless to say, Sharks coach Todd McLellan wasn't thrilled with his team's start.

"Our team was not prepared to play tonight," McLellan said. "I know a lot of people will speculate that coming back from a road trip, that can happen. A long ceremony. Unacceptable. To put ourselves in that situation, it’s unacceptable in my opinion."

Malkin had the last two goals for the Penguins, and James Neal and Steve Sullivan each had two assists.

"We opened up great, came out and did exactly what we wanted to do," Neal said. "We knew they were coming off a long road trip (and) we wanted to jump on them as quickly as we can, and we did that. We executed and then coming into the second we knew that they were going to come back hard at us and they did. We managed it, and then in the third they got a couple and our coverage was sloppy."

The Penguins took a 3-1 lead into the third period, but San Jose cut the lead to 3-2 when Clowe scored at 9:11. He passed the puck to Martin Havlat, near the right boards, got it back and flipped it high, over Fleury and into the net.

"I thought we did a great job responding," Clowe said. "Greiss was great. … We got better as it went on."

McGinn tied it 3-3 with just 4:54 to play. Sharks center Michal Handzus circled behind the Pens’ net then feathered a pass in front to McGinn, who jammed it home.
Penguins forward Matt Cooke hit the post with less than three minutes left in regulation.

Early in overtime, Fleury stopped a trio of shots by Marleau, Clowe and Justin Braun. Greiss responded by rejecting Chris Kunitz’s hard blast, then smothering his wraparound try. Malkin tried to jam a rebound past Greiss in the final seconds of OT, but he stopped that, too.

The Sharks, playing their first home game after going 5-1-0 on a six-game trip, spent the night playing catch-up.

The Penguins needed exactly 24 seconds to take the lead. Engelland launched a long wrist shot near the boards beyond the right circle that beat Niemi, who had lost his stick.

Before the Sharks could regroup, Pittsburgh struck again at 2:04 when Malkin deflected a shot off San Jose defenseman Brent Burns’ skate and past Niemi from close range, making  it 2-0.

Exit Niemi and enter Greiss, who stopped the onslaught.

"I don't think he was ready to play, just like everyone else," McLellan said of Niemi, who stopped four of six shots. "Change momentum but also send a message that he has to be ready to go as well."

Greiss stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced.

"I got in there quick," Greiss said. "It was pretty surprising. Coach made the decision. We bounced back pretty quick. Things had already happened so you just try to do your best and stop the pucks."

Both of Pittsburgh’s early goals came against the Sharks top line of Marleau, Joe Pavelski and captain Joe Thornton, who was honored before the puck dropped for playing in 1,000 NHL games, a milestone he hit Oct. 21 at New Jersey.

After the Sharks dug that quick hole, McLellan started juggling his lines, looking for a productive combination. The Sharks finally scored when Marleau, skating at center on a line with Havlat and McGinn, beat Fleury at 2:37 of the second to make it 2-1. Marleau took a pass from Havlat, turned on the jets in the crease and beat Fleury.

After falling behind early, the Sharks refused to go down. Brad Winchester exchanged punches with Pittsburgh’s Craig Adams late in the first, and Clowe mixed it up with Engelland early in the second. Those fights seemed to energize the Sharks. They outshot Pittsburgh 17-6 in the second period but still trailed by two goals entering the final period.

"Winny tried to create a little stir," McLellan said. "Engelland finished a very hard check on Jumbo, a clean check, but Clowie took exception to it. Perhaps that woke us up a little bit and got us going."

The Penguins answered quickly after Marleau’s goal with Malkin scoring his second of the night at 9:37. He took a pass from defenseman Kris Letang and sent a shot toward the crease that bounced off the right leg of a leaping Neal. As Malkin rushed toward the crease, the puck bounced off his right skate and past Greiss. After a review, the goal was deemed good, and the Penguins owned a 3-1 lead.

"They got a couple of late ones, and (Fleury) played great like normal," Engelland said. "We've got to get better."

Penguins center Jordan Staal missed his second straight game with a lower body injury, forcing the Pens to juggle their lines again. The Penguins played their 14th straight game this season without center Sidney Crosby, still recovering from a concussion he suffered in January.

Defenseman Ben Lovejoy left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
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