Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov took the loss Wednesday night but deserved little of the blame. Nabokov allowed just two goals on the night, the first when he was screened and the second when the puck bounced off Rob Blake’s skate for just a terrible break.
“It went off my skate,” said Blake of the bad luck that gave Colorado the victory.
Nabokov made 28 saves, 11 of those coming in the second period when the Sharks were out-shot 12-3 and were in danger of falling multiple goals behind.
“He played great for us,” Blake said. “The shots were 12-3 in the second. A big reason was Nabby that we were still in that game.”
Nabokov found no solace in his stellar play.
“It doesn’t really matter, I guess,” Nabokov said of his solid Game 1. “You lose the game. You give up two goals, you’re OK, but that’s the type of series it’s going to be. I don’t think we can expect high scores. That’s the way it’s going to be, 2-1, 3-2. We just have to make sure it’s going to go our way most of the time.”
Nabokov stopped all 11 Colorado shots in the first period and was steady from start to finish.
The Avs had one dangerous two-on-one after the Sharks lost the puck near center-ice with under 7 minutes left in the period, but they came away empty after a bad pass.
Colorado finally got to Nabokov for a power-play goal at 12:38 of the second period. With Chris Stewart battling Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle
in front of the net and providing a screen, Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles fired a shot from the point that beat Nabokov to his glove side.
“I think Stewart was coming to the net,” Nabokov said. “I was looking for the puck and, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it.”
Just seconds before Stewart’s game-winner from the right corner, Nabokov had turned back a shot but wound up on the ice in the crease with an Av on top of him. He righted himself before Stewart fired but was helpless when the puck hit Blake’s skate and shot past him into the net.
“Nabby played great,” Joe Pavelski
said. “He made the saves for us. We had a chance. That’s how a lot of playoff games are going to be, one-goal games. We have to find a way to come out on top.”
You can point to bad luck for the Sharks 2-1 loss to Colorado in Game 1, with Chris Stewart’s prayer from the right corner bouncing off Rob Blake’s skate and into the net with 50 seconds left. The Sharks simply felt they just needed to do more.
Or, as Sharks coach Todd McLellan did after the defeat, you can point to a very, very bad second period.
After outshooting the Avs 12-11 in a scoreless first, the Sharks were outshot 12-3 and outscored 1-0 in the second. Colorado scored on one of its two second-period power plays, John-Michael Liles banging a shot past a screened Evgeni Nabokov at 12:38.
“They didn’t’ do much different in the second period than they did in the first,” McLellan said of the Avs. “I thought it was more us. We didn’t execute very well. Our passing was a little bit off, whether it was the passer or the receiver. As a result it slowed our game down a lot, and they did a really good job of clogging up the neutral zone.
“And when we seemed to dump, we dumped to the goaltender. As a result, we were chasing it for a whole period. Eliminate that 20 minutes and play the way we did in the first and the third, we’d give ourselves more of an opportunity to be successful.”
The neutral zone was more like an impenetrable wall for the frustrated Sharks in the second period. Thus, three shots in 20 minutes, compared to 12 in the first and 11 in the third.
“We did not come through that neutral zone clean at all in the second period,” Blake said. “They bottled it up, pucks were bouncing, turned over, coming back at us. That’s the area we needed to clean up a lot earlier.”
The Sharks Joe Pavelski
said Colorado “came out pretty hard” to start the second period and didn’t slow down.
“They kind of out-changed us, and they were maybe a little fresher at times,” Pavelski said. “That just led to all their success getting pucks in deep. We didn’t’ sustain anything really down there in the second period, us holding onto pucks or anything like that. It was a lot of one in and coming out. It was tough to really create momentum that way.
“They do a good job clogging it up, coming back hard. It felt like you had a guy in your back pocket often. We finally started laying pucks in there and winning a few races. You’ve got to go around it. It’s tough to go through it. Go around it. When we did get a chance to get pucks to the net we missed a lot.”