On Thursday night at HP Pavilion, the Sharks let destiny slip through their hands. With the opportunity to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy in front of their home crowd on Fan Appreciation Night, San Jose had a dismal performance in their 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
But there is silver lining to the situation. The Sharks were able to clinch first place in the Western Conference thanks to a shootout win by the Nashville Predators over the Detroit Red Wings prior to the Sharks game. Now San Jose will have one last chance to lock down the top spot in the NHL when they take on the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Todd McLellan hopes his team shows up for the 1:00 PM start time and not halfway through the second period like they did tonight.
“In my opinion we didn’t start playing until it was 3-0,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “At this time of the year, there’s no chance of winning if you make that decision before the game. Will has to take precedent over skill and I’m not sure that took place tonight.”
In a game that saw the Sharks return two veterans, Captain Patrick Marleau
and left wing Ryane Clowe
, to the lineup, it was a rookie goaltender that ultimately stole the show. In only his fourth start of the season, Phoenix’s back-up netminder Al Montoya held the Sharks without a goal for nearly 53 minutes, while making 40 saves and holding San Jose scoreless on their six power play attempts. Left wing Travis Moen scored the Sharks only goal of the game with seven minutes remaining in the third period.
“We threw lots of pucks at the net but we just couldn’t get much by him,” said Moen, whose goal was his seventh of the season. “We will obviously learn from this game and go into LA and try to get two points.”
The Sharks started the first period with an intensity that matched their sellout crowd, but a fluke goal off the faceoff by Scottie Upshall at 8:30 and a five-on-three power play goal by Ed Jovanovski with 18.7 seconds remaining gave Phoenix an early 2-0 lead.
Turnovers in the defensive zone led to the Coyotes’ third goal of the night when Milan Michalek’s brother, Zbynek Michalek, scored four minutes into the second period.
“They got one off the draw and that five-on-three goal,” explained defenseman Rob Blake. “Then a costly turnover for their third goal and now we’re behind the eight ball and chasing them.”
Things got interesting halfway through the third period when Moen finally pushed one past Montoya on a wrap around attempt to give the Sharks some life. But a Phoenix’s Peter Beuler converted on a two-on-one with two minutes remaining to seal the Coyotes’ 4-1 victory.
Although the Sharks were aware that they had clinched the West before the start of their game, they didn’t think it had anything to do with their performance.
“It was a very disappointing result for our last game at home,” explained Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle
. “But I don’t think the Detroit game affected us in any way. The energy was there, the execution was just off.”
McLellan felt the same way.
“They watched the game, but I don’t think that affected the outcome at all,” he explained. “I don’t think we were prepared or where we needed to be in order to play the first 25 minutes of the game. After that, when we did start to play with some authority on the ice, they blocked a ton of shots. That’s a pretty committed team for a group that’s not in the playoffs.”
The Coyotes registered 31 blocked shots on the night.
Claude Lemieux, Brad Lukowich and Jonathan Cheechoo were scratched from Thursday’s lineup. However, McLellan assured the media that Lemieux and Lukowich were fine while Jonathan Cheechoo was day-to-day with a lower body injury.
“Cheech is a day-to-day thing,” said McLellan. “We’ll see how he is in LA and if not for LA we’ll get him back next week.”
Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi engaged in the first fight of his NHL career when he dropped the gloves with Martin Hanzal in the second period.
The Sharks will travel to Los Angeles for their final game of the regular season on Saturday, April 11 when they battle the Kings at 1:00 PM (Pacific). The game will be broadcast on CSN. 98.5 KFOX FM and SJSHARKS.com.