That’s because the Sharks lacked the fight needed in arguably the most important game of the best-of-seven series. Now, instead of heading home for Saturday’s Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2, the Sharks find themselves in a deep hole, trailing the Ducks, 3-1.
|Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller makes one of his 31 saves on a shot by Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) |
“I’m disappointed in our desperation level tonight, that’s what really disappoints me,” San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle
said. “Our season is on the line now. There’s no more if we lose again. The season’s done.”
After losing the opening two games of the series at HP Pavilion, the Sharks seemed to get their swagger back in Game 3 when they defeated the Ducks, 4-3, on Tuesday. But San Jose could not maintain its edge in Game 4 and the Ducks rallied behind rookie Bobby Ryan’s two goals and goaltender Jonas Hiller, who finished with 31 saves.
“We have to find a way to score some goals,” said San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 22 of 25 shots in Game 4. “They are a confident team with the lead...We have [to find a way] to combat that.
“When you’re losing games like this, there are always going to be a lot of questions. Not only that, but when you are losing a series, there are also going to be a lot of things get questioned. They are some things that they are doing right and there has to be things we are not doing right.”
For Coach Todd McLellan, it was difficult to watch the Sharks not play up to the level they showed during the regular season.
“We’re better than we showed tonight. To a man,” McLellan said. “…Their team was extremely hungry. They won a lot of board battles, loose puck battles. Their back pressure was second to none. They didn’t give us much time. They were very committed.
“I’m not surprised that they were hungry. I’m disappointed that we weren’t. Our character was questioned tonight and we will have to see how we respond going back to San Jose.”
The Sharks biggest problem in Game 4 was their failure to slow down the Ducks’ top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan.
“For the most part, most of the damage has been done by Bobby Ryan,” McLellan said about Ryan, who has scored a series-best four goals in four games against the Sharks. “He is a tremendous player who has a ton of skill. Ryan Getzlaf has the size and ability to get him the puck.”
Unfortunately for San Jose center Joe Thornton
, he was able to get an up-close look at the Ducks’ big line at its best on Thursday. Thornton was on the ice for three goals accounted for by the Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan line.
|Sharks center Joe Pavelski is surrounded by Ducks defenders in the first period of Thursday night's game. (AP Photo/Mark Avery) |
“Up to tonight, I thought that Joe had a impact on the series. A positive impact,” McLellan said. “He competed very hard and made some things happen in a lot of difficult areas. Tonight, he obviously was on the negative side. The Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan line played better than Joe and his line did..it shows on the scoreboard and it shows on the scoresheet.”
After a scoreless first period, the Sharks came out flat in the second period and it cost them. Ryan scored his first goal when he took advantage of San Jose’s scrambling defense and scored from the slot at 6:33.
The Sharks were still in the game until a rare glass breakage stopped play for nearly 15 minutes midway into the second period. Once the game resumed, the Ducks needed only 19 seconds to score again when Ryan knocked in a rebound at 10:13 to give Anaheim a 2-0 lead.
McLellan said it would be wrong to blame the weird stoppage of play for the Sharks’ effort in the period.
“That didn’t have anything to do with the game,” McLellan said. “The first period, I think we were OK. But we came out in the second and we didn’t make passes, we didn’t execute. We didn’t make plays, we weren’t skating. All of the things that we wanted to do and the momentum change. I don’t think the break in the glass had anything to do with the outcome of the game.”
To switch things up, the Sharks began the third period with Thornton playing on a line with captain Patrick Marleau
. But that move didn’t change much.
“We did flip our lines around halfway in the second period because were not happy with what was going on,” McLellan said. “We were not generating any offense.
“So we went back to what we normally have [in the third period], thinking that our big guys would rise to the occasion.”
In the end, McLellan summed up the Sharks’ status like this: “We have a core of players, goaltender included. Some top defensemen and key forwards that have to match up against their core. If that core is outplayed like it was tonight, the odds of us winning is greatly diminished….It’s core against core right now.”NOTES
In four games, Hiller has stopped 139 of 145 shots, good for a 0.959 save percentage and 1.51 goals-against average. Solid numbers for a goalie making his first run through the playoffs.
But San Jose forward Jeremy Roenick, who is in his 20th season in the NHL, said a lot of credit has to go to the Ducks defense, which has features veteran defenseman Scott Niedermayer among others.
“[Hiller] is showing great confidence in the net and has impressed a lot of people,” Roenick said. “There’s a reason why he’s in there instead of [Jean-Sebastien] Giguere.
“But their guys are playing very well in front of him. It helps to have a Niedermayer on your team…He’s probably the best defenseman that I’ve ever seen. You go back to Bobby Orr, Lidstrom. I can’t remember seeing a better defenseman.
“[Scott Stevens] was more physical and more brutal. But Niedermayer can hurt you in all different ways. Offensively, defensively. I’ve never seen a guy make something look so easy in my whole life. He makes you frustrated. Even Paul Coffey looked like he was working hard at times.
"Niedermayer never works hard. Never. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s one of the smartest guys that I’ve ever seen.”