For three periods, the Sharks defense did what it had to do. They held the Dallas Stars to only 15 shots on goal and just a handful of good scoring chances. But it wasn’t enough, as Dallas struck quickly in overtime to earn a 3-2 victory on the Sharks home ice in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
Until Brenden Morrow’s winner at 4:39 of the extra period, the defense had given the Sharks and their fans an emotional lift, by killing a penalty in the waning minutes of the third period, just after Jonathan Cheechoo had tied the score.
“It was huge,” Cheechoo said of the defensive stand. “They couldn’t get anything clean. We kept it to the outside and, on a penalty kill, that’s what you have to do.”
Craig Rivet and Christian Ehrhoff were the first-line defensemen on the penalty kill, with Douglas Murray
and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
coming on in relief during the crucial sequence that ended with 21 seconds left in regulation.
But Dallas, despite managing only two first-period shots, and being outshot in each of the three full periods, still managed to ravage the Sharks with two goals from top line.
“We’ve got to do a much better job against them,” Torrey Mitchell
said. “Those guys are dangerous.”
Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
“We’ve got to be tougher on those guys,” he said of the line that includes Morrow (two goals in the game) and Dallas’ leading scorer Mike Ribeiro (83 regular-season points). “They worked the puck really well down low. We have to do a better job with that.”
The Stars fired three overtime shots and seemed to outnumber the defense by pressuring hard in the San Jose zone. Throughout the overtime, the Sharks had difficulty getting the puck up the ice and Dallas eventually pounded it in.
San Jose Coach Ron Wilson said that final sequence epitomized an area the Sharks need to improve upon the rest of the series.
“Our defense, I don’t know why we weren’t moving the puck quicker than we needed to,” Wilson said. “For a couple of periods, they weren’t getting any scoring chances, but we kept slowing the play down and resisting moving the puck quickly when our forwards were open.
“In the third period it was a little bit better, but you saw what happened in overtime. It eventually caught up to us. The whole night, they might have had five scoring chances. So, from a defensive point of view, we were pretty good.
“But the goals they scored, we lost a couple of battles. You have a soft play in your own end, it’s going to end up in your own net. It should be: snuff it out and get the puck out of danger. We didn’t do that.”
MICHALEK BREAKS OUT
The good news out of San Jose’s 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals is that left wing Milan Michalek scored his first goal in eight postseason games this year.
His tally at 4:50 of the second period wasn’t pretty -- the puck just trickled its way past Dallas goaltender Marty Turco, but when one reads the Game 1 stat sheet under “goal scorer,” the entry will just say: “S.J. 9 M. Michalek (1).”
“It was nice to get the goal,” Michalek said. “But I would exchange it for a win tonight. I felt really good tonight. My legs felt good and I had some chances that I have to bury next time.”
In seven games of the quarterfinal series against Calgary, Michalek had just seven shots and two penalty minutes
In slightly over 18 minutes on Friday night, Michalek had a goal, four shots, two missed shots, two hits and one takeaway.
“It was nice to see him get on the scoresheet,” Marleau said. “We’re going to need a few more coming down the stretch.”
Michalek’s postseason performance belied his regular season output. He was second on the Sharks with 24 goals, was third in points (55) and led San Jose with 233 shots.
“We need him scoring,” center Torrey Mitchell
said. “He’s one of our best players. It was good for him to get that goal.”
Usually when someone in a slump gets a goal, no matter how it happens, the confidence goes up. Michalek hopes that’s the case with him.
“Hopefully, my confidence goes up and things will change,” he said.
San Jose dominated various facets of play during their OT loss.
They outshot the Stars, 27-18. They won more faceoffs, 59 percent to 41.
“I thought we played a pretty good game,” Wilson said. “The whole night, they might’ve had five scoring chances. From a defensive point of view, we were pretty good.”
In the first period, the Sharks outshot Dallas, 10-2. After the first 40 minutes, San Jose still had the edge, 19-10.
“That’s hockey,” center Joe Thornton
said. “Usually if you outshoot a team, you usually win. That’s how it works.”
As was the case against Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff, San Jose needs to find a way to get more bodies in front of Dallas netminder Marty Turco.
“Turco played well,” said Cheechoo, who scored the tying goal late in the third period, said. “It’s the same as last time. We didn’t get enough bodies in front. He’s a good goalie. When they get the chance to see a clear shot, they’re going to stop it 95 percent of the time.”
“We’ve got to find a way to create a few more chances and be a little bit more determined to getting traffic in front of Turco,” Wilson said. “When we did, we scored. When we didn’t, he sees the puck and he’ll make the save.”
Less than five minutes into overtime, a shot by Mike Ribeiro forced Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to move across his crease. The rebound came right to Stephane Robidas’ stick, who took the puck around the net faking a shot.
Robidas then sent it to Brenden Morrow at the point where he took a slapshot that caught Nabokov crossing back across the crease.
“We just wanted to keep the pressure on them, we thought we played real well in third we had a lot of scoring chances and we kept the play in their for the most part,” Cheechoo said of the sharks strategy going into OT. “We did what we wanted to do for a little bit but in the end they got a pretty wide open chance.”
The game-winner was a result of several close calls.
“It went right under, between my skates. I don’t know how close I was (to blocking the shot), but not close enough,” Marleau said.
Wilson didn’t think it was luck. He said “they got the jump on us. They had one defensive pair hammed in, and we didn’t move the puck quick enough and they jumped on a mistake. Simple.”
The game marked the first time the Sharks had played a divisional opponent in the playoffs since they defeated the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2001-02 Western Conference Quarterfinals in five games. It is their first meeting against Dallas in the playoffs since the 1999-2000 Western Conference Semi-Finals.
DALLAS HEAD COACH DAVE TIPPETT
“We knew they were going to have a lot of emotion. It’s a loud building, a good building. Their fans are great. We came out here and weathered the storm a little bit. I would like to see us generate a little more. I didn’t think we skated as well as we needed to early. We had some spurts in the game, but the reality is we’re going to have to be much better. We capitalized on some chances, so give us credit for that. Turco made some big saves for us, but I don’t think we played close to what we played in the Anaheim series. So, we’re going to have to raise our level if we’re going to compete with this team.”
Game 2 will be Sunday at 6 p.m. and will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.