Thursday night’s contest with the Rangers did not go quite as planned for the home team. New York had played the night before and had backup netminder Kevin Weekes in the lineup, but virtually nothing went Team Teal’s way as New York used an empty netter to finish off a 3-1 victory.
The play of the game was one the Sharks would like to quickly forget. With San Jose pressing for a late first period tally, a puck bounced above the stick of a pinching blueliner and sent Matt Cullen in on a breakaway. When his shot hit the back of the twine, there was just seven-tenths of a second left in the period.
“We made a brain-dead play,” said Ron Wilson. “We played a great period and made a mental blunder. Hindsight is 20/20, but it was the critical play of the game. When you’re the last defenseman back, you can’t get caught in that situation. I’ll ask the people on the ice about it tomorrow.”
New York’s game-winner came courtesy of a lucky, but planned bounce. Evgeni Nabokov made a strong initial save on Martin Straka, but was forced to watch Straka bank the rebound off his backside.
“Give them credit,” said Scott Hannan. “They took advantage and buried their chances.”
It was definitely a defining moment in the contest, but the Sharks know that one goal should not be enough to keep them down for 60 minutes.
“We’ve got people not moving their feet and getting themselves open,” said Wilson. “If we have to shake up the lines we will. If we have to call someone up from Worcester, we will. We’re 14 games in and our better players have to play better. We have guys minus eight, minus seven.”
SCORING AT EVEN STRENGTH
San Jose has used the most potent power play in the league to sprint to a 9-5 start this season. However, on nights like Thursday, when the power play unit has limited opportunities, the Sharks have to play stronger at even strength. All four goals (albeit one was an empty netter) were even strength in the 3-1 loss.
“We have to improve five-on-five,” said Wilson.
San Jose outshot New York 30-19, but did not find the quality chances they wanted.
“We didn’t have much traffic in front and our shots were not the quality they should have been,” said Joe Thornton
“We could have given a better effort,” said Kyle McLaren. “We need to generate more five-on-five goals.”
Kyle McLaren may have scored his first goal of the season, but that was not his biggest highlight. The hard hitting blueline perfectly lined up Petr Prucha with a hip check, leaving the Rangers forward with his back on the ice. Moments later when Prucha tried taking a run at McLaren, Prucha simply bounced off and was again on his back.
“Those hits are like big goals,” said Scott Hannan on how the play affected the game’s momentum at the time. “Mac does that a lot.”
And on his first goal of the season?
“I shut my eyes and shot it,” laughed McLaren. “I don’t score many.”