(photo: Associated Press/ Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The San Jose Sharks looked to start their home stand with a win and the slumping Carolina Hurricanes were desperate for a win, their last 5 starts losses. Canes netminder Anton Khudobin, who just signed a two-year contract with Carolina, nailed the win, making 35 saves by the end of overtime to help give the team the 3-2 overtime win over the Sharks.
Head Coach Todd McLellan viewed the game as two segments. “We were struggling to find our legs, our execution, we were flat. We turned a lot of pucks over and they gained some momentum off of it. The second half we started to look the way we needed to and played hard. The goaltender made some very good stops and we had our chances in overtime as well.”
Carolina took the ice in control in the first period of play, forcing Sharks netminder Alex Stalock to make some key saves to keep the Canes scoreless through most of the play. San Jose didn’t do much to maintain possession of the puck and Carolina’s Jiri Tlusty found the back of the net first on a breakaway splitting the Sharks defense pair of Jason Demers and Scott Hannan and it would be 1-0 Canes.
The Sharks didn’t trail for long as a minute later Tyler Kennedy collected a pass from Andrew Desjardins along the boards and fired it toward Khudobin. As the rebound popped out Martin Havlat literally fell to make the play, the puck connecting with his stick to tie the game 1-1.
James Sheppard created the next opportunity for the Sharks behind the Hurricanes net as he forced a turnover and fed the puck to a waiting Raffi Torres. As Torres received it, Brent Burns came into the slot and Torres made the pass to Burns who spun and then fired it on net beating Khudobin and breaking his 19-game scoring drought.
“It was very encouraging. He (Burns) was in the right spot,” said McLellan. “He shot the puck and I thought he did some other things well within the game. The monkey is off his back now and he can get back to relaxing and playing the way he needs to.”
The second period of play progressed in much the same fashion for the Sharks and Stalock again had to make some critical saves. Most of the period had the Hurricanes in San Jose’s zone and their time spent in Sharks territory finally paid off. Carolina forward Eric Staal worked the puck behind San Jose’s net after Andrej Sekera made the initial pass. The Sharks defense seemed to be caught up in all the action along the boards, letting Elias Lindholm drift into the slot. Staal sent it to the front and Lindholm one-timed it past Stalock to tie the game 2-2.
The third period of play brought the Sharks out of their sluggishness, firing 16 shots on net. Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels generated most of the activity around the Hurricane net but Khudobin was able to turn all of the shots away to force an overtime frame. With just under a minute left in overtime, Elias Lindholm and Andrej Sekera were the playmakers again and Jay Harrison netted the game winner. Stalock had drifted to cover Lindholm’s shot but couldn’t shuffle to catch Harrison who skated in to Lindholm’s pass and tucked the puck in the net.
“I followed the puck the whole way,” said Stalock on the overtime goal. “They got the bounce and their guy was there at the right time. It ended up right on his tape and I don’t know what you do.”
Despite the Sharks loss, there were some bright spots for the team. The third and fourth lines showed some of their strength tonight and, despite three goals against, Stalock in his first back-to-back start kept the team in the game for two periods of play, making the big saves when they were needed. James Sheppard who’s had 5 points in his last 5 games demonstrated his desire to be a contender for the center spot on the third line.
“I’m just trying to take it to the next level. I just want to keep progressing and keep the foot on the pedal,” said Sheppard of his drive coming out of the Olympic break. “I want to be the best player I can and if I can play third line center then that’s an honor for me.”
Todd McLellan praised his game and his desire and he sees the desperation in Sheppard’s game. “He is at a bit of a crossroads in his career and I think he has figured it out…He is becoming a very effective player for us,” said McLellan. “If he continues to play like that, we have ourselves a very good player.”
The Sharks will look for a win at home when they take on another Eastern Conference team, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.