New York Islanders battle hard but can’t break 9-game losing streak, Sharks send them packing with 2-1 shootout loss

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Friday, November 12, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

The Sharks have been inconvenienced by a 2-game suspension to captain Joe Thornton, and a scoring drought that has kept several key contributors off the scoresheet. The New York Islanders have been mired in a brutal 9-game slide that could change the makeup of the team, knock them out of playoff contention by Christmas, and have players and head coach Scott Gordon looking over their shoulders sooner rather than later. The Islanders could not hold on to their first lead in 9 games, eventually dropping a 2-1 shootout loss at HP Pavilion. Defenseman Dan Boyle scored once in regulation, and scored the deciding OT shootout goal to give the Sharks their 5th point in 3 games.

Joe Thornton returned to the lineup after serving a 2-game NHL suspension for an illegal hit to the head, but he was held scoreless for his third straight game. “We just have to bear down, then the floodgates will open,” he told reporters after the game. Sharks head coach Todd McLellan predicted a spirited effort from the Islanders, one day after they were shutout by backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney in Anaheim. “We felt it would be that kind of night,” McLellan said. “We haven’t been scoring a lot of goals offensively. It took until the end of the shootout, but it is two points in the bank. It hasn’t been happening often enough, so we will take it tonight.”

Right wing P.A. Parenteau put the Islanders on the board with a wrist shot from 44 feet out in the second period. To say the San Jose Sharks have had problems with officiating in recent games would be an understatement, but those problems were more metaphoric than physical. As defenseman Dan Boyle followed Parenteau in the corner, he ran into and was knocked down by one of the referees. The check sprung Parenteau loose at the point. The right shooting Parenteau circled back into the slot, and lasered a wrist shot through traffic that beat the Sharks goaltender cleanly. Antero Niittymaki raised his arms in frustration, signaling he was screened on the play.

The Sharks outshot New York 12-8 in the first period, but that would ramp up to an 18-7 differential in the second in part based on 4 Islanders penalties. Defenseman Jason Demers would make an impact on the first power play opportunity. After a nice effort to keep the puck in the zone, Demers unloaded a point shot with two Sharks forwards camped on the doorstep. Rolson blocked the lower portion of the net to make the save. On a subsequent possession at the top of the zone, Demers floated a pass that was intercepted by Josh Bailey and carried down the ice on a breakaway. Bailey lost the puck on a forehand to backhand move without getting a shot on goal. Demers was effective through two periods, sliding into the shooting lane and bombing 1-timers that created scoring chances in front of Roloson. The young Sharks defenseman would finish with 23:31 of ice time and 4 shots on goal (2 missed the net).

A short time after Ryane Clowe drilled 2009 first overall draft selection John Tavares at center ice, Sharks forward John McCarthy would create the second Sharks power play opportunity in front of the net. The 6-foot-1, 200 pound left wing has been a solid contributor for head coach Todd McLellan on both sides of the ice in recent games, but with 2 goals in his last 7 he was promoted to the third line with Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi. After two point blank backhand scoring chances trickled just wide in the first period, McCarthy received a shot/pass at the side of the net in the second. The former Boston College captain took a pair of quick whacks at the puck before being cross checked by defenseman Bruno Gervais. Gervais was given a 2 minute minor, but the Sharks first power play unit struggled on their first pp shift. Marc-Edouard Vlasic also struggled with timing shots from the point as the man advantage expired.

San Jose would finally break through 41-year old Dwayne Roloson late in the second period. Six seconds after defenseman Jack Hilen took an interference penalty at 14:04, defenseman Mike Mottau was called for a delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. Joe Thornton found himself in an unusual position at the point, but after a faceoff win he made a b-line towards the far circle. Boyle, with room behind and Marleau in front, lined up a heavy point shot that he blasted through traffic.

“5-on-3, we have to score there,” Boyle said. “Essentially where it is one of those nights we are not scoring 5-on-5. We came through with a big goal. It was nothing special, just a shot the goalie didn’t see.”

Center Joe Pavelski apparently scored his first goal in 8 games in the third period, but after a brief celebration all eyes turned towards referees Stephane Auger and Dennis LaRue. After an initial awkward shot on goal off traffic, Pavelski beat a pair of Islanders defenseman to the loose puck behind the net. Keeping his feet moving, Pavelski drove towards the far side of the goal and wrapped a puck past Roloson. Apparently Logan Couture kept the Islanders goaltender from returning to his position in the crease.

“I understand the ruling, I don’t have to agree with it,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. “I certainly understand what I was told. The goaltender has to have the ability to get back into the crease without any interference. It is a judgement call on the referees behalf. He made the call, we have to live with it and move on. Just another piece of adversity we have to face.”

In many San Jose eyes, adversity thy name is NHL official. Against the Islanders a ref opened up a shooting lane for P.A. Parenteau by knocking down Dan Boyle in the second period, and later kept a goal off the board in the third. Effective two-way effort. On Tuesday night, McLellan was not happy with a non-call when Devin Setoguchi was taken down in overtime prior to a Anaheim game winning goal. GM Doug Wilson was irate at the major penalty and game misconduct delivered to Joe Thornton for a hit on David Perron last week, and this blog was apoplectic that a routine hook staged by Martin Havlat resulted in a 5-on-3 game winning tally for goal starved Minnesota. Bringing up problems with officiating is taboo in NHL circles, and over an 82 game season they are supposed to even themselves out. If this was Vegas and you were counting cards, this would be the time to start doubling and tripling bets on the San Jose Sharks.

One of those bets would have to be on Joe Pavelski. Scoreless after registering 21 shots on goal in his last 4 games, he had his best scoring chance near the end of the third period. After Logan Couture curled at the top of the zone, he hit Pavelski with a pass in stride. The Wisconsin native deked around Parenteau to his left, but as he pulled the puck to his forehand the play was broken up with a diving stick check across the crease by defenseman Jack Hillen. The Islanders ramped up play in the third period. Tired on the second day of back-to-backs, they sensed an opportunity to break the three week long losing streak.

Longtime Sharks nemisis Dwayne Roloson turned in one of his best performances of the season, stopping 37 of 38 shots against and earning third star of the game from the San Jose media. The famously irritable goaltender earned his fourth straight start in goal over Rick DiPietro. Rick DiPietro, the Islanders franchise goaltender with 10 years remaining on his $67.5 million contract, allowed 13 goals on 61 shots in his last two starts. Roloson paid dividends late as his protestations directly lead to Pavelski’s third period goal being called off.

Both teams were looking for redemption as the game headed to a shootout. Logan Couture scored on Roloson with a slashing approach, and a forehand-to-backhand move that snuck inside the 5 hole. P.A. Parenteau snapped a shot that missed the net high. On the Sharks second shootout attempt, Joe Pavelski eschewed the “Pavelski move”, and instead tried to go forehand wide. Rolson extended his goalie pad wide to the post to make the save. After Antero Niittymaki made a sparkling extended glove save on Denmark’s-own Frans Nielsen, Dan Boyle faked a slapshot and slipped a backhand by Rolson for the deciding goal. Sharks win 2-1, and improve to a tie for 8th place in the Western Conference.

Asked about shootouts after the game, goaltender Antero Niittymaki waxed philosophical. “It’s fun when you win, it sucks when you lose.”

[Update] Aggregated NHL Power Rankings: Week 5 – Mike Chen for SBN’s From the Rink.

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