Scrambling to tie the game from two points behind in the last period, the San Jose Sharks saw the title taken from them after losing to the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. The loss against Anaheim enabled the Ducks to clinch the Pacific Division Title for the second straight year.
The loss has created a first round playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Kings. Unfortunately, the Sharks have a bad record against the Kings in the playoffs; especially after a seven-game series where the Kings defeated the Sharks in the second round last year. This will be the third time in four years that these two California rivals meet in the post-season.
The momentum was pretty equal going into the second period, but once the Ducks pulled ahead at 3-2, it was obvious that Antti Niemi was play sluggish. Soft goals weren’t stopped and Niemi was pulled to give Alex Stalock a chance.
“By the time that third one went in, you could feel the bench get a little deflated,” said McLellan. “We needed to do something at that point, so we made the change. I thought we responded well, again. Just not enough.” When asked directly if Niemi will start come playoffs, he simply stated that “Nemo is one of our guys going into the playoffs, yes.” This vague answer makes me think Stalock will have his time in net against the Kings.
Dan Boyle agreed that “It probably wasn’t Nemo’s best game tonight, but we have faith in him, and Al has done a tremendous job this year. We have faith in our goaltending, and they’re going to have to play well for us to get where we want to go.” Hopefully the faith won’t be short lived, as battling against a goalie such as Quick will need very strong net minding on the Sharks behalf.
Overall the Sharks played a good percentage in the Ducks zone. Had Niemi stopped those first few goals, the Sharks would be speaking a different story. “We played a heck of a game. We played well. I thought we were in their end the majority of the night,” Joe Thornton said. “A couple soft goals, you lose the game. That’s all.”
Jason Demers scored first for the Sharks; a career high for Demers with his fifth goal and the first NHLer to score on rookie John Gibson. The Ducks came back as Corey Perry managed to shoot the puck through the five hole; Niemi’s first questionable goal. This should have easily been stopped.
The Ducks then took the lead early in the second when Maroon made a wraparound goal. Just a few minutes later Logan Couture capitalized on a turnover and beat Gibson on the short side.
The game was up for grabs until Maroon scored his second goal, changing the vibe of the game. This was Niemi’s second questionable goal, which resulted in him being pulled from the net. Unfortunately, Stalock gave up a fourth goal not too long after joining the game. To his defense, there was little that could have been done.
From here on out two more shots were scored ending the game. San Jose is going to need to up their momentum to advance throughout the playoffs. There’s a chance the Sharks will meet the Ducks in the second round (seeing as the Sharks defeat the Kings and the Ducks move on). The Ducks were division champions last year and proceeded to be knocked out of the playoffs in the second round. Anything can happen from this point forward.