The San Jose Sharks wish they were still on the road.
After making NHL history by sweeping a six-game road trip, the Sharks returned home and played one of their sloppiest games this season. After a thrilling come-from-behind victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets, early mismanagement of puck handling ultimately cost the Sharks in a 5-2 losing effort against the defending champion Blackhawks. The Sharks totaled 24 giveaways for the game — a staggering 12 in the first period alone.
To put that in perspective, during the last three games of their road trip, the Sharks had a combined 10 giveaways.
“We didn’t turn that many pucks over, I don’t think, in the entire road trip as we did in the first period tonight,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “The reason for that, I don’t know. We know they’re a good team. We know they have good sticks, but we were just sloppy and a little soft in the first, and they made us pay.”
Aside from maintaining possession — something DeBoer said would be paramount in his system of hockey when he was announced as the teams new head coach — San Jose couldn’t manage a shot on goal for the majority of the first period. Defenseman Brent Burns registered the Sharks first shot on goal with 6:52 remaining in the opening frame.
By that point, Chicago had already put a goal on the board — Brent Seabrook found a shooting lane through traffic and put a puck past net minder Jones at 8:39 of the first. Brent Burns tied the game for San Jose at 14:56 of the first, slapping a one-timer past Hawks goalie Corey Crawford on a cross-ice pass from Joe Pavelski. The goal came while San Jose was on the power play — it’s the first time the Sharks have converted with the man advantage on home ice all season.
Shortly after Burns’ tying goal, San Jose’s irresponsible behavior on the ice was exploited, again. With Matt Tennyson caught in the offensive zone, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews broke up the ice and fired a laser over Jones’ shoulder.
“We didn’t mange the puck as well as we did in the past, and turnovers are huge, especially a skilled team like Chicago that will come right back at you,” Sharks veteran forward Patrick Marleau said. Marleau scored midway through the third period with the Sharks down two.
His efforts would be answered by ex-Sharks forward Andrew Desjardins just 67 seconds later — Desjardins, while battling in front of the net, found a loose puck and put it through Jones’ five-hole. It was his first goal of the season.
Another goal which came from a turnover, something Sharks defenseman Paul Martin felt was a common theme of the game.
“Sometimes we get too cute and we put pucks into the middle, or we’re trying to make plays where we don’t need to,” Martin said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. We’ve proven on the road where you have to find different ways to win games. … Tonight, we just turned the puck over too much.”
Forward Dainius Zubrus was signed by the Sharks this week after earning a roster spot during an eight-day tryout. He made his debut against the Blackhawks, recording 10:13 of ice time while skating on the fourth line.
San Jose moved to a 3-6-0 record on home ice.