The San Jose Sharks have not won in Montreal, Quebec in eight years: since December of 2002. Whether at the old Montreal Forum or the new Bell Center, the Sharks have never found much success in French Canada.
It will now be at least 10 years before this streak comes to an end, after the Sharks dropped 3-1 to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday afternoon in Montreal. Last year, the Sharks hosted the Canadiens at HP Pavilion and found a way to solve the riddle of goaltender Carey Price to win 3-2, despite Price's 37 save performance.
On Saturday, Price could not be solved. The Sharks managed just one goal on 27 shots and failed to take advantage of a late power play that could have gotten them back into the game.
Coming off their best performance of the year in a 4-0 shutout win over Ottawa, the Sharks continued their early-season trend of inconsistency, by taking a clear step back. The Sharks defense was no match for the Canadiens' transition game and Antti Niemi's productivity continued to fluctuate as he followed a 28 save shutout against Ottawa with a three-goals-against performance, facing just 19 shots.
The ghosts of Montreal again played a hand in sealing the Sharks' fate as the transition which set up the first Canadiens goal was created more out of luck than anything else. One of the officials failed to get out of the way of a puck that was headed deep into the left corner of the Montreal zone, forcing Jamal Mayers to over-skate the play, leaving the puck for the trailing defender to reverse and create the Canadiens' scoring rush.
Nonetheless, the goal was scored off a second rebound attempt due to the inability of the Sharks' defenders to recover and refocus on stopping the ensuing scoring chance. The Sharks did a decent job of limiting shots on net, with Montreal tallying just 19, but they surrendered two more prime scoring chances—both of which beat Niemi to light the lamp.
The performance was a disappointing setback after pulling together their first truly complete effort of the year, but history suggests the loss may have been a good thing. The last time the Sharks beat the Canadiens was December of 2002—a terrible season in which Ron Wilson replaced Darryl Sutter mid-season as head coach and Owen Nolan was eventually traded to Toronto. It was the last season in which the Sharks failed to reach the playoffs.
The Sharks are hoping 2010-2011 is a different type of year than recent seasons, but not in that way.
Keep the Faith!
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