We knew it had to end sometime.
The San Jose Sharks flew into New Jersey to play the Devils Friday in the middle of a seven-game road trip. They were the hottest team in the NHL, earning at least a point in the standings for 10 consecutive games; the Sharks won nine of them, including a season-high five in a row and a four-game road winning streak.
Despite holding the fourth-worst record in the NHL, New Jersey was the league's second hottest team, with 17 points over their past 10 games. While they had played the previous night, their fatigue was unlikely to exceed that of their well-traveled guests.
It was the Devils who looked tired at the start of the game. The Sharks out-shot their hosts 12-2 in the opening period, though most of the shots were from the wings and no good scoring chances (or power plays) were had by either team.
The second period saw the best single shift of the game to this point, in which the Devils controlled the puck in the Sharks' end for more than 30 seconds early in the period. It also saw the game's best scoring chance, when Kyle Wellwood threaded a pass through the defense to Ryane Clowe in front of the crease; Clowe got a second whack at it before Hedberg could cover.
The Sharks out-shot their opponents 12-9 in the second, but the game remained scoreless despite ending on the first power play of the game. San Jose did nothing with the rest of the power play time early in the third, but when Patrick Marleau scored on a rebound just over six minutes in, and the Sharks went on a power play a minute later, things looked good for fans of Team Teal.
How many Pacific Division teams, all currently top-nine in record, will make the playoffs?
Unfortunately, they got sloppy. San Jose took two consecutive penalties that limited their power play time to 25 seconds and put them on a four-on-three. Coach Jacques Lemaire called a timeout to make sure the Devils ran the power play well, and Brian Rolston tied the game up.
It seemed as though San Jose never recovered, because they were out-shot 12-8 the final period and allowed another goal to Ilya Kovulchuk with four minutes left. When Torrey Mitchell was called for a double-minor high-sticking penalty with 2:19 left, the Sharks were unable to create scoring chances to tie the game until the final 30 seconds with Antti Niemi pulled.
San Jose had to accept a 2-1 loss despite out-playing the opposition for most of the game. Even though they won only 41 percent of the faceoffs, they attempted 46 shots to the Devils' 37, getting 32 on net to New Jersey's 23 and still managed to get more blocked shots than their host. They played good fundamental hockey, with eight fewer giveaways to only four fewer takeaways, and out-hit their hosts 20-18.
There is little time to reflect on the loss, as the Sharks must fly to Florida to play the Panthers Sunday. Their road trip ends Tuesday in Nashville, and they have two games at home before finishing the month with three more away from the Bay.