It is officially a slump.
The Sharks came out dominant, registering the first 16 shots of the game. The seventh went in for a goal and Minnesota backup goalie Josh Harding—who's playing because starter Nicklas Backstrom has a groin injury—was injured on the eighth.
In his stead came Matt Hackett, who had never played an NHL game before. Yet, the Sharks could not solve the untested rookie riddle, due in part to failure to execute several scoring chances that went off the heel of the stick, or were fanned on completely.
Worse, the Sharks allowed Minnesota to push back, being out-shot through the rest of the first period, 10 to seven. After giving up yet another power play goal in the final seconds, they were down 2-1.
Despite the desperate need for a goal in the final two periods, San Jose registered just 19 shots—nine in the third period. Winning five more faceoffs and being plus-one in giveaway/takeaway differential was outweighed by blocking 16 fewer shots and registering 10 fewer hits.
The game only deepened the imbalance of the summer trades with the Wild. Martin Havlat got three of six shot attempts on goal and had a giveaway, and Brent Burns had no points, one hit and four giveaways, while putting only three of his nine shot attempts on goal.
On the flip side, Dany Heatley had an assist on two shots and registered three hits. Devin Setoguchi was injured after just four shifts and finished minus-one.
San Jose must be better against their rival Dallas Stars. Dallas is getting captain Brenden Morrow and top defenceman Alex Goligoski back from injury.
Both teams come in five points over .500, one less than the Pacific Division-leading Phoenix Coyotes. Ironically, the teams do not seem as close on paper as they are in the standings.
The Stars give up more goals (2.73) than they score (2.58), placing them in the bottom half of the league in both categories. Despite scoring just 11 goals in their last six games, the Sharks remain in the top third of the league in scoring (2.71) and defence (2.42).
San Jose also has the edge on special teams goal differential despite having the worst penalty kill in the league (74.3 percent) because they take few penalties and are prolific on the power play (19.8), except the latter unit has struggled mightily over the slump.
Dallas has a solid penalty kill (82.5), but an anemic power play (14.8).
The Sharks also have nearly a five percent edge in the faceoff circle over Dallas. They average about five more shots per game than they yield, whereas the Stars give up about four more than they get.
However, Dallas is a physical team, and the Sharks will need to match their grit to end the slump.
The word for the Sharks in this game is finish—as in checks, shots and the game once they have the lead.
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