SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Playing a last-place team with a rusty goaltender on the back-end of a back-to-back appeared to be the perfect recipe to get the San Jose Sharks back into first place in the Pacific Division.
Instead they delivered a dud of a performance that left them on the outside of the playoff picture with just 10 games remaining in the season.
Bobby Ryan had a goal and two assists and Jeff Deslauriers won in his first game in more than two months as the Anaheim Ducks dealt a blow to San Jose’s playoff hopes with a 5-3 victory Monday night.
“The lack of energy and jump that we had as a team was baffling,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It really is. When we’re supposed to be as desperate as we are apparently. I can’t figure out why we didn’t have that jump. Some nights when you don’t have it you have to rely on your hockey sense and your brain to put you in position to be successful. We didn’t have that going either.”
Francois Beauchemin, Corey Perry, Nate Guenin and Kyle Palmieri also scored and Nick Bonino had a career-high three assists for the last-place Ducks, who had lost five of six to all but end a late-season playoff push.
“Our team has a lot of pride, we’ve played hard from January on,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Whenever you can derail a California team – you like to do it.”
Marty Havlat, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks, who missed a golden opportunity to improve their playoff positioning on a night their rivals were idle.
San Jose entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference but could have moved into third position by taking the Pacific Division lead with a win. But they were unable to against a struggling Ducks team on the back end of back-to-backs starting a goalie who hadn’t played an NHL game since Jan. 10.
The Sharks struck first but twice allowed Anaheim to score the shift after a San Jose goal to lose for the third time in three home games this season against the Ducks. The Sharks have little margin for error if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
“It’s disappointing,” captain Joe Thornton said. “‘We could have hopped over a bunch of teams tonight but that’s sports. It’s unfortunate we just didn’t win. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to go to L.A. and play hard tomorrow.”
San Jose is tied for ninth place with Los Angeles, one point behind division leaders Dallas and Phoenix. They have a game in hand over the Coyotes and two games in hand over Colorado, who are tied for seventh in the conference.
The Sharks fell behind in a lackluster second period, giving up the lead when Perry outraced Havlat and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to knock in the rebound of Ryan Getzlaf’s breakaway attempt.
Nate Guenin’s big shot from the point midway through the period made it 4-2, ending Antti Niemi’s night with four goals on 26 shots.
The Sharks got right back into the game when Pavelski tipped Brent Burns’ point shot past Deslauriers for his career-high 26th goal of the season.
The good feeling lasted only 33 seconds as Palmieri knocked his own rebound past Thomas Greiss from a bad angle to restore the two-goal advantage heading into the third.
“It happened twice. That was the frustrating part,” Clowe said. “It’s tough to say what happens on those shifts.”
The Sharks put some pressure on Deslauriers in the third but couldn’t get one past him as he finished with 27 saves.
Deslauriers got just his second start of the year for Anaheim as Jonas Hiller got the day off after starting a club-record 32 consecutive games. Deslauriers stopped 26 of 28 shots in a 5-2 win over Dallas on Jan. 10, but had not played since being called up from the minors on Feb. 14.
“It’s been a long time,” Deslauriers said. “My role is to be ready all the time. My role is too support Jonas. … I was pretty excited to get the start. The good thing about not playing all the time is that you do a lot practice on the ice and in the gym. I was in shape. I wasn’t out of breath.”
The teams alternated goals in a wide-open first period that ended with the score tied at 2. The Ducks answered Havlat’s early power-play goal on the next shift when Ryan knocked in a rebound of Palmieri’s shot after Jason Demers struggled to play a bouncing puck for San Jose.
Havlat then set up Clowe in the slot for an easy one-timer that made it 2-1. But Burns took a bad interference penalty leading to Beauchemin equalizer with 2:08 left in the period.
Notes: Hiller’s streak of games started was the longest for any goalie since Niemi started 34 straight last year for the Sharks. … Clowe had his second three-point game of the season, also recording three assists in a loss at Phoenix on Feb. 4. … Guenin’s goal was his first since the season opener against Buffalo in Finland.
Updated March 20, 2012
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