SAN JOSE, Calif. – Chris Pronger and his fellow Ducks love to silence the Shark Tank, and Anaheim stopped the boos again Saturday night in another one-sided win.
The way San Jose is playing at home lately, even the Sharks think they deserve the boos more than Anaheim’s much-loathed defenceman.
Pronger had a goal and an assist, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 27 saves in the Ducks’ second win in San Jose in five days, 5-2 over the slumping Sharks.
Todd Bertuzzi, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz also scored for the Ducks, who won their third straight against one of their most competitive rivals – or at least the Sharks used to be competitive with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Sean O’Donnell added an empty-net goal to seal another win for Anaheim, which has taken at least a point from the Sharks in the California rivals’ last eight meetings, including Tuesday’s 2-0 win. The latest victory pulled Anaheim even with San Jose for second place in the Pacific Division standings.
“It’s always good when you play well against a division rival like this,” Pronger said. “It was a big game for us to keep moving up the standings, and a step forward for us the way we’ve been playing the last few games, and getting back to playing the way we can.”
The Ducks won’t get caught gloating, but they’ve had the Sharks’ number. In Joe Thornton’s case, that number is zero – no assists in five games against Anaheim this season for the Sharks’ leading scorer and offensive catalyst.
“We’re obviously not happy where we’re at,” said Bertuzzi, whose first year with Anaheim has been underwhelming. “We’ve given a lot of points away, and it’s a matter of playing the way we know how to play. I think we’ve figured out this is how we have to play in order to win, and this is how they played last year in order to win.”
With the regular season nearly half-finished, the Sharks are still searching for a similar identity.
Patrick Marleau scored and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 19 shots for the Sharks, who lost their fourth straight home game over the last eight days – all to division rivals. Marcel Goc also scored for the Sharks, who will limp away next week for a four-game stint on the road, where they have the NHL’s best record at 12-3-2.
A two-hour players-only team meeting Friday did nothing to stop the Sharks’ fumbling play, particularly in the first 40 minutes.
“I think guys are nervous,” defenceman Craig Rivet said. “They’re grabbing the sticks and trying to push themselves to do too much, and you can see that in a number of the guys. Guys are putting too much pressure on themselves.”
Two nights after the Sharks gave up a short-handed goal to Phoenix in the final minute of regulation in a shootout loss, San Jose still appeared to be down, skating with little passion or purpose in the first two periods. Marleau’s goal was the Sharks’ first in their last seven periods against Anaheim.
Nabokov stopped Bertuzzi’s penalty shot in the first period, but the Ducks scored first when Pronger rang a shot off the post. The goal shut up the San Jose fans who have booed Pronger whenever he touches the puck since his days with St. Louis.
Perry, who scored the go-ahead goal in Anaheim’s previous win in San Jose, put the Ducks up 2-0 on a power play midway through the second period. Rivet blocked Perry’s first shot with his stick, but Perry gracefully grabbed it and scored his 19th goal.
Just 61 seconds later, Kunitz capitalized on the Sharks’ bumbling defensive play to tap home his 12th goal.
“We talked about it. How much are we going to talk about it?” Sharks coach Ron Wilson asked. “The same people weren’t ready to compete when it mattered most. We’ll have an interesting practice (Sunday). We’ll see if the players who are talking will back up their words.”
Notes: Giguere has won six of his last seven starts against San Jose. … The Sharks scratched D Doug Murray, whose mistakes contributed to both of Anaheim’s goals in the clubs’ previous meeting. … The rivals meet for the sixth time this season Jan. 13 in Anaheim. … Thornton has just one assist in the Sharks’ last four games, his least productive stretch of the season.