SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks lost more than the first two games in the Western Conference final during a lost trip to Vancouver. They also lost their composure.
From captain Joe Thornton challenging Ryan Kesler to a fight before the opening faceoff of Game 1 to enforcer Ben Eager’s parade to the penalty box late in Game 2, the Sharks have been on the wrong side of the aggression line too often the first two games and find themselves down 2-0 in the series.
Led by Eager’s 20 penalty minutes, the Sharks committed 53 minutes in penalties in a 7-3 loss in Game 2 on Wednesday night, leading to seven power-play chances and three man-advantage goals for the opportunistic Canucks.
“That’s often a result of frustration,” coach Todd McLellan said Thursday. “It catches up with you. … It wasn’t like we lost it when it was 5-2 or 6-2. We lost it at 3-2. That’s not the sign of a team that can win a series. That has to get better.”
The Sharks held an optional workout Thursday as they look to get back into the series in Game 3 at home Friday night.
Eager was the biggest violator for the Sharks, committing four minor penalties and a misconduct in the final 21 minutes of the game. He also scored San Jose’s third goal and was praised by McLellan for his forechecking and skating a sign that he likely will stay in the lineup despite the penalty-filled game.
The Canucks believe that shouldn’t be San Jose’s choice.
Coach Alain Vigneault was upset there wasn’t more punishment from the NHL for Eager’s hit from behind against Daniel Sedin in the final minute of the second period. Eager also got a roughing call for taunting goalie Roberto Luongo after scoring to cut the deficit to 7-3 and called Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa a “phony” for fighting Sharks top-line player Patrick Marleau instead of a more accomplished fighter.
“Obviously he’s on the ice to try and hurt people,” Vigneault said. “He ran Danny from the back, one of the NHL’s potential MVP, he ran our goaltender. Their coach goes out and says that’s the way he wants them to play. I just hope nothing serious is going to happen on the ice otherwise there will be some serious consequences to that.”
McLellan and Eager downplayed Vigneault’s criticisms, with the coaching praising his fourth-line player one of his best players in Game 2 and saying he can be a force if he can limit his penalties.
Eager has a history with the Canucks, having knocked them out of the playoffs the past two years while with Chicago.
“If you play a team three years in a row there’s going to be some dislike,” Eager said.