SAN JOSE -- Three consecutive shootouts proved to be one too many for the Sharks, and now no NHL team has a perfect record.
Saturday night at HP Pavilion, the Sharks lost for the first time this season, falling 2-1 to the Nashville Predators in a game as memorable for the goal Marty Havlat didn't score as the one he did. The loss ended San Jose's NHL-best winning streak to open the 2013 season at seven games.
The Sharks had relied on shootout victories in their two previous games to reach 7-0, but that success eluded them against Nashville. Predators forward Craig Smith beat goalie Antti Niemi while Michal Handzus, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski all failed to score against Nashville's Pekka Rinne.
Before things reached overtime, Havlat had been both the goat and hero for the Sharks.
Midway through the second period, San Jose looked as if it might take a 1-0 lead when a shot by Clowe got through Rinne, hit the left post and sat in the crease as Havlat raced toward it.
But instead of taking advantage of a simple tap-in, Havlat started to lift his stick in an apparent goal celebration and couldn't recover before Nashville cleared the puck.
"I thought it was in the net," Havlat acknowledged after the game.
The game remained scoreless until Nashville got on the scoreboard when Predators left wing Sergei Kostitsyn's shot between Dan Boyle's legs beat Niemi on the short side 59 seconds into the third period.
Havlat denied there was any personal redemption in that shot, but coach Todd McLellan did make the connection.
"When he came back to the bench, he knew exactly what had happened and the opportunity that was lost," McLellan said of Havlat. "Then when we needed a big goal from him, he was there."
Havlat also was in the middle of things during the overtime when he was called for hooking, but the Sharks killed off their fifth penalty of the night and 21st in a row overall to set up the shootout.
Niemi, who stopped 23 shots, said that being in three consecutive shootouts doesn't add to a goalie's stress -- "It's a new challenge every time and I've got to get the same focus every time, too."
Smith scored the deciding goal after a nifty head fake, but Niemi said that wasn't the problem.
"He had lots of speed," the goalie said, "and I got caught with that a little bit."
With the Sharks winning streak over, McLellan said there were two ways you could look at the team's situation.
"When you dissect
The biggest change came on defense, where Jason Demers saw his first action after being activated 48 hours earlier.
Rookie Matt Irwin became the odd-man-out as McLellan paired Demers with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brad Stuart with Boyle. The third pairing of Douglas Murray and Justin Braun remained intact.
McLellan said part of the reason for playing Demers had to do with the compressed schedule.
"We're in the middle of playing 10 games by the time Tuesday rolls around and we've used the same group of d-men," the coach said. "Freshness wouldn't be a bad thing."
McLellan also switched around his forward lines, hoping to generate scoring from players other than those on his top two lines
The coach kept his first and fourth lines intact from Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory over Edmonton. But he moved James Sheppard up to the second line with Logan Couture and Clowe, creating a new third line of Gomez, Handzus and Havlat.
That left Tommy Wingels as the designated sitter.