CHICAGO -- Is it March yet?
After a perfect 7-0-0 in January, the Sharks continued their February flop, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night that left San Jose 0-4-3 for a month that, thankfully, has only 28 days.
The losses have reached the point that Sharks coach Todd McLellan -- asked about the possibility of a major trade to shake things up -- broadened the topic raised.
"I think everybody needs to be concerned about the performance of the team -- players, coaches, trainers, managers. We're all in it together," he said after initially deflecting the question as one for general manager Doug Wilson, who did not make the trip. "When you start pointing fingers at one individual, there's three pointing back at you."
Then McLellan added. "Let's all clean up what we do, whether we're a coach or a player, and perform to our abilities."
Chicago got its goals from Dave Bolland, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Niklas Hjalmarsson, while Tim Kennedy got the only San Jose tally in his second game since being called up from AHL Worcester.
San Jose goalie Antti Niemi lost to his former teammates for the second time in 10 days, while Chicago backup Ray Emery upped his record this season to 4-0-0.
What might have made San Jose's latest defeat even more painful was the fact Chicago got the type of goals the Sharks desperately need -- a weird bounce here, a batted puck there -- to break out of their scoring doldrums. As if the NHL's only team without a regulation loss needed any outside help to improve its record to 11-0-3.
The most glaring was Kruger's goal at 3:05 of the second period. With Chicago holding a 1-0 lead on Bolland's hustle to a loose puck in the final minute of the first period, Kruger simply dumped the puck toward the net. It took a strange hop over Niemi's glove, bounced off the post and landed in the crease where it was an easy tap-in.
The Sharks goalie said he knew the puck was doing strange things en route but miscalculated the number of bounces it would take.
"I saw the puck bouncing way before me, so I wanted to go charging there," Niemi said. "But then it bounced twice. I didn't see that coming, maybe being more out of the net."
Still, McLellan wasn't letting his team off the hook as the victims of a bad break or two.
"They took advantage of obviously the bouncing one off the post, but they skated to create those opportunities," McLellan said. "We don't look fast enough right now for whatever reason."
But McLellan's concerns went beyond that.
"Let's face it. Tonight one team was fast, moved the puck, attacked," he said. "Another team bobbled pucks, misplayed them and was slow. It's as simple as that."
Trailing 2-0, the Sharks did cut the gap in half at 5:03 of the second period when Logan Couture carried the puck through the neutral zone and sent a nice pass to Kennedy, who deked Emery out of position and beat him with a quick backhand.
Shaw restored the two-goal margin at 14:40 of the same period when he batted a puck past Niemi after a scramble in the crease, and Hjalmarsson iced the win at 6:28 of the third with a laser of a slap shot from the left point.
With only one goal, lack of offense continued to be a problem for San Jose, which now has only eight goals in its last seven games after scoring 29 in the first seven.
"It's amazing what's happened in the last 15 days," McLellan said. "It doesn't even look like the same team. It's not even remotely close."
The Sharks now have plenty of time to assess the damage and the necessary steps to fix things. After the latest loss, the team flew back to San Jose, where it will practice at home Sunday, then turn around and fly to St. Louis on Monday for a game the following night against the Blues.
And on Feb. 22, they'll be back in Chicago, facing the Blackhawks in the final game of this segmented six-game trip.
"He asked me to fight, and I was kind of shocked, but said sure," Thornton said. "He hit me from behind. It wasn't anything serious, but he asked me to fight and I obliged."
Toews said it grew out of the last few games between the teams.
"There is always some stuff going on, whether it's after the whistles or during the play," he said. "It just comes down to players maybe trying to get under your skin and testing you a little bit. I figure at some point I had to stand up for myself. It came down to that I guess."
Brent Burns also was back on the blue line after missing the Nashville game Tuesday for both health reasons and his play. Burns' return sent Justin Braun to the press box for the Chicago game.
Sharks (7-4-3) at St. Louis (8-5-1), 5 p.m., CSNCA
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