SAN JOSE — Matt Nieto undoubtedly thought he had his second goal of the season.
Nieto collected a loose puck in front of the Seattle Kraken net in the second period, turned around, and fired the puck past goalie Chris Driedger. Nieto, though, was stymied by Kraken defenseman Adam Larsson, who stuck his stick out and stopped the shot just before the puck crossed the goal line.
“That was the save of the year,” Driedger said. “It’s always nice when one gets past you to have your (defense) bail you out there.”
The play typified the Sharks’ offensive frustrations Tuesday night. Logan Couture scored at the 17:52 mark of the third period, but that was the only goal the Sharks could muster in a 3-1 loss to the Kraken in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
The expansion Kraken got goals from Ryan Donato, Brandon Tanev and Calle Jarnkrok and 33 saves from Driedger, who bested Sharks goalie James Reimer and his 27 saves.
“I think early on we were a little too cute,” Sharks forward Timo Meier said. “Tried too much to make some passes cross-ice and that’s not how we score goals. I think it’s got to be more of a straight line and more pucks and more bodies there.”
Donato, who was released by the Sharks after last season, scored at the 6:23 mark of the third for a 1-0 Kraken lead. He collected a loose puck in front of the San Jose net after a shot by Joonas Donskoi, moved the puck to his left and it went off Radim Simek’s skate and into the Sharks’ net.
“Obviously it’s nice to do it against an old team,” Donato said. “It was a blessing that somehow it bounced off a couple of things and went into the net. I’m happy it went that way.”
Seattle then capitalized on a Sharks’ turnover in the neutral zone to go up 2-0. Tanev took a centering pass from Morgan Geekie and beat Reimer at the 14:18 mark for his ninth of the season.
“It’s almost seemed whoever scored the first one was going to win the game,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “But the thing I was probably disappointed in the most is they got the 1-0 lead, but we’ve got to keep it 1-0 and try and get that game to 1-1 and get into overtime.
“We can’t give up a second one and we did. It’s just a frustrating game. We knew they work hard and they’ve got a balanced lineup. We just couldn’t generate enough.”
The Sharks were coming off their first two-day break between games since mid-November, as they played 14 games from Nov. 16 to Saturday when they beat the Dallas Stars 2-1.
The Sharks went 8-6-0 in the 26-day stretch and came into Tuesday in fifth place in the Pacific Division with a 15-12-1 record.
With the loss, the Sharks missed a chance to move into fourth place past the Edmonton Oilers, who have lost six in a row.
“I didn’t think we played bad defensively,” Boughner said. “But I think we opened it up down 1-0 and gave them a few chances.
“You’ve still got to play smart enough to get that game and hopefully give yourself a chance to tie it up.”
The Sharks’ schedule lightens up considerably between now and Christmas, as their only games left were Thursday’s and next Tuesday’s with the Vancouver Canucks and a Dec. 23 game with the Oilers to wrap up a season-long seven-game homestand.
The Sharks and Kraken played a 20-minute first period in just 27 minutes. There were only seven faceoffs in the first period, tied for the fewest in the opening period of any San Jose game since 2015-16. It also happened Jan. 14, 2016, vs. the Edmonton Oilers.
The two teams were tied 0-0 after the first two periods as Reimer and Driedger combined for 38 saves.
The Kraken came into Tuesday with a 5-3-2 record in its last 10 games, trying to distance itself from a 4-12-1 start and desperately hoping to re-enter the playoff race. Before Tuesday’s game, Seattle was both 11 points back of third place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference’s playoff spot.
The Sharks and Kraken played a 20-minute first period in just 27 minutes. There were only seven faceoffs in the first period, tied for the fewest in the opening period of any San Jose game since 2015-16. It also happened Jan. 14, 2016 vs. the Edmonton Oilers.