No team in the NHL has generated more shots per minute in power play situations this season than the San Jose Sharks. No team in the NHL has drawn more penalties this season than the San Jose Sharks. It's a lethal combination that, in the long run, ensures that the Sharks will manufacture a ton of offense on the man-advantage which is why it always seems silly to fret over the team's occasional five-on-four dry spells. As long as they're drawing calls and generating chances a man up, the goals will come and that's exactly what happened tonight against Minnesota. San Jose converted two of five power play opportunities in the first period, then cashed in on another in the second before holding on for a 3-1 win over the Wild that halts the Sharks' losing streak at four and sends them on their upcoming road swing back in a tie for second in the division.
With Justin Fontaine in the box for high-sticking Brad Stuart a little under six minutes in (a call Wild head coach Mike Yeo would later refer to as the result of "embarrassing" embellishment although I'm not sure that's the penalty he should have taken issue with), Dan Boyle set up Joe Pavelski for a one-timer from just above the left faceoff circle to make it 1-0. After the Sharks failed to take advantage of an extended five-on-three later in the frame, Tommy Wingels found Tomas Hertl wide open in the slot with five seconds remaining on a Matt Cooke tripping minor and the kid buried it past Niklas Backstrom for his team-leading 15th goal of the season. Pavelski's second of the game came after a phantom high-sticking double minor was called on Zenon Konopka and put the Wild in dire straits.
But give Minnesota credit for not going away in this one, especially considering they had every excuse to pack it in given that this game was their second in as many nights. San Jose was certainly guilty of sitting on their three-goal lead for the final thirty-five minutes and change and eventually ceded a flukey goal credited to Jonas Brodin that deflected off Stuart's chest and past Antti Niemi. But, with the exception of an entertaining-as-hell second period penalty kill in which they were the victim of two broken sticks, the Sharks were generally successful in keeping the Wild to the outside even as they made their second-half push. It would have been nice to see San Jose press the issue a bit more while protecting their lead but they got the job done when it mattered and ended their losing skid as a result.
- Scary moment late in the game as Logan Couture got dinged in the head with an errant puck. Thankfully he returned after missing a couple of shifts, just in time to make a terrific defensive play in the final minutes of the third that took away a sure goal from Zach Parise.
- The craziest part of that erratic, stick-shattering penalty kill sequence in the middle period might have been that Tomas Hertl was in the box for it. It was the rookie's first penalty in the NHL and he made an impressive play beating out an icing call against Ryan Suter after exiting the sin bin to ensure the Sharks' tired killers could get off the ice.
- I agree with Todd McLellan that Niemi didn't exactly have his A-game tonight as the Sharks goaltender coughed up rebounds on some fairly harmless shots from the outside. But, at the end of the day, it's the stopped pucks that matter and few were prettier than this robbery of Jared Spurgeon on a first period power play (GIF courtesy Jake Sundstrom):
- Patrick Marleau had another really strong game tonight. He had his skating legs going throughout and managed to keep the Koivu line in check during his shifts against them even after score effects kicked in.
- We didn't see many signature shifts from the Tom, Dick & Hairy line on this abbreviated homestand. Brent Burns was essentially invisible in this game, which never happens.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Joe Pavelski
2nd Star: Antti Niemi
3rd Star: Patrick Marleau