Despite the very one-sided score by the end of the game, the Sharks and Wild took a while to feel each other out tonight in San Jose. The first great couple chances came after about six and a half minutes. The Wild got the first one when Jason Pominville had a huge breakaway chance, but Antti Niemi came up big. Shortly after, Martin Havlat crossed the blueline and fired it to the net with Couture crashing. It actually bounced off Mikko Koivu, who was racing back on the back-check, and it trickled past Niklas Backstrom as the Sharks take the lead. 1-0 Sharks. Havlat from Couture and Marleau at 7:42 of the first.
Each side would get another opportunity or two, but for the most part the Sharks controlled the remainder of the first. They'd go into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead, out-shooting the Wild 12-7. San Jose came right back at it in the second. Each of the Sharks' four lines had good shifts, and Havlat was able to draw a penalty as he drove to the net. Clayton Stoner went to the box for the hook, giving the Sharks what ended up being the only power play of the game.
The Sharks may have only got one power play, but they made the most of it. Joe Thornton got the puck along the half-boards, pushed it to Boyle to draw the defenders out a bit and quickly got it back. He then moved it to Patrick Marleau down low for a one touch pass to Couture in the slot, who taps it past Backstrom. 2-0 Sharks. Couture from Marleau and Thornton at 5:29 of the second.
San Jose found themselves with the most dangerous lead in hockey, and the Wild did mount a brief comeback thanks to a heads up play by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. As the Wild grabbed the puck behind their net, Bouchard put on the afterburners and caught the SJ defense changing. Jason Pominville got the puck up to him, and Bouchard had all the time and space in the world as he beats Niemi on the backhand. 2-1 Sharks. Bouchard from Pominville and Gilbert at 9:44 of the second. This was really the only line that had anything going tonight for the Wild. The Wild would keep pushing hard for a few shifts after the goal, though.
The Sharks did turn the tide and take control of the game back again after capitalizing on a mistake. After a dump in from Sharks, Backstrom went behind the net to play the puck. He tried to send it high off the glass behind the net, but Logan Couture jumped up and knocked it down. He grabbed the puck on the backhand and fed for Havlat, who is alone in the slot. Backstrom couldn't get back square to shot in time. 3-1 Sharks. Havlat from Couture at 14:31 of the second. Just another day's work for your friendly neighborhood Coochie-man (Worst nickname ever, Randy). San Jose took the 3-1 lead into the second intermission, out-shooting the Wild again 12-9.
That lead would get out of hand in the third period. A few minutes in, Pavelski brought it across the blueline, but had it poked off his stick. Raffi Torres tenaciously knocked it away from a defender and rushed along the boards, behind the net and eventually in the net on a wraparound - his first real goal as a Shark. 4-1 Sharks. Torres from Pavelski at 3:59 of the third. The third line stayed out there after the goal. On a rush up the ice, Pavs touches it over for Torres. Raffi with a filthy toe-drag as the puck goes to Pavelski in the slot. Wide open net, score. 5-1 Sharks. Pavelski from Torres and Demers at 4:21 of the third. Backstrom tagged out after that with Darcy Kuemper coming in.
The goaltending change would not stop the bleeding, however. After another dump into the zone, Havlat takes it behind the net, turns back and throws it to Couture in the slot for a huge one-timer. Score. 6-1 Sharks. Couture from Havlat at 9:15 of the 3rd.
I think they still played hockey for the remainder of the time, but I can't be sure. It may have just been a chirping contest. After Cal Clutterbuck got in a bit of a scuffle with Scott Gomez, Clutterbuck would trade verbal jabs with Gomez, Desjardins, Thornton, Galiardi, Burns and Burish.
Final score: Sharks 6, Wild 1. Sharks win!!!
- Couture and Havlat with their best games in teal, points-wise. The top line players (Marleau-Couture-Havlat) combined for 9 points.
- As I said before, the Minnesota second line was really the only line that seemed to be worth a damn. Last time these teams met, the Koivu line dominated the Couture line. Quite the opposite story tonight.
- The shots finished pretty even (29-28 SJ), but expect the scoring chances summary to be absolutely dominated by the Sharks. The Wild did not get a lot of quality shots.
- San Jose is now 16-1-5 at home. There's going to be a huge difference between getting 4th and 5th seed. Los Angeles beat #Lumbus tonight, so both San Jose and LA have 55 points at the moment (With the Kings obviously having the tie-breaker).
FTF 3 Stars
1st star: Logan Couture
2nd star: Martin Havlat
3rd star: Raffi Torres
Honorable mentions to Joe Pavelski, Antti Niemi and maybe Patrick Marleau. Great to see the Sharks with three dangerous lines again. Takes me back to the sweet days of the Wellwood-Pavelski-Mitchell third line. The Blue Jackets are next up on the schedule for San Jose. They meet at HP Pavilion for a weird 5:00 pm start time on Sunday. Go Sharks!