Sharks Survive the Wild as Nabokov and Couture Shine
Despite Minnesota Wild looking like a better team for good portions of the game, San Jose Sharks beat them once again to sweep the season series and officially eliminate the Wild from playoffs race with a 3-2 win.
Without watching the game, one may think that the Sharks had an easy first period as 2-0 score going into the first intermission may suggest. However, the truth was far from that. In front of their home crowd, and knowing about the recent woes by the Sharks, the Wild wasted no time sitting in their own zone and their attacks were coming in waves one after another. As Rob Blake took a hooking penalty just three minutes into the game, it seemed like it was going to be another game that would go according to a standard Sharks' post-Olympic scenario of going down early. But Nabokov was having none of it, and while the Sharks penalty kill struggled to clear the puck, Russian netminder came to the rescue. When the storm calmed down, Sharks' secondary scoring stepped up, as Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol got on the scoreboard.
When the teams returned to the ice after first intermission, the Wild felt that their fans still deserve to watch their team compete. The storm in front of Nabokov returned, and with two quick goals by the Wild 100 seconds apart from each other, the momentum of the game appeared to have shifted in favor of the home team. A key moment in the game came shortly after, as James Sheppard was hooked by Dan Boyle from behind on a breakaway. The play resulted in a penalty shot, which would have given the Wild a lead in a game.
But this was a game Nabokov had no desire of losing, and he stopped Sheppard's shot to keep the game tied half way through.
The Wild continued to push forward and play a physical game against the Sharks (the Wild outhit the Sharks by a margin of 34 to 19). Overall, they played a strong game, but it was Nabokov didn't care. Sharks' defense also looked more coherent in St Paul than they looked two days ago in Dallas (Demers 3:09 of playing time may have had something to do with that).
On the side of the rink, Logan Couture scored a goal with 3:51 remaining, as he redirected a puck after a shot by Dan Boyle. With that game winning goal , the rookie proved once again that he belongs to the big club. The rest of us are left wondering how the Sharks offense would have looked like this season, had there been a space under the salary cap for Couture to play here from the beginning.
While the Sharks did not look as confident in this game as they did in previous games against the Wild this season, they need to continue restoring their confidence on the road. A win like this carries more meaning than just the two points.