Winning Play: Small Karlsson, Goodrow efforts lead to big results

We expect role players to make the little plays, but when the superstars do the same, big things should follow.

Such was the case on Tuesday night when both Erik Karlsson and Barclay Goodrow helped the San Jose Sharks to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

While Karlsson didn’t make the scoresheet — he was shut out again and has just seven assists in 15 games — the perennial Norris candidate made winning plays, big and small.

On Antti Suomela’s beaut, Karlsson offered the most workman-like of contributions:

Defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) dumped in the puck. Because his forwards were looking for a change, Brodin forechecked to stall the Sharks’ counterattack. But instead, it was Karlsson (65) who stalled Brodin.

Notice the most subtle of sticks by Karlsson to impede Brodin’s way. Brodin changed his path, perhaps to sell a call, perhaps to take away a Brenden Dillon (4) backhand rim up the wall. Whatever Brodin’s reasoning, Dillon then had a wealth of time and space to advance the puck on his forehand to Marcus Sorensen (20) shooting out of the zone. Brodin’s forecheck offered zero resistance and the Wild’s fresh forwards had to chase a 2-on-1.

While it’s hard to say how much Karlsson affected Brodin, a scout agreed that it was an intentional maneuver by Karlsson to slow down the forecheck and give his partner more time and space to turn the puck up the ice. For Karlsson, it’s a fine line — he can’t impede Brodin too much, lest he’s called for an unnecessary interference penalty.

Meanwhile, Goodrow (23) had himself some game, involving himself in three of the four San Jose goals.

On the Sorensen game-opener, Sharks color commentator Jamie Baker spyed a Goodrow pick, which helped free space up for Joe Thornton (19):

”Makes room for everybody,” said Sorensen of Goodrow. “I think his linemates get better with him.”

On Thornton’s score, Karlsson kicked it off, but Goodrow got in for the finish.

Karlsson’s patience with the puck as Joel Eriksson Ek (14) bore down on him at center ice is otherworldly. Karlsson waited until Goodrow was in stride and ready to receive the pass up the gut, then he slid the puck under Eriksson Ek’s stick and by Nino Niederreiter (22) for an easy zone entry.

Goodrow dropped it off for Thornton at the point, and again, Eriksson Ek and Niederreiter were victimized by a legendary playmaker’s pass, as Thornton was able to go point-to-point through them to Dillon. Dillon fired it off Greg Pateryn (29) and Eriksson Ek was about to clear — that is, until Goodrow kept the play alive for Dillon.

Dillon sucked Eriksson Ek toward him, Goodrow took advantage of a slow Minnesota defensive rotation to find Sorensen, and the rest is history, as Thornton notched his 399th career NHL goal.

”I was able to get a stick on [Eriksson Ek],” said Goodrow. “We pride ourselves on being a forechecking team. We have a lot of D that can get pucks to the net. When the forwards can get in there, the more offense we can generate.”

Finally, Goodrow provided the screen and the tip on the game-winner:

”He put himself in a good position there in front of the goalie,” acknowledged Brent Burns (88), the author of the point shot.

It was an well-deserved game winner for a skater who receives little fanfare.

This contest was a reminder of the role player’s importance. The Sharks’ stars will need more of these kinds of performances from Goodrow, Sorensen and company if they’re serious about making post-season noise.