ST. PAUL Thankfully, mercifully, finally, the Sharks nine-game road trip has concluded.
But, not before yet another disheartening loss to a team that isnt likely to make the playoffs, and a scary moment in which coach Todd McLellan collapsed after getting hit with a stick behind the bench.
Matt Cullen and Jed Ortmeyer scored late in the third period as the Minnesota Wild came from behind to beat the Sharks at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, 4-3. Brent Burns had given the Sharks the lead with a power play goal earlier in the period, breaking a 2-2 tie, but the team could not hold it.
San Jose finished with just five out of an 18 possible points (2-6-1), in what can only be deemed a catastrophic trip that saw the club lose what looked to be, at one time, a rather comfortable lead in the Pacific Division. The Sharks remain in seventh place in the Western Conference with 71 points (32-22-7), perilously close to falling out of the top eight. They are just three points ahead of Los Angeles and Colorado, which are currently tied for ninth.
Were aware of it. Its not good, Dan Boyle said.
Jamie McGinn said: Its going to be a long flight home.
Theres more bad news. The Sharks lost dynamic winger Logan Couture in the third period, after Greg Zanon hit him early in the final frame. Couture also absorbed a jarring hit from Kyle Brodziak in the first period, prompting a visit the Sharks locker room before he emerged to start the second.
The team is calling it a lower-body injury, and there was no more detail provided.
Early in the second, just after the Wild tied the game at 2-2, McLellan was struck in the head by the stick of Marco Scandella after the Wild defenseman collided near the bench with McGinn. McLellan had to be helped to the locker room after he had trouble staying on his feet moments after taking the shot.
McLellan was alert while being attended to by doctors, and remained in his office at the Xcel Energy Center to watch the duration of the game.
I could tell I hit something pretty hard, but I didnt know what it was, Scandella said.
Assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft took over from there, and Shaw met with the media after the game.
I saw Scandella come into the boards and I saw our guys kind of push him out, he said. Then I looked and Todd was trying to compose himself and stay upright, and you could tell he was in some discomfort. I just kind of grabbed him.
McLellan was well enough to fly home with the team, but did not speak with the media.
After Brent Burns gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead with a power play goal at 8:45 of the third period, Cullen and Ortmeyer scored on deflections just 72 seconds apart. Cullen got his stick on a point shot by Scandella at 14:33, sending a bouncing puck past Thomas Greiss, while Ortmeyer deflected a shot by Jared Spurgeon at 15:47.
Minnesota scored three of its four goals on deflections, including Nick Schultzs power play goal early in the second, when his blast from the point hit Patrick Marleaus stick before sailing over Greiss right shoulder at 1:43 of the second.
They did a good job of getting shots through from the point and getting good sticks on them, said Greiss.
Shaw said: Things that you do to score goals these days in the league is you put pucks to the net. People in and around the net, if you cant control a body, you want to control a stick as best you can. We werent able to do that.
The Sharks came out like gangbusters to start the game with some revamped forward lines to take a 2-0 lead.
Just 1:22 into the game, Tommy Wingels scored on a nice feed from behind the net by McGinn. Less than two minutes later, Joe Thornton cleaned up some garbage in front of the net and the Sharks had a two-goal cushion just 3:21 into the game.
The top scoring lines included Thornton with Torrey Mitchell and Joe Pavelski, McGinn with Marleau and Wingels, and Benn Ferriero with Couture and Clowe.
Minnesota responded midway through the first, though. Cal Clutterbuck skipped an awkward shot on net that appeared to fool Greiss at 9:13.
After Schultzs game-tying goal and McLellans accident early in the second, the Sharks seemed to lose some steam. At least, thats how Shaw saw it.
I did think we were on our heels for a little bit, Shaw said. It was just an emotional moment for everybody to have that go on.
McGinn said: Its tough. Its such a freak accident, you dont want anything like that to ever happen, and to happen to a head coach it was definitely a curve ball thrown at us during the game. Things like that happen in a hockey game and you have to respond well.
The Sharks return home on Tuesday to open a four-game homestand with the Philadelphia Flyers, and are desperately looking for answers.
Nobodys feeling sorry for us, thats for sure, Thornton said. Weve just got to work our way out of this.
Odds and ends: The Sharks finished 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Greiss made 22 saves, while Niklas Backstrom had 25. Patrick Marleau had two assists, while Brent Burns had a goal and an assist against his former team. The Sharks won 36 of 58 face-offs.