McLellan: 'Didn't find a way to put it in the net'
Andrew Desjardins and Logan Couture each had golden opportunities for the Sharks Saturday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ST. PAUL – When Logan Couture misfires on a wide open net, it’s probably not your afternoon if you’re the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks’ winger, who was coming off of a two-goal effort in Edmonton on Wednesday and had six in the last seven games before an afternoon matinee with Minnesota, had a chance to break a scoreless tie in the second period. Marty Havlat danced through the offensive zone and cut to the slot before finding Couture open to his right. Rather than deposit his 15th of the season, though, Couture redirected it high, and it was still 0-0 with 14 minutes to go in the middle frame.
Zach Parise’s goal a few minutes later gave the Wild a 1-0 lead, and Jared Spurgeon scored early in the third on a power play in a 2-0 Minnesota win on Saturday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
[RECAP: Wild 2, Sharks 0]
“Obviously, I want that one back,” Couture said. “I didn’t see it, but still, wide open net you’ve got to score. I didn’t know Marty was passing, I figured he was shooting. I looked up, and away from him. It’s my fault. I know how creative he is, and I’ve got to be ready for it and put it in the net.”
Todd McLellan said: “First of all, it was a tough angle, and it was a hurried play. He had to get it up and off. I’m sure he’d like to have it back, because nine out of 10 times he’s going to put it in. It just happens tonight to be the 10th time.”
The play was representative of the Sharks’ night, at least offensively. Despite a number of chances, San Jose couldn’t crack Niklas Backstrom, who made 33 saves in his first shutout of the season, including a penalty shot stop on Andrew Desjardins just over three minutes into the first period. The surging Wild won their fifth straight game and seventh of their last eight.
Former Wild defenseman Brent Burns had yet another effective game as a forward, creating opportunities in the offensive end. Burns’ chance early in the second period on a Sharks power play – again, on a setup from Havlat – was just as good as Couture’s look moments later. Backstrom got the bottom of his left pad on a redirection from Burns to keep it a scoreless game.
Burns said: “I think we got chances, just didn’t score. Sometimes it’s just execution, sometimes it’s just sports. The other guy’s got a say.”
“We saw a couple where we thought they were in,” Joe Thornton said. “It’s going to happen sometimes. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get on the scoreboard tonight.”
Special teams played a significant role, as Parise’s goal came just one second after James Sheppard stepped out of the box and therefore wasn’t technically a power play goal. Spurgeon’s rising slap shot came with Dan Boyle serving a tripping minor on Charlie Coyle at the 20-minute mark of the second period.
The off night on the penalty kill was a rarity for San Jose, which allowed just five opponent power play goals in 59 opportunities in the previous 14 road games.
Boyle wasn’t pleased with his tripping minor.
He said: “I’m just battling with the guy in the corner and he fell down. If a guy falls now and there’s a stick somewhere in the vicinity…was it a penalty? I don’t know, maybe. I thought it was just two guys battling in the corner.”
The power play was equally as ineffective, going 0-for-4. The Sharks had been 8-for-31 with a man advantage in their last 10 games.
“I think the difference tonight was both power plays,” Thornton said. “Their power play was good, and ours wasn’t. That’s how games are won and lost in this league right now, and unfortunately they got the two on the PP and we couldn’t get any.”
The Sharks managed to erase a two-goal third period deficit in a 4-3 shootout win in Edmonton on Wednesday, but failed to build any momentum from it. They have won back-to-back games just once since their 7-0-0 start.
The drive, however, was there, according to McLellan, who saw his team lose for the 10th time in regulation in its last 15 road games (3-10-2).
“The effort and the commitment level was there, although I don’t think we should stand here after a game and check off whether it was there or not, that should be a given,” McLellan said.
“There were a number of chances when we were in looking at the goaltender, and didn’t find a way of putting it in the net. I think that’s the best way of summarizing it.”
The game featured a number of ex-teammates playing against each other. In a surprising moment, Torrey Mitchell and Tommy Wingels dropped the gloves in the second period, with Mitchell getting the better of his former comrade.
Wingels was just trying to spark his team, and joked about it afterwards.
“We don’t like each other, and we settled it. No, just kidding,” Wingels said. “We’re friends, and I was trying to get some momentum for our team. He got the better of it in the fight. It’s just playing hockey, no hard feelings or anything.”
Despite his efforts, though, the Sharks weren’t able to find whatever it was they needed to get rid of the goose egg.
“You’ve got to give the goalie credit, he made some good saves,” Boyle said. “Some of it is on us, putting it away when we get our chances. It’s a combination of both.”