Sharks fall to Wild in shootout; win streak ends at four


Sharks fall to Wild in shootout; win streak ends at four


ST. PAUL The Sharks struck for two goals late in the third period in Minnesota to force overtime, but fell in a shootout to the Wild on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center, 5-4.

Logan Couture and Partick Marleaus markers with about three minutes remaining allowed the Sharks to gain a point in the standings, but the team trailed the light-scoring Wild throughout most of the night.

Guess which one coach Todd McLellan chose to concentrate on afterwards.

For two and a half periods I thought we werent very good, he said. That will be the focus for our group. Just not hard enough; competitive areas of the rink, in front of our net, in front of their net, along the boards, faceoff circle. They were a lot grittier than we were.

Still, San Jose was able to find its game and erase two separate two-goal deficits in the third period.

After the Wilds Nick Johnson fired a wrist shot past Antti Niemis glove hand at 7:42 to make it 3-1, Benn Ferriero brought the Sharks back to within a goal when he deflected in a wrister by Marc-Edouard Vlasic midway through the third. Matt Cullen gave the Wild their two goal lead back, though, when he drove to the net after the Sharks turned it over in the neutral zone and the puck snuck across the line with just 6:20 left in regulation.

That could have been the final nail in the Sharks coffin. Instead, Couture found a loose puck and banked it in off of defenseman Justin Falk, who was sprawled out in the crease, at 16:54. Then, Marleau tipped in a pass from Joe Thornton as San Jose worked a three-on-two rush to perfection at 17:16.

It was pretty nice, just drove the middle and Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton made two great passes, and I was able to just get a stick on it and redirect it.

Tie game.

The Sharks maintained pressure into overtime on what appeared to be a deflated Wild team. Thornton almost won it with a redirection of a Dan Boyle low wrister just 20 seconds after the faceoff that may have gone off of Marleau, while Marleaus chance alone in front was turned aside by Josh Harding.

Thornton thought his deflection had the game won.

I did. I think it just hit Patty, and then Patty had a pretty good shot at it, he said.

In the shootout, Cullen and Mikko Koivu converted on Niemi while Harding stopped Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe to give Minnesota just its second win in the last 13 games and snap the Sharks four-game winning streak.

For the Sharks, the biggest question is, why couldnt they play the same way the first two periods as they did late in the game?

I think for 45 of the first 45 minutes we were not a team that played with a lot of energy or emotion or anything, Boyle said. The last 15 of the third and overtime we turned it up a notch. Shoulda, coulda, woulda at the end there, with tons of chances. They probably should have won it after 45, but with 15 to go we missed our chance to steal a game, I guess.

Some nights you get what you deserve, and tonight we probably got a little more than we deserved, McLellan said. We need to adjust and move on, and were going to need a much better effort in the next three games on this trip.

The Sharks visit Winnipeg on Thursday before continuing to Columbus and Chicago this weekend.

The Wild took the lead on Cal Clutterbucks goal at 7:04 of the first period. After Minnesota gained the zone, Casey Wellman found Clutterbuck skating into the zone with speed. Clutterbuck went around Ferriero and fired a wrist shot past Niemi for his 11th goal.

The Sharks tied it up on a two-man advantage with Jared Spurgeon and Kyle Brodziak off for minor penalties just three seconds apart, when Boyle blasted in his third goal at 16:08.

Minnesota jumped out to a 2-1 advantage with the only goal of the second period. Warren Peters soft wrist shot appeared to be headed wide of the net, but it bounced off of Coutures skate and slowly trickled over the goal line at 13:26.

The Wild entered at 29th in the league in goals-per-game, and were down two of their top six forwards as it was announced that Pierre-Marc Bouchard is out indefinitely again with a concussion, while Devin Setoguchi was scratched for reportedly for missing a team meeting in the morning.

McLellan knew it, and cautioned his team that the Wild would storm out of the gates and clamp down defensively. That made him all the more agitated when it didnt happen.

Expected it, warned our group about it, knew it was coming, he said. They lose a couple of important offensive players, they buckle down and play even better defensively.

Later, he added: Missing a lot of players tonight. A lot of players missing in action.

In net, Niemi finished with 27 saves, while Harding had 34, including a spectacular sliding save on Marleau with 6:20 left in the first period on a pass from Thornton.

The game marked defenseman Brent Burns first appearance back in Minnesota, and he received a warm round of applause from the home fans when recognized in-arena in the first period.

The Sharks are 1-1-1 against the Wild in three meetings this season. The clubs conclude their season series here on Feb. 26.

Odds and ends: Andrew Murray, Frazer McLaren and Antero Niittymaki were the healthy scratches for the Sharks. All five of Benn Ferrieros goals have come on the road. Patrick Marleau recorded his 800th and 801st career points in the NHL. He has nine points in his last six games (3g, 6a). The Sharks have points in 12 of their last 13 games (9-1-4). Faceoffs were even, 35-35. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had five of the Sharks 11 blocked shots.

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks


Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

SAN JOSE – In an important rebound performance, the Sharks handled the Winnipeg Jets fairly easily in a 5-2 victory at SAP Center on Monday afternoon. They put an end to a stretch of losing five of seven (2-4-1), and have now won three of their last five (3-2-0). Here are the three main points we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Third line leads the way

We focused on Joel Ward in our primary game recap yesterday, as Ward’s performance and the play he made on the second goal stood out. But Ward’s linemates Timo Meier and Chris Tierney also put an end to lengthy scoring streaks, as Meier got a goal for the first time in 13 games and Tierney got one for the first time in 14 games.

All three players had two points, with a goal and an assist each, while Tierney and Ward were each a plus-three (Meier was a plus-two).

“Obviously for a forward you want to score goals but sometimes you just have to be patient,” Meier said. “It’s my first season in the NHL and [I’m trying to] stay patient, work hard and just keep going and do the little things right. I know it will build up to success if I do the little things right.”

Tierney was in need of a strong game maybe more than anyone else, as he continues to fill in on the third line for an injured Tomas Hertl, who still has no official timeline to return. Tierney had just one point, an assist, since scoring that goal against the Senators on Dec. 14 headed into Monday.

He liked the way his line was working.

“Both those guys on the wing are big heavy guys,” he said. “They get in the corners, they win puck battles. They go to the net hard, they get pucks out of our own end. It’s pretty easy.”

Here’s one stat we missed on the postgame sheet, too: Ward was a perfect nine-for-nine in the faceoff circle.

2 – Don’t underestimate the goaltending

While everyone got a laugh at Martin Jones’ failed try at an empty net goal in the closing seconds, Jones was as important a player the Sharks had on Monday. The Sharks looked like they were taking some time to get into the game, perhaps unaccustomed to the early start, and Jones made some point-blank saves to keep it scoreless before Ward’s shorthanded score. 

"They came out ready to play,” Pete DeBoer said of the Jets. “The first five minutes Jonesy made some big saves, allowed us to kind of get our legs going. And then I thought we really started to play.”

On the other end, goalie Michael Hutchinson wasn’t nearly as sharp. He was off his angle on Ward’s goal, and on Brent Burns’ power play goal, he failed to read the shot going wide and it deflected in off of the back of his skate. 

I tweeted before the game that it seems like there are more NHL teams than usual that are dealing with goaltending problems these days. In fact, the Jets got so desperate after Monday’s game that they recalled former starter Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL. The Sharks clearly don’t have that problem, so long as Jones remains healthy. Jones’ importance to this team simply can’t be overstated, and it was proven again on Monday.

3 – Slowing down the Jets

Several players spoke about how the Sharks were able to slow down the Jets, who possess some pretty speedy players, after that initial push. Winnipeg beat the Sharks twice last season in three meetings.

“I just thought once we got pucks in [deep], [we had] some poise to hold on to it and make plays, just slow them down a little bit.” Ward said. “They’re a fast team obviously, really good on transition. If we could play in their end a little bit and frustrate them a little bit mentally, we’d get some chances.”

Jones said: “I think after the first 10 minutes we really started taking over the game. We did a good job slowing them down. They’re a really fast team with some good forwards. We did a great job through the neutral zone, kind of eliminating their speed.”

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

Ward's sacrifice keys 'bounce-back' game for Sharks

SAN JOSE – Joel Ward has been in the league long enough to know that the Sharks got outworked and outhustled in their decisive loss to the Blues on Saturday.

That could be why he put his body on the line in the second period against the Jets on Monday afternoon at SAP Center. Ward hustled to a loose puck along the wall with the Sharks holding a slim 1-0 lead and slipped it ahead to Chris Tierney, before getting absolutely plastered by Mark Stuart on a hit as big as you’ll see in today’s NHL.

While Ward was sluggish to get up as a result of his head bouncing off the ice surface, Tierney gave it to Timo Meier, who finished off a breakaway goal early in the second period.

While he was seeing stars from what he called a “clean hit,” Ward also heard the goal horn.

“I tried to get the puck out, obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

What happened was a 5-2 Sharks win, two days after one of their worst performances of the season, a 4-0 home defeat to St. Louis. San Jose withstood an early push by the visiting Jets but took over the game in the second period, particularly after Ward’s sacrifice.

"That's the commitment we talk about,” Pete DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play, [Meier] scores the goal. We need that. Joel's a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That's what it's going to take at this time of year in order to have success."

In a rare afternoon start, the Sharks looked sleepy in the beginning. The Jets were the better team for the first few minutes, but Martin Jones made sure they didn’t get on the board. He made a key stop on a Shawn Matthias one-timer just 1:29 into the first period, and then bailed out David Schlemko on a defensive zone turnover a few minutes later, again denying Matthias.

The Sharks went to the penalty kill after Schlemko’s cross-checking minor at 11:39, but Ward scored 15 seconds after that, picking the corner over Michael Hutchinson for a pretty shorthanded marker. He correctly read a Justin Braun clearing attempt, when Braun rimmed it past Dustin Byfuglien, who couldn’t keep it in at the blue line. 

After that, “just kind of saw glove side and fired it there as quick as I could,” Ward said.

That led to a dominant second period for San Jose. Along with Meier’s goal, Brent Burns scored on a power play and the slumping Jets were noticeably deflated from there.

Jones said the Jets “came out real hard,” but, “that’s pretty much all [my teammates] needed from me today. You can’t really ask for much more than that from the guys. They put up five, and slowed down a pretty fast team.”

Tierney said: “Joner did a great job of keeping us in it and not giving up a goal there and putting us behind. After that, we kind of got it going a bit and started playing our game.”

There was even some late comedy. Trailing 4-1 at the time, Jets coach Paul Maurice decided to take Hutchinson out for an extra attacker. Jones noticed the empty net and was lining up a shot after he retrieved a dump-in. It didn’t go more than a foot in front of him, though, as Mark Scheifele blocked it and slipped it into an empty net.

Jones could be seen grinning through his mask, while Tierney said he was “laughing on the bench.”

“That’s the first time I’ve tried [shooting at an empty net], and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

In total, Monday's result offered quite the change in mood from Saturday’s whipping.

DeBoer said: “I don't think anyone in our room was happy with how last game went. It was a good bounce-back game."

“It was definitely good today to rebound, and get back to winning,” Ward said.