Early goal not enough for Sharks in 2-1 loss to Wild

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Early goal not enough for Sharks in 2-1 loss to Wild

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SAN JOSE Logan Couture would have been thrilled for Wild rookie goaltender Matt Hackett under any other circumstance.Hackett, making his first career appearance in an NHL game, stopped all 34 shots he faced in relief of Josh Harding in leading Minnesota to a 2-1 victory over the Sharks on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion. Couture and Hackett grew up just a few houses down from one another in Guelph, Ontario.Numerous times this summer and last summer I said he was going to play in the NHL and he was going to be a good NHL goalie, and hes got a bright future ahead of him, said Couture.

That was on display as the Sharks jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on Harding, only to be shut down the rest of the way by Hackett when Harding was knocked out of the game early in the first period. Minnesota survived an early onslaught by the Sharks, who jumped out to a whopping 16-0 advantage in shots on goal and 1-0 lead early in the first period. A pair of goals later in the first by the Wild, though, ended up being all of the the scoring for the game.The biggest disappointment for the Sharks, other than the defeat, may be that they wasted the strong start they were looking for in rebounding from a poor effort in Saturdays 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. Not only did San Jose put 42 shots on net, but the Sharks missed the net 18 times and had 33 shots blocked, for a whopping 93 attempts total.Obviously, it was a better effort. The execution was a bit better besides the fact that we didnt finish like we wanted, said Ryane Clowe. The opportunities that we got were because of some good plays.Todd McLellan, who punished the Sharks by canceling a day off after the loss to Florida, was also more pleased with his teams effort.Theres some frustration. You can feel it on the bench and in the locker room, because tonight the work ethic was a lot better than it was against Florida the other night, said the coach. We played a lot crisper and a lot sharper, but we werent rewarded for it. There are still things we need to work on that we have to get better in, but our overall game improved and thats a good sign.One obvious aspect that needs work continues to be the penalty kill, and special teams in general. Leading 1-0, the Sharks had a golden opportunity to increase their lead when Cody Almond was whistled for high-sticking Joe Thornton at 10:45 of the first period.San Jose had some good looks at the net, and did a good job creating havoc around the goal crease, but was unable to capitalize. Clowe had perhaps the best chance, but he fanned on a one-time attempt from the slot. The Sharks are just 1-for-14 on the power play in the last four games.Couture said: We created some chances. Obviously you want to score when you have four minutes, and I thought we did create some positive momentum, but unfortunately they came back and scored one.Less than three minutes after the Sharks extended power play ended, the Wild tied it up, and it was former Shark Dany Heatley who helped create the equalizer. A subtle dip of his shoulder dropped Dan Boyle to the ice, and Heatley skated around him cutting towards the slot. He fired a shot that Antti Niemi stopped, but Mikko Koivu was there to deposit the rebound.The Sharks' penalty kill, which entered the game last in the league both at home and overall, faltered in surrendering what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 19:48 of the first.A trip to Torrey Mitchell at 19:11 of the first gave the Wild their first power play of the game, and they capitalized. Pierre-Marc Bouchard fired a one-timer on a cross-ice pass from Koivu under the right arm of Niemi, who was moving from his left to his right.We got a little sloppy in front of the net for a little bit in the first and they had a few chances, said Boyle. Otherwise, they play a pretty patient game. They dont come at you with a lot of heat. They force you make mistakes. We knew it was going to be a low scoring game, but youre not going to win too many games scoring one goal.Hackett, the nephew of former Sharks goalie Jeff Hackett, entered the game just 1:11 into the first period after Harding was inadvertently elbowed by his own teammate, Nick Schultz. The Wild defenseman was trying to hold off a charging Joe Pavelski after Patrick Marleau threw one on net, when he bowled over Harding. The Sharks led 1-0 at the time.That goal came at the one-minute mark when a Boyle shot on Harding bounced out to the slot, where Pavelski spun around and whacked it in.The Sharks kept coming in waves as the period progressed, but Hackett made good saves on a blast by Brent Burns about four minutes into the game, and Jim Vandermeer a few minutes later.Could we have got it to 2-0 or 3-0? That would have been probably what we needed, obviously, said McLellan.It didnt happen, though, as the Sharks have now lost four of their last five games courtesy of Coutures childhood friend.Great kid, but I didnt like what he did to us tonight, said Couture.Odds and ends: Matt Hackett was dressed only because regular starter Niklas Backstrom is recovering from a groin injury. Douglas Murray did not play, recovering from a right hand injury. Justin Braun took his place in the lineup, while Colin White was scratched. The Sharks won the faceoff battle for the ninth straight game, 31-26. Todd McLellan bumped Patrick Marleau from the top line to the third line, while putting Brad Winchester with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski for much of the third period. Former Shark Devin Setoguchi suffered an apparent lower body in the game and played just 2:51. San Jose has not won a regulation game since Nov. 23, a 1-0 win over Chicago.

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

Meier back with Sharks after working on his game in AHL

ST. PAUL – On paper, Timo Meier’s production after he was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda on Feb. 16 was down. The former first-round pick had just six points (3g, 3a) in 14 games, and was scoreless in his last five, a far cry from what he was doing there earlier in the season and way off his numbers in juniors.

But at just 20 years old, Meier is still in the learning phase of his professional career. And as impressive as the Barracuda have been this season, they’re still playing in a developmental league, first and foremost. Meier got a chance to work on some of the aspects of his game he needed to work on.

“It was obviously hard going back,” said Meier, who has three goals and two assists in 28 games, before Tuesday’s game in Minnesota. “Sometimes you go back there and you try too much, but they told me to work on some things in my game, and I tried to do that.

“For me, going down there it was all about learning stuff on the ice, off the ice. … It’s my first year [in pro hockey], so as a young guy you want to learn and listen to the coaches, too. Just get better.”

Coach Pete DeBoer went into pretty good detail on what the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft needed to do with the Barracuda, and what he needs to show now that he’s back in the NHL.

“I think with a lot of big, talented young guys, they have to realize when they can make an extra play with the puck and when they have to chip it in,” DeBoer said. “They’re so used to dominating at the levels they’ve been at for so long, that [it’s] easier said than done. It’s habits you have to learn, and you don’t learn unless you’re doing them on a consistent basis.”

Meier’s shot selection, too, is something that needed some improvement, according to the coach. While the power winger might be generating plenty of shot attempts, no doubt pleasing the advanced stats crowd, there’s more to being an effective forward than running up numbers on the Excel spreadsheets.

“You don’t want to shoot [just] to shoot up here, or to just get shots on net. You’re not scoring on NHL goalies like you are on junior goalies from 30 or 40 feet out,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to pick your spots. Sometimes you have to look for a better play than a shot.”

Meier said: “It’s a really tough league. As a young guy coming in, sometimes you’ve got to stay patient, too, try not [to do] too much. … Sometimes I tried [to do] a little too much.”

Meier has been in the Sharks’ lineup for each of the last two games. He started on the fourth line before getting bumped up to Tomas Hertl’s third line on Monday in Dallas, and returned to the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Micheal Haley for Tuesday’s tilt in Minnesota. He is scoreless with two shots on goal over those two games.

He could be a temporary fill in for Jannik Hansen, who remains out with an upper body injury but could potentially return before the end of the road trip this weekend. Or, perhaps Meier does enough to stick around for the stretch run and the playoffs. There would seem to be an opportunity to push someone else out of the lineup, as the Sharks’ depth scoring has been a season-long problem.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, getting that chance again later on in the season,” Meier said. “I want to put it all on the ice, leave it all out there and just make the best out of every shift I get. Play my game, play within my strengths, [do] the things that got me here, and I’m sure I’ll be successful like that.”

Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

Three takeaways: Sharks' third line woes continue

ST. PAUL – The losing streak endures, as the Sharks dropped their fourth straight, 3-2 in Minnesota on Tuesday night. A quick start from the home team, and an even quicker response after the Sharks tied it up late in the second keyed the Wild win. Let’s dig a little deeper, though, with our three takeaways…

1 – Wild come out flying

The Sharks’ general lack of panic after their latest loss, as we touched on in the recap, surely had something to do with the circumstances. Minnesota had an extra day of rest while the Sharks were on their second of a back-to-back, with travel. San Jose was also capping off a stretch of seven games in just 11 days (I believe we’ve mentioned here before just how monumentally foolish this year’s NHL schedule is). 

Frankly, the start was predictable. Minnesota was a ticked off team having lost five straight, and even though it had dropped is previous game in Winnipeg, 5-4, it erased a 4-0 deficit in that one only to lose it late. Surely that was a sign that the Wild were ready to break through in the win column.

Pete DeBoer said the Sharks “expected” an early push from Minnesota.

“They’ve been sitting here waiting, they’re desperate, they’re fresh, they’re healthy. We’re coming in on a back-to-back. We knew the first period would be tough. It wasn’t pretty, but we escaped only down 1-0 and I thought from that point on we started to fight back a little bit. Did some good things, just too little too late.”

The Sharks were competitive over the final two periods, finally getting their first goal in more than 138 minutes of game play to make it 1-1 (it was originally credited to David Schlemko, but has since been changed to Patrick Marleau). At that point, though, it was Minnesota’s turn to respond. It did, and that was the game.

2 – Third line woes

We touched on the Sharks’ lack of secondary scorers yesterday, and it was on full display against the Wild again Tuesday night as the third line of Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker failed to do anything productive. Hertl had one decent chance in the first period from the slot that Devan Dubnyk turned away, but was later too soft and too slow on Minnesota’s third goal, as Zach Parise outhustled and outmuscled him before dishing to Charlie Coyle.

Donskoi finished with two shots, and didn’t even get one off on a second period breakaway. Boedker had no shots, and just one attempt.

Hertl now has no points in his last 10 games, and Donskoi hasn’t found the scoresheet, either, in nine games since returning from an upper body injury.

Prior to Tuesday night’s game, DeBoer indicated it’s taking some time for both players to get up to speed after being out. Hertl, of course, missed two months with his latest right knee injury.

“You come back, there’s a little bit of adrenaline, you’re on a high, and the reality hits that you missed some time and the league is moving at a really fast pace,” DeBoer said. “Just got to play through it and keep battling.”

Hertl said: “I for sure expect [more] of myself. … I try to stay with my game, try and make plays, be strong on the puck, make my linemates better. I need to just keep working all over [in the] D-zone, O-zone, and even power play.”

3 – Dealing without Vlasic

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the second Sharks player in two nights to be sidelined by a flu bug, so Schlemko was bumped up to replace him paired with Justin Braun, while Dylan DeMelo and Brenden Dillon comprised the third pair.

Schlemko had a nice game, even if he is no longer getting credit for his third goal of the season. He finished with one assist, a plus-one rating, three shot attempts and three blocks.

“You can’t really replace a guy like [Vlasic],” he said. “He’s one of the best defensive D in the league. Just trying to keep it simple. We switched up the partners and spread out the ice time pretty well. Not the start we wanted, but after the first I thought we played pretty well. Played hard.”

DeBoer said: “We've got a little bit of a flu going through. Tierney was out yesterday with it, [Vlasic] got it today. Hopefully, that’s the end of it.”