McLellan: Power play was awful vs. Wild
San Jose ended its road trip with a 1-3-0 record, and has now lost its last three games in regulation. (USATSI)
ST. PAUL – Minnesota goalie Josh Harding continued his lights-out play at home, and the Wild used a pair of second period goals to beat the Sharks on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, 3-1.
Harding, the NHL’s goals-against average leader, improved to 13-1-0 on home ice with 37 saves. The Sharks outshot the Wild for the game, 38-13, but were hurt by an ineffective power play that finished 0-for-4.
San Jose ended its road trip with a 1-3-0 record, and has now lost its last three games in regulation.
After a scoreless first, Minnesota took a 2-0 lead with a pair of second period goals.
A poor Sharks power play shortly after the start of the frame appeared to give the Wild momentum, and Zach Parise deposited the rebound of a Marco Scandella shot that was tipped in front by Jason Pominville at 3:55. Pominville could probably have been called for incidental contact interference with Antti Niemi, but after a brief discussion between the referees and linesmen, the goal was allowed to stand.
Just about four minutes later, Mikko Koivu cut to the slot untouched and sent a wrist shot over the shoulder of Niemi to make it 2-0.
The Sharks lone goal came with 1:41 left in regulation, when Patrick Marleau deposited the rebound of a Matt Irwin shot with Niemi pulled for an extra attacker.
After the referees missed a Joe Thornton high stick on Kyle Brodziak, Niemi remained out, but the Sharks didn’t get any more shots on goal and Parise ended it with a late empty-netter.
Harding was the biggest reason the Wild held their lead through two periods, as the Sharks had a 32-11 advantage in shots on goal after 40 minutes, including 21-6 in the second period alone.
With his club leading 1-0, Harding denied Tomas Hertl on a couple of good looks five minutes into second period, and later made a flamboyant glove save on Joe Pavelski’s wrist shot from the circle with 13 minutes to go.
After Koivu’s goal, Harding stopped Brent Burns on a backhanded shot on a Sharks power play. Later, after he was inadvertently run over by Parise, he managed to get back to the crease in time to freeze puck after a Matt Irwin point blast with 1:50 to go in the middle frame.
The Sharks had opportunities to cut into the lead earlier in the third, but Andrew Desjardins fanned on a perfect setup by Pavelski on a two-on-one shorthanded rush about a minute in, and a third and final power play generated just one weak shot on goal from beyond the blue line.
The Sharks rearranged three of their four scoring lines before the game, after recalling Matt Nieto and Freddie Hamilton from Worcester. Pavelski was shifted up to the Marleau-Logan Couture line, while Nieto skated with Tommy Wingels and Desjardins. Hamilton, Tyler Kennedy and James Sheppard comprised the fourth line.
This was the Sharks’ only visit to Minnesota this season, and they have now lost their last six games here (0-5-1).
Thornton’s eight-game point streak came to an end.
The Sharks were more dangerous at even strength than they were on the power play, finishing 0-for-4 in a miserable performance. Overall, the power play is just three for its last 39.
After the ugly advantage early in the second, coach Todd McLellan changed his units. Thornton, Hertl, Burns, Irwin and Justin Braun were on one unit, while Pavelski, Marleau, Couture, Dan Boyle and Jason Demers were another.
In the third, the top unit of Thornton, Pavelski, Couture and Marleau was reunited, with Irwin in place of Boyle. It didn’t work.
Minnesota was 0-for-2, with both power plays coming on minor penalties to Brad Stuart.
Niemi was making his first appearance since getting pulled on Thursday in Pittsburgh after two periods. He made 10 saves in the loss, and is 7-4-4 in his last 15 starts.
Harding is now 2-1-0 in four career games against San Jose.
Marty Havlat did not take warmups, and Todd McLellan deemed him as "not available" after the game. Havlat blocked a shot against Carolina on Friday and limped back to the bench, but stayed in the game.
Stuart returned after a one-game absence in place of Scott Hannan. Matt Pelech was reassigned to Worcester on Saturday.
Mike Brown missed his third straight game with a lower body injury, and was placed on injured reserve as a procedural move to make room for Nieto and Hamilton.
The Sharks host the New York Islanders on Tuesday and the Wild visit San Jose on Thursday. A three-game road trip begins in Nashville on Saturday, continuing with stops in St. Louis and Los Angeles.