Courtesy of Hannah Foslien/NHLI via Getty Images
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Patrick Marleau reached the NHL's Ironman milestone by tying Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, for the all-time games played mark with 1,767.
Unfortunately for Mr. Shark, his team continued its downward spiral into an endless abyss of losing in a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday evening at Xcel Energy Center. The Sharks have lost a season-high five games in a row.
It was a Twilight Zone of déjà vu for Team Teal. For the second straight game they scored the game-opening goal only to have Minnesota answer back with a flurry of goals. Last night, the Wild scored two goals in 65 seconds after the Sharks scored the first goal. Tonight, Minnesota raised the ante by scoring three goals in a span of 1:12 to take a commanding 3-1 lead they never looked back on.
With a couple of blown defensive assignments and a soft goal let in by Martin Jones, San Jose was back to their old ways of having to chase the game from behind. That has spelled disaster during the streak where they have lost six out of its last seven games.
"That seems to be the pattern," said Sharks head coach Bob Boughner assessing his team's play during the losing streak. "The goals against in succession, they're happening too quick, back to back together. Instead of regrouping and holding them at one [goal]."
It was so bad that Kevin Lebanc and Timo Meier were demoted to the fourth line with Joel Kellman after the opening 20 minutes. Head coach Bob Boughner was sending a message to his team.
"They were both horrible in the first period. They didn't deserve to play in the top six, or top nine for that matter. If you're not ready to play, [I] put both those guys on the same line and let them try to figure it out down there," Boughner said.
Once again Minnesota's fourth line provided the offensive punch for the third place team in Honda West Division. Zach Parise and Nico Sturm, two thirds of the fourth line, contributed goals for the Wild's balanced attack. Mats Zuccarello has also scored in back to back games. Rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov, who the Sharks had contained for most of the season series, chipped in with his team-leading 17th goal of the season.
Brent Burns, who scored for San Jose back at the 12:02 mark of the first period, didn't exactly agree with this reporter's assessment of the déjà vu moment his team had in this game.
"We're trying to have a good next shift. Keep things simple, get the details back. We're not thinking about Twilight Zones and all the other stuff," said Burns.
Joel Kellman scored his first goal of the season that was power play influenced after a nice centering pass by Lebanc with a little over two minutes left in the game. However, it was too little, too late to salvage a comeback.
It definitely was not a game to write home about for Martin Jones, who gave up all five goals on 24 shots. Boughner replaced him with new backup goalie Josef Korenar to start the third period. Korenar didn't face much action as he stopped all four shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. Expect him to gain another start soon as the Sharks are expected to give more playing time to the younger players.
This game should have been all about Marleau tying Howe and the Sharks coming out inspired to win one for him. Once again, the Sharks couldn't overcome the Wild's speed and tenacity which proved to be difficult for the Sharks to handle during the weekend series.
It was a class move by Minnesota to take time after a stoppage in play to have its public address announcer Adam Abrams announce Mr. Shark's accomplishment. The Wild fans acknowledged the feat as they gave Marleau a standing ovation while both teams tapped their sticks along the boards.
"Probably not just yet," said Marleau regarding if reaching the milestone had hit him emotionally. "Obviously, [having the other team's] guys come over and shake hands and the fans cheering, you know those are things that are very humbling. When you get recognized like that, yeah it hits home. I appreciate all the support over the years for sure."
Marleau will stand alone with the NHL's all-time games played record on Monday night in Sin City. The Sharks hope to play by the script that night as they look to put an end to this losing nightmare. Mr. Shark deserves to be rewarded for what has been a Hall-of-Fame career.
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Right Winger Kevin Labanc after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.
Goaltender James Reimer after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.
Head coach David Quinn after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.