Courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images
ST. PAUL, Minn. — There is a saying that you play to the level of your competition.
For the San Jose Sharks, after two humiliating losses to the Anaheim Ducks where the majority of the team either started the season or played last season for the AHL affiliate San Diego Gulls, they played like a desperate team chasing the fourth and final playoff spot in the Honda West Division.
Despite losing 3-2 to the Minnesota Wild on Friday evening, Team Teal got off to the start it wanted by scoring the first goal of the game. Tomas Hertl started a rush up the ice where he made a pass off the boards back to himself. A play that doesn't happen if not for the wiley veteran Patrick Marleau using his stick to tie up the Wild player's stick he was battling along the boards in the neutral zone. Hertl was free to skate down to the left slot before burying a wrist shot for his 13th goal of the season and 1-0 lead.
"I loved the way we started," said Sharks head coach Bob Boughner. "We were intense, we weren't chasing the game. We got a lead. There was a few minutes there where it went bad. I thought we executed our game plan. We had (scoring) opportunites. If we keep playing like that, good things will happen."
But like so many times before, the Sharks were guilty of a bad turnover in their own zone and the Wild's Nick Bonino made them pay as he did a pirouette and fired a shot that deflected off one of the Sharks and past Martin Jones for the equalizer.
Then a 65-second gut punch by Minnesota early in the second period found the shell-shocked Sharks down by two goals just like that. A quick face-off win led to a goal by Mats Zuccarello. Minnesota's pesky fourth line, a line that gave the Sharks fits the whole game, struck again when Bonino made a nice feed to Zach Parise who snapped home a wrist shot that Jones had no chance at saving.
The good news is San Jose didn't come out flat in the third period and just go through the motions like they did the past three games against Disneyland and Hollywood. They started hitting, they created scoring opportunities, and outplayed the Wild in the final 20 minutes.
It didn't help that the men in the zebra striped uniforms missed two high sticking calls against the Wild, three if you include Nico Sturm high sticking his own teammate in Parise that left a nasty cut on Parise's face, and seemed to be calling a one-sided game. Fortunately for the Sharks, the refs reviewed that play and Hertl's double minor was taken off the boards.
"It's crazy, you could see it from the bench. I'm not surprised they couldn't see it on the ice. I think they had three of four power plays and we had one," Boughner said.
Speaking of that one power play opportunity, the Sharks didn't generate enough good scoring chances as the power play has been an Achilles heel of late for San Jose.
"Too much (of the play) on the outside, I mean that's been going on for a while now," said Sharks captain Logan Couture on trying to explain the team's power play woes. "I don't know where our power play sits in the league, but it can't be too high up there."
The Sharks penalty kill got them back in the game when Evander Kane scored his second short-handed goal of the season at the 13:43 mark. He simply outraced his opponent to the puck, skated in on a breakaway and went top-shelf on Cam Talbot for a team-leading 17th goal.
However, that was as close as it would get for the Sharks as they hope to carry over the momentum from this game's third period to tomorrow night's game with the same Wild group.
Every player has bumps and bruises this time of the season, but as one of my old high school football coaches once said, "Winning cures all ails." The Sharks hope to stop the bleeding and end their current four-game losing streak.
March 2, 2023
February 27, 2023
May 11, 2022
December 1, 2021
April 19, 2021
April 17, 2021
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.