By Mary Walsh
photo credit: espn991.com Minnesota Wild Zach Parise
SAN JOSE–The Sharks lost their sixth in a row to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Generally, the game was close, with the 2-0 score including an empty net goal during the final minute of play. The goals were scored by Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper made 25 saves in the shutout, while the Sharks’ Martin Jones played an excellent game too, making 28 saves on 29 shots.
As the Sharks attempted to end their losing streak, head coach Peter DeBoer mixed his forward lines, with more frequency than he has done this season. Every single line was different from the last game, and all but one line changed within the game. It did not change the result, as the Minnesota Wild handed the Sharks their straight loss.
Minnesota recorded their first shot almost five minutes into the first period. It was a good, clean shot from the faceoff circle that Jones gobbled up without any fuss. The Sharks had four shots by then, but they looked like a team working out new lines, which they were. During the first period, the forward lines were: Pavelski-Hertl-Marleau, Wingels-Thornton-Karlsson, Donskoi-Tierney-Ward, and Brown-Carpenter-Zubrus. Every single line had been changed since the loss in Edmonton.
The Sharks had a power ply at 9:35 of the period, when Mikael Granlund went to the box for holding. The power play did not accomplish much, as the Sharks could not stop turning the puck over in the neutral and offensive zones.
At 16:06, some negligence from the Sharks defense allowed Tomas Vanek to get out of the neutral zone with the puck, and make a break for the Sharks’ zone. Jones stopped the shot and kept the game in a scoreless tie. Jones had to make another, tougher save in the final two minutes on Mikko Koivu, who also had too much time to plan and take his shot.
As the period wound down, the shots were tied as well, and the Minnesota took the lead. It was not on the scoreboard but it was a symptom of a momentum shift. The Sharks did have a few moments of offensive zone time at the end of the period, but Minnesota seemed to be getting stronger while the Sharks idled.
The Sharks’ Patrick Marleau drew a tripping penalty early in the second period, a result of a much stronger start for the Sharks. Their power play looked a little more organized as well, with more passes connecting and a very good chance for Joe Pavelski in the slot.
Coach DeBoer mixed up the lines a bit in the second, moving Karlsson to the Tierney-Ward line, and Donskoi to the Thornton-Wingels line. The latter had one of the best chances of the period, when Wingels and Donskoi followed a Thornton shot to the net and caused a pile up in the paint that the officials had to untangle after the whistle.
At the end of the period, Thornton, Pavelski and Marleau made an appearance on the ice together, suggesting yet more line juggling from the coach.
With 1:45 left in the second, Mike Brown was called for boarding, giving the Wild their first power play of the game. During the penalty kill, Joel Ward blocked a shot and was a little slow to get up.
The Sharks trailed in shots by just one at the end of the second, with the score still 0-0.
To start the third, Thornton was on the ice with Wingels and Pavelski. Then Marleau, Donskoi and Karlsson came on as a line. Then Ward, Tierney and Hertl. Only the fourth line remained intact, as it had throughout the game. To the credit of that line, they had been very effective at gaining the zone and creating chances, just not enough so to score.
The Wild finally broke the tie, after Jones had already made several tough saves. Zach Parise was left wide open in front of the net. Donskoi was the only Shark skater in the vicinity and he was a little too slow to react. Assists went to Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville.
An empty netter for Mikko Koivu put the game away, but not until the final minute.
The Sharks’ shot leader was Joonas Donskoi with four. The hits leader was Tommy Wingels with seven. Wingels also had three shots to go with those hits.
The Sharks made a number of roster moves before Saturday’s game. Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned to the lineup, but Logan Couture was out again, this time with a small arterial bleed in his upper leg. There is no new timetable for Couture’s return, but in a press release, Doug Wilson said: “At this time, there is no projected time frame for his return to the ice but we do not expect this to be a long-term recovery. Fortunately, this injury is completely unrelated to his previous ankle injury.”
Dylan DeMelo played as Brenden Dillon’s partner. Forward Ben Smith was assigned to the San Jose Barracuda on a conditioning assignment. Forward Ryan Carpenter was called up. Matt Tennyson and Matt Nieto were scratches.
One other note: the Shark head stayed in the rafters Saturday. The Sharks did not skate through it on their way onto the ice.
The Sharks next play on Tuesday, December 15, in Montreal at 4:30 PT.