Minnesota Wild’s Nino Niederreiter, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Eric Staal during overtime of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
by M. Walsh
SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks fell in overtime to the Minnesota Wild 4-3 at SAP Center on Sunday night. The point was hard won as the Sharks had to come back from a three goal deficit. Eric Staal scored twice for Minnesota, Ryan Murphy added another goal and Nino Niederreiter notched the overtime winner. Brent Burns and Tomas Hertl scored two goals for the Sharks. San Jose goaltender Martin Jones made 20 saves on 24 shots, while Minnesota goaltender Alex Stalock made 31 saves for the win.
After the game, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said:
It was a gutsy effort by us. It was our sixth game I think in ten nights, including traveling back from the East last week. Back to back, against a team that was rested and waiting for us. I knew we would probably start slow, we didn’t expect to be down three but I thought it was a gutsy effort to get some points tonight.
Three times in the past four days, the Sharks fell behind by three goals and came back to tie the game. In Sunday’s game, there was no back and forth in the score. It was all Wild, then all Sharks. DeBoer was asked why the Sharks tend to score in bunches after falling behind by two or more goals:
We have a resilient group, a confident group. In all those situations, we’ve shortened the bench and we have our top players are top players. And when they get that extra ice time and the ability to play without worrying about the score, thy have the ability to create some offense and put a lot of pressure on the other team. Unfortunately though you can’t ride those guys 25 minutes a night. So we’ve got to stop putting ourselves in those holes and for me, get a little but more out of the depth of the lineup.
The Sharks gave up two goals early in the first period. The first was a power play goal from Ryan Murphy at 4:19 with assists to Jason Zucker and Eric Staal. Murphy scored after a beautiful two pass sequence starting at the blue line, then going to the goal line and back up to the far side of the net. The execution was perfect, but the Sharks probably should have gotten in the way of one of those passes.
The second goal came at 10:27 from Eric Staal with assists to Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund. A key factor was a bump to Brent Burns near the blue paint from Staal. He pushed Burns into Jones and the two Sharks both went down. Staal retrieved the puck and took the shot before Jones could get back in position.
The third Minnesota goal was a wraparound from Staal. Staal jammed the puck between Jones’ skate and the post. The NHL reviewed the play and confirmed it. DeBoer followed up with a challenge for goaltender interference, but it was rejected. Assists went to Murphy and Granlund.
The Sharks got a surprising opportunity during a penalty kill with less than three minutes left in the second period as Dylan DeMelo was in the box when Eric Staal and Ryan Murphy went to the box at the same time. Murphy’s penalty was delayed and Staal’s holding penalty came during the delay. With just six or seven seconds left in the five-on-three portion of the power play, Burns took a shot from the faceoff circle and scored. Assists went to Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl.
Two minutes into the third period, Gustav Olofsson went to the box for tripping. Forty seconds into the penalty, Burns took a shot from the center of the blue line and beat Al Stalock over the left shoulder. The lone assist went to Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks tied the game after a series of three astonishing attacks on the Minnesota net. Tim Heed took a shot that Stalock stopped, but he dropped the puck and it was in play again–with the Sharks swarming. Finally, Hertl’s shot found its mark. Assists went to Kevin Labanc and Dylan DeMelo.
At the end of regulation, the shot count was 33-22 Sharks, with the third period count 14-7 in favor of the Sharks.
Overtime started with some energy from the Sharks, but in the second minute it fell into a lull with the Wild, circling the Sharks in the Sharks’ zone. After what seemed an interminable period, the Sharks finally broke out, but they had barely been able to change when Niederrieter broke in and took a shot for the win.
The Sharks next play on Thursday in Calgary against the Flames at 6:00 pm PT.