The San Jose Sharks Mario Ferraro (38) tries to get the stick on the puck against the Minnesota Wild’s Marcus Foligno (17) at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul on Sun Jan 24, 2021 (AP News photo)
By Mary Walsh
The San Jose Sharks won 5-3 against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul Sunday. Goals came from Ryan Donato, Evander Kane, Noah Gregor, Brent Burns and Matt Nieto. Martin Jones made 26 saves in the win. Wild goals came from Nick Bjugstad, Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala. Kaapo Kahkonen made 31 saves in the loss.
The game-winner from Brent Burns was a spectacular feat in itself, but it also came at the perfect time. Sharks Head Coach Bob Boughner said, of the goal:
“At that point in the game we were just, you know, we were taking on a little water, we had some kills in the third period. At that point in time you’re trying to maintain at least the point and trying to win it in overtime. You know, if you get a break, great. But guys like that, elite players, they find ways to make huge differences in the game and that’s exactly what Burnzie did. We needed that.”
Boughner made some changes before Sunday’s game. Forward Timo Meier moved down to the third line from the second line, to play with Dylan Gambrell and Noah Gregor. John Leonard came back into the lineup to play in Meier’s spot with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane. The defensive pairs were also adjusted, with Mario Ferraro playing with Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic playing with Brent Burns.
After the game, Timo Meier was asked about the line change. He said: “Playing with Gregor and Gambrell, I think it’s, you know, two good hockey players so I think it was an opportunity. I mean, Gregor with his speed and obviously Gambi, I think we had a lot of fun out there.” Asked about how he thought the game went for them, Meier said: “Every time we stepped on the ice we tried to make a difference and use our strengths and, you know, it worked for us.”
Asked what he thought of Meier’s performance, Boughner said: “He was a beast out there. I thought that every time his line was out there he was taking pucks to the net, dragging people on his back, he was finishing on the forecheck, all those kinds of things. That line played well together.”
The Sharks started fast, with three shots in the first two minutes of play. Still, Minnesota scored first at 4:21.
As Karlsson tried to defend a two-on-one, Kirill Kaprizov made the pass across to Zach Parise, who put the puck past Martin Jones as he tried to come across.
The teams traded penalties in the middle of the period, with no change in score.
The Sharks tied it up in the final minute of the period. Erik Karlsson drove the puck deep, and Kevin Labanc gathered it up below the goal line. Labanc made a neat backhand pass to Ryan Donato, who jammed the puck through two Wild players in the direction of the net. The puck touched one of the defenders and slipped under Kaapo Kahkonen.
The Sharks out-shot the Wild 12-3 in the first period, and won 64% of the face-offs. Tomas Hertl drew a penalty with 15 seconds left in the period, so the Sharks started the second on the power play. The Sharks gave up a short-handed chance to Joel Eriksson-Ek in the first minute of the second but no other damage was done.
The Sharks had another power play opportunity at 5:17. Late in the penalty, Donato made a drop pass to Timo Meier, then drifted toward the net. Meier, on the wall, made a pass over to Kane for a one-timer inside the circle. By then, Donato was skating across in front of the net to add a screen.
A little over a minute later, the Wild put the puck in the net, but they did so while pushing Martin Jones across the line with the puck. Bob Boughner challenged the goal and, after a review, it was called back.
Noah Gregor padded the Sharks’ lead at 8:26, his first goal of the year. Gregor skated into the zone with his line spread across the ice. He looked like he would pass as he came down the wall but then took the shot. An assist went to Mario Ferraro.
Nick Bjugstad cut the Sharks’ lead back down to one at 16:47. The teams were playing four-on-four after Jordan Greenway and Nikolai Knyzhov went to the box for matching roughing penalties. Bjugstad posted himself in front of the net for a tip around Mario Ferraro and the Sharks goalie. Assists went to Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter.
The Wild led in shots during the second period, 15-12. In the face-off circle, the Sharks won 57% of the second period draws.
The Wild tied the game 7:20 in to the third period with a power play goal from Kevin Fiala. It only took them three seconds of power play time. Ryan Suter got the puck out of an offensive zone draw and sent it to Fiala for a shot right up the middle. Assists went to Suter and Parise.
The Sharks snatched the game back with just 1:48 left in regulation. It was worth waiting for. Timo Meier had the puck after and offensive zone draw when Brent Burns came down off of the blue line. Meier got the puck to him and Burns bobbed and weaved his way through four Wild skaters before putting the puck away with a backhand lift. Assists went to Meier and Tomas Hertl.
Matt Nieto scored his second of the season into an empty net after gathering the puck in the D zone and carrying it out to take a shot a few strides over the Wild blue line. A quick review for off side showed that it was very close, even under the new rules that say any skate, on or off the ice, can keep you on side. The goal stood up.
Each team scored once in four power plays in the game. The Sharks finished with a solid lead in the face-off circle at 57%, though the Wild improved with each period. The standout Sharks in the face-off circle was Dylan Gambrell, winning 12 of his 16 draws (75%). Logan Couture won 11 of 18 (61%). Tomas Hertl was not very successful, winning just 9 of 22 (41%).
The Sharks next play on Tuesday against the Avalanche in Colorado at 6:00 PM PT.