Looking to stretch their win streak to seven games, the Minnesota Wild came into the game looking to pounce on a recently struggling San Jose Sharks squad. After a shootout loss against San Jose at home in November, the question coming into tonight was would the Wild be able to generate offense against a Sharks team ranked second in the league in penalty kill.
On the other side of the ice, young goaltender, Filip Gustavsson, looked to extend his streak of dominance between the pipes. In his last four games, the twenty-four year old Swede has posted a 4-0-0 record and an impressive .938 save percentage. Wild fans hoped he would continue his strong play going against the likes of Erik Karlsson, who is sitting with 42 points in just 34 games as well as Timo Meier who has posted nine points in his last eight.
Just like last night, the Wild had to come from behind. Just forty-four seconds in the Wild defense lost Erik Karlsson on the weak side who was found by —— for a tap in that Gustavsson had no chance on. 1-0 San Jose at 0:44 in the first. Fortunately, the Wild had the answer shortly after as John Merrill found Joel Eriksson on a nice flip pass over the Sharks defense. Eriksson Ek beat Reimer five-hole on the break away. All tied 1-1 2:20 into the first.
The Sharks responded quickly, but Gustavsson was up to the challenge this time, coming up with a nice pad save. Early it looked like both teams left their defensive hats in the locker room.
The Wild were able to kill of a penalty and draw a five-on-three of their own. The Sharks kill responded and killed both penalties off in a total of three minutes. With momentum on their side, the Sharks came down and were met with another huge save from Gustavsson. However, the Wild defense weren’t able to clear and the turnover found its way onto Karlsson’s stick. The Sharks offensive-minded defenseman threw a wicked wrister on net where it found Noah Gregor for another tap in goal to put the Sharks up 2-1 at 11:37 in the first.
The Sharks frankly had the better of the play throughout the period, thankfully Gustavsson was strong in net and the Wild were able to sneak one past Reimer. After a come from behind win in Anaheim last night, one could only hope that the Wild had the legs to come from behind yet again. 2-1 Sharks after the first.
After a back and forth first five minutes of the seconds, Freddy Gaudreau took an Evgeny Svechnikov stick to the face in the neutral zone to give the Wild the man-advantage. Again, the Sharks’ kill stood strong after a less than impressive powerplay to hold on to the lead.
With just under nine minutes left in the second, Matt Dumba lined up Matt Nieto at center ice and was immediately met by Kevin Lebanc and Jaycob Megna who wanted to fight. Dumba chose to go with Megna and they wrestled each other to the ground. By definition there should have been an instigating call on the Sharks which wasn’t called, leaving Minnesota Coach, Dean Evason, irate on the bench.
Just after, Minnesota’s Mason Shaw was given a major penalty for kneeing Svechnikov giving the Sharks a five-minute man advantage. The team would have to hope their kill could handle it, and flip the momentum back in their favor before the Sharks could run away with it.
The Sharks power play unit came out hot, and as discussed earlier the big guns in San Jose came up with one. Karlsson found Meier in the slot who beat Gustavsson to put the Sharks up 3-1 at 12:47 in the second period. The Sharks weren’t done there, as Erik Karlsson found Oskar Lindblom just as the penalty expired to put the Sharks up 4-1 late in the second.
After a Matt Dumba trip, Connor Dewar was able to draw a penalty to even it up. The Wild got a break on the 4-on-4 as Matt Boldy was pushed into Reimer which opened up the net for Zuccarello to score an easy goal. Assists went to Kirill Kaprizov and MAtt Boldy at 19:54 in the second.
Another three-goal-third would be critical again to give the Wild a chance to steal a point or two after a less than perfect second. However, the Wild would start the third with over a minute left. 4-2 Sharks, after two.
The third started with a few saves from Reimer on the Wild powerplay. Those shots were about all the Wild could muster as the Sharks’ kill stood strong yet again to maintain their two-goal lead.
The Wild fought hard in the period, but just weren’t able to muster good enough chances to test Reimer the way they needed to. A couple of forwards down and the second game of a back-to-back, they simply didn’t have enough. To pour salt on the wound, Evason pulled Gustavsson down a man late in the period to give the Sharks the 5-2 win.
A disappointing finish to the Californiacation for the Minnesota Wild will undoubtedly leave a sour taste in the mouths of fans and players alike. They pick up play after Christmas on the 27th in Winnipeg as they begin a stretch of important division games against the Jets, Stars, and Blues.
Mats Zuccarello new point streak?
As I said last night, all good things must come to an end. However, hope rises anew. Zuccarello was able to muster a goal in his performance tonight. Very few can score every night, and he has been playing really well. I’d look for the thirty-five year old to put another few games together where he finds himself on the score sheet.
Will Ryan Reaves reignite his old grudge against San Jose?
There was a fight tonight, it just didn’t feature Reavo. Hockey is a business, and I think his grudge against San Jose had more to do with him being on Vegas than anything else. That being said, nothing really earned his attention tonight on that side of things, so we will have to wait and see the next time these two teams square off.
Special teams on display?
It was the difference in the game tonight, just the wrong difference. The Wild struggled, going 0-6 on the man-advantage tonight. Officially, the Sharks went 2-7 which isn’t great when you account for the empty net, but their fourth goal came only a few ticks after time on their penalty expired so I will give them an unofficial 3-7 including the empty net.
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