The Minnesota Wild are just the third team to come back and beat the defending Western Conference champions this season. On the back of a 4-goal third period, Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu led the charge to victory.
The Wild and Sharks ended the first scoreless. But I didn’t see the first period because if you are a self-respecting hockey fan, you watched Team USA win the Gold Medal over Canada in thrilling fashion in the World Junior Championship instead. You didn’t miss anything. By all accounts, it was about as boring a period of hockey as you could get.
The second period saw goal scoring. Unfortunately, it was the Sharks that scored first. Joonas Donskoi scored as the late trailer in to the Wild zone when Mikko Koivu and his line decided to get off the ice for a line change. Even with the mistake, that line was the only line getting its chances. Jason Zucker - Koivu - Mikael Granlund were the best line on the ice for Minnesota for 40 minutes, and it wasn’t even close. Joe Pavelski would pot a rebound goal, after Logan Couture won a faceoff cleanly and former Wild defenseman/forward Brent Burns unloaded a slapper the Devan Dubnyk initially got a toe on. It looked ominous for Minnesota as there was little life from the visiting team.
What sparked them? Eric Staal found the back of the net on the power play with just over a minute left in the second period. Zach Parise would notch an assist. Number 11 would figure to be a difference maker later in the game.
Parise would open the scoring at 2:08 of the third period to tie the game at two. Bruce Boudreau juggled the line combinations and placed Nino Niederreiter on a line with Parise and Staal. Nino got the primary assist on Parise’s game-tying goal.
The Sharks are an extremely difficult team to come back on and win. Joel Ward found the net, and 32 seconds later the Sharks lead would extend to 4-2 when Patrick Marleau beat Dubnyk with a clean shot from the left wing. It’s the 3rd straight game Dubnyk has allowed four goals in a game.
Parise would get another crack and this time Staal would score off Parise’s rebound less than a minute later as Minnesota tried to crawl back into the game. Then Koivu and his linemates, after being the best line on the ice, and now that San Jose had to worry about another line other than their’s, tied the game at four goals apiece.
The Sharks just had no answer for the two lines the Wild kept throwing at them. Boudreau shortened his bench and we didn’t see the 4th line ever again. Charlie Coyle had a couple great individual efforts that ended up as scoring chances, but he could not capitalize. Koivu would get his second of the game and put the Wild on top for good. A great feed from Granlund to Koivu for a one-timer it was.
Shots were lopsided for most of the game and in the third period, the Wild closed the gap a little bit before San Jose emptied the net for the extra attacker. Shots finished 34-26 in favor of the Sharks.
Zach Parise looked like his old self once Niederreiter was elevated to his line. He was getting to the front of the net and being his old tenacious self, and that helped him factor in on three goals.
Wild play next on Saturday in Los Angeles at 3 pm CT.