A Wild Rout- The San Jose Sharks erupted for three goals on their first five shots of the third period against the Minnesota Wild Thursday night. The end result was team teal’s 6-1 rout of the Wild before another full house at the Shark Tank. Goals from Raffi Torres and Joe Pavelski just 22 seconds apart, along with Logan Couture adding his second score of the evening put away the Wild. It was a tough night for the visitors who simply ran out of gas trying to keep up with the Sharks through the first two periods of play. The win for the Sharks was another big one as they attempt to keep pace their Southern California counterparts in Los Angeles. Just as the Sharks were rapping their win at the Shark Tank, the Kings also won defeating Columbus at the Staples Center some 395 miles away. Both teams have 55 points in the standings in the Western Conference with Los Angeles holding the tie breaker. The Sharks carried much of the play through the evening as they gave the Wild a run for their money. Couture and company were a very solid group Thursday evening as his line dictated most of the play. Couture along with Martin Havlat and Patrick Marleau for their night’s work combined for 9 total points. Couture had two goals to go along with two assists. Havlat scored two goals on two shots, and had an assist. Torres and Pavelski had a goal and assist each. Antti Niemi meanwhile had 27 saves in net as the Sharks played arguably their most complete game of the season. Outside of one lapse on a line change in a second period that led to the Wild’s only tally of the night, the Sharks for the most part were spot on with their performance Thursday night.
Tight Beginnings- The first seven minutes and change were the Sharks and Wild testing out each other as both goalies would get some early challenges. Antti Niemi made a huge save early denying newly acquired Wild right wing Jason Pominville who had a breakaway on the team teal netminder. Meanwhile Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom would have a much tougher night in store for him, and did not exactly get much help from his teammates either. With 12:45 remaining in the opening period Havlat took control of a puck and carried it across ice after taking a feed pass from Marleau. Once across the Wild’s Blue Line Havlat attempted to pass the puck to Couture who was breaking towards the net. Havlat’s pass never got to Couture, however instead it hit the stick of the Wild’s Miiko Koivu and deflected past Backstrom into the goal give the Sharks the lead. Despite this mishap for the Wild, Backstrom recovered and would go on to make huge saves on Marleau and later Dan Boyle. The Sharks held a 12-7 shot advantage in the opening period. The Sharks forecheck had a lot to do with their success in the first period and would continue to impact most of the game.
Feeling Minnesota- Much to the chagrin of the visiting Wild, the Sharks would continue to push the envelope with a strong forecheck and just being where the puck was most of the time. Minnesota’s problems would only grow deeper as defenseman Clayton Stoner would be called for holding. With the Sharks on the power play, a perfect tic-tac-toe sequence would give team teal a huge boost. About a minute into the man advantage Joe Thornton at the right point feed Marleau the puck has he stood to the right of the Wild’s goal. Marleau then release the rubber biscuit on a perfect feed pass to Couture who in turn key fashion drilled the puck past Backstrom for a 2-0 Sharks lead. The Sharks were in control but showed they were also human. On a bad line change moments later the Wild’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a one on one break away against Niemi. Bouchard took a cross ice pass from Pominville and would beat Niemi with a back handed wrister to bring the Wild back to within one goal.
Later in the period with Backstrom having made a few key saves since Bouchard’s goal got the Wild back into the game, the Minnesota goalie would be caught in what turned out to be a very costly mistake. On a clearing attempt from behind his own goal, Backstrom witnessed Couture reaching up to bat down the puck before it hit the glass. Couture than passed the puck to Havlat who was breaking for the net and quickly launched a wrister that hit the back of the twine perfectly before Backstrom could get back into position. The Sharks had restored their two goal lead and started to feed of the energy buzz created by Couture’s imitation of the SF Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. The Wild’s Bouchard meanwhile on an odd man rush just a moment later was denied by one of Niemi’s saves on the evening.
Sharks Gone Wild Part 2- The Sharks had won a wild game (no pun intended) against Minnesota just 15 days earlier by hanging on in the games final moments. However this time the Sharks would take all the suspense out of the game by an early onslaught that left the Wild dazed and confused. Torres would score his first goal as a Shark just four minutes with a wrap around goal that was highlight real material. Merely 22 second later Pavelski got into the fun himself. Pavelski’s wrist shot was off the rebound of a second shot on goal from Torres. The Sharks had a 5-1 lead at this point and were in complete command of the game and a tiring Wild team. The Wild here would pull Backstrom and replace him with backup goalie Darcy Kuemper. This would have little impact on the game however. Couture would add his second goal of the game drilling another wrister into the net, this time past Kuemper. Havlat with the perfect feed pass would get the assist. The Sharks then spent the final 10:45 playing a strong defensive game and not letting the Wild get anything easy. The Sharks would go onto take the game and the two points which go along with it in the Western Conference Standings.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were 3) Raffi Torres; 2) Martin Havlat; 1) Logan Couture … Antti Niemi and Patrick Marleau also had solid games as did the vast majority of the team. The Sharks are now 16-1-5 at home this season, with the only regulation home loss coming February 5th versus the Blackhawks (Chicago won 5-3)…The Sharks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and have a “plus 10″ in their goal differential this season. During the Sharks 6-11-6 slide midseason the Sharks low point in the above statistic was a “minus 8″ goal differential.
Next Sharks Game- The Sharks will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday evening at 5pm PDT(8pm ET). The Sharks owe the Blue Jackets who in their previous two meetings handled team teal somewhat easily, winning 6-2 on February 11th and 4-0 on April 8th. This will be a strong test for the Sharks who are taking on a team that realizes they have a great shot at getting into the playoffs themselves.
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