Stopping the Skid- Joe Pavelski and Antti Niemi gave the San Jose Sharks a huge lift Thursday Night when the team needed it the most. Pavelski scored two power play goals while Niemi made 29 saves as the Sharks snapped four game losing streak in a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild before another full house at the Shark Tank. The win for the Sharks ends a four game skid which culminated Tuesday in a perplexing loss to the NY Islanders. The Sharks also returned the favor to the Wild who beat the Sharks this past Sunday in St Paul by the same score. All three of the Sharks goals came on the power play as the Sharks on the evening were three for seven with the man advantage. Tomas Hertl scored the other Sharks goal. Team Teal wraps up this brief two game homestand before heading back out into the road for three. The Sharks also pull back to within three points of Pacific Division leading Anaheim while tying the LA Kings for second place. Logan Couture’s recent scoring slump also carried over as he was denied on several scoring chances by Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who stopped all eight of Couture’s shots on goal. Even a shot of the stick of Mark-Eduoard Vlasic that hit Couture in the head got past Backstrom but hit the goal post. Couture also hit a post on a scoring attempt just before time ran out in the first period. Couture despite taking a puck off of his head was okay with just a cut above the eye area.
A Wild Parade to the Penalty Box- The Minnesota Wild despite playing on the second night of back-to-backs did themselves no favors as they drew four penalties in the first period. The Wild’s march to the sin bin started with Justin Fontaine who drew a 2 minute hi-sticking penalty at the 5:14 mark of the opening period. 40 seconds later Pavelski took a feed pass from Dan Boyle and drilled the puck past Backstrom five hole giving the Sharks the lead. Patrick Marleau provided a good screen that distracted Backstrom just long enough. At the 12:10 mark of the period Fontaine would find himself heading back to the box for a holding call. Just 30 seconds later Matt Cooke would join Fontaine in the penalty box as he tripped Joe Thornton. The Wild penalty kill would frustrate the Sharks on their five on three opportunity as they were able to keep the Sharks off of the board for the entire 90 second two man advantage. It seemed as if the Wild were about to get out of trouble when Hertl wristed a shot past Backstrom after he was able to take a feed pass from Tommy Wingles. The Sharks outshot the Wild 16-9 in the first period and would continue to dominate Minnesota in the second period too. The Wild’s Zenon Konopka would find himself heading to the penalty box on a high sticking penalty that was somewhat unusual as his hit on Freddie Hamilton caused Hamilton’s stick to hit Jason Demers in his face. The Sharks took advantage of the double minor as Pavelski would score his second power play goal of the game following up a slap shot from Matt Irwin. Pavelski was able to take the rebound off of Backstrom’s leg pad and maneuver the puck around him and into the net.
Niemi Rebounds- Niemi needed a good game particularity against the Wild, for whom in the previous meeting five days earlier allowed two goals on just twelve shots on top of the tough events at the Shark Tank just 48 hours earlier. Niemi had strong save on the Wild’s Jared Spurgeon with 4:27 remaining in the opening. Sprurgeon had a point-blank shot at the net after a feed pass from Zach Parise. Neimi also denied scoring chances from Nino Niederreiter, Miko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Parise and kept Minnesota frustrated for almost the entire evening. The Wild scored their only game of the game with 7:24 remaining in the third period when Jonas Brodin’s shot on goal hit off of the shoulder of the Sharks’ Brad Stuart before it ricocheted past Niemi. Overall Niemi had one of his better outings in over a week and when it was most needed.
Work To Do On The Road- The Sharks head back on the road Saturday for the first of a three game road trip starting in Nashville Saturday against the Predators. The next two stops after that are St Louis and Los Angeles. With the win Thursday night the Sharks if only for the sake for their own psyche were able to stop a four game tail spin in which they had played some of their worst hockey of the season. The Sharks are going to be hard pressed on this trip as Nashville, St Louis and LA tend to play the Sharks the toughest in their own domains. The challenge for Team Teal is to find the happy medium between being able to play their game and being trapped in someone else’s. In recent games during the losing skid the Sharks often times were having trouble trying to establish themselves from their opponents. This means it was tough for the team to maintain a level of constancy while countering the attack of their opponent. Maybe this win is something the Sharks can build upon to help them close out games against an opponents whom they have been able to dominate.
Next Sharks Game- Sharks travel to the Music City to take on the Predators in Nashville this Saturday (12/14). The game starts at 4:30pm PT (7:30pm ET) this Saturday and can been seen in Northern California by the Comcast Sports Network.
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