San Jose faced off with the Minnesota Wild in a battle of two clubs with the best records in the Western Conference on Saturday night. While both teams entered the contest with a 6-1 record, it was the Wild that would earn the victory, moving them to 7-1.
to watch video highlights from Saturday's game.
Evgeni Nabokov manned the crease for San Jose and would not have to face the high-powered Marian Gaborik, who tweaked his groin Friday night in Anaheim.
It would be the Wild who would strike first. Nabokov had recorded shutouts in his first two HP Pavilion starts, but on this play there was little he could do. Brent Burns worked the puck behind the net and threw it out front to Mark Parrish, who tapped it past Nabokov within a fraction of a second.
The Sharks immediately looked for an equalizer as Patrick Marleau’s line was flying around Manny Fernandez, but the Wild’s No. 1 netminder held the Sharks off the board early.
When Marc-Edouard Vlasic took his first penalty of the season, an amazing fact considering he’s playing 20-plus minutes a night, San Jose was forced to play shorthanded. As usual, Curtis Brown and Mike Grier were up to the task and prevented any further damage.
Team Teal outshot Minnesota, 12-6, in the opening stanza, but Fernandez kept them off the scoreboard as the Wild led 1-0 after one.
While shorthanded in the second, Grier put up San Jose’s top scoring opportunity to that point. He skated in from the right side with the defense closing in and attempted to reach across Fernandez. Grier beat the Minnesota netminder, but the puck went just wide.
As that Wild power play came to a close, Minnesota added to their lead. A failed clearing attempt was thrown on net. Stephane Veilleux recovered the puck and quickly put it on Nabokov before he could set himself. It slid to the far post and gave the Wild a 2-0 lead.
The lead quickly went to 3-0, the first time the Sharks had been down three all season. A simple point shot was screened and tipped out front by Wes Walz for his first tally of the season.
Once again the shot chart favored the Sharks, 21-13, but the Wild had increased their lead to 3-0 after the first 40 minutes.
Even when Team Teal took to the power play early in the third, they had trouble setting up and the offensive opportunity went to away.
Then a seemingly harmless shot from Brian Rolston from just inside the blueline found its way past Nabokov and the lead was 4-0 with 13 minutes to play.
As the game wound down under seven minutes, the Sharks finally broke the scoring ice thanks to some creative stickhandling by Scott Hannan and the finishing touch of Captain Patrick Marleau.
Hannan carried the puck across the blueline and fought off two defenders until Marleau could swoop in. He then pulled the puck across Fernandez and softly put it upstairs to solve the drought.
After the Sharks got on the board, they followed up with two inspired shifts, controlling the puck and dictating play in the Minnesota end. Though they peppered Fernandez in goal with 32 shots, the Minnesota goaltender remained solid, stopping 31 of the those in earning the 4-1 victory for his squad.
San Jose will travel Monday to Columbus for their first battle in Ohio this season. The 4:30 p.m. contest will not be on television, but will be carried by 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.