The San Jose Sharks sent Nolan Schaefer out for his sixth straight start against Dwayne Roloson and the Minnesota Wild. The home fans also got their first look at rookie Steve Bernier who debuted in Anaheim the previous night. Despite a strong outing and outshooting Minnesota 36-24, the Wild would take the 3-1 win as they added a late empty netter.
The first big scoring chance went to San Jose just two minutes in. Out-shooting Minnesota 4-1 early, the line of Alyn McCauley, Marco Sturm and Bernier began controlling play. A Bernier shot, his first at HP Pavilion, bounced out to Sturm who shot it just high.
A delay of game penalty 20 seconds later gave San Jose the first power play of the game, an area the Sharks had been successful in for seven consecutive contests. On this opportunity, however, the Sharks would not capitalize.
Schaefer’s first true test came on an odd-man rush. What turned into a three-on-two for the Wild resulted in an open shot from the slot. Schaefer made the stop, but Alexandre Daigle was along for a rebound attempt. The former first overall pick raised his arms in celebration of the goal, but neglected to see that Schaefer again made the save.
A turnover in the defensive zone at the 7:30 mark sent Pierre-Marc Bouchard in on a breakaway but Schaefer was cool under pressure and turned the shot away. As the action went the other way, it was San Jose on the rush with Bernier carrying the puck. Taking what he was given, the rookie wristed the shot toward Roloson, but it caromed off the post. McCauley’s rebound attempt went high and Minnesota kept the game even.
With one minute left to play in the first, Stephane Veilleux was sent to the box for hooking Kyle McLaren. Despite a late effort by the Sharks to light the lamp before intermission, both teams headed to the dressing rooms scoreless.
The last minute of the Veilleux penalty came and went without any shots on goal from the Sharks. But two minutes into the period it looked as if San Jose would get on the board first, as a mad scramble in front of the net nearly lead to the Sharks first goal of the night. No such luck however, as Minnesota was able to clear it out of the zone.
The next great scoring chance came from Marleau as he danced around a Wild defenseman and looked to have a clear shot at the net, but before he could get it on goal, the puck trickled loose.
A Mark Smith high sticking penalty at 6:18 gave Minnesota a man advantage, just their second of the night, and on this one they would capitalize. Brian Rolston drove the net and placed a puck five-hole on Schaefer, giving Minnesota a 1-0 lead.
San Jose and Minnesota would trade penalties over the next 10 minutes of play, however neither team could make any headway with their advantages.
Once again, it was Minnesota, who with 1:07 remaining in the period, were stuck trying to kill another penalty, their eighth of the game. This time it was Kyle Wanvig who was sent to the penalty box for holding, but San Jose couldn’t convert in the final minute of regulation. The score after two periods remained 1-0 Minnesota.
A brief San Jose power play went unanswered, but moments later San Jose would respond. Working hard on the forecheck, Langfeld turned a simple dump-in into the game-tying goal. He pressured the defenseman behind the net and forced the puck out front where an opportunistic Goc tapped it in.
The joy was short lived as just 21 seconds afterwards, Minnesota again took the lead. A breakdown provided a two-on-one rush and Rolston beat Schaefer on a goal he had no chance on.
With 14 minutes left in the third, San Jose was forced to kill off back-to-back minor penalties, including a brief five-on-three. Team Teal was up to the challenge and when San Jose returned to full strength, Goc did his best to tie it again. His centering pass from just behind the net to Clowe just missed the mark.
At the seven minute mark, Marleau, Michalek and Cheechoo hounded the Wild defense for more than 30 seconds. Roloson would again answer the bell and despite outshooting the Wild 32-21 at that point, San Jose trailed by one.
As the third period wound down, San Jose was looking for the third period magic they had found throughout the five-game winning streak. With the one minute mark approaching, Schaefer began looking toward the bench and he made his move.
San Jose had a terrific chance when Marleau pulled down the puck in mid air in the slot, but he was hauled down with two hands by Wanvig and Minnesota would preserve the victory. They added the empty netter to make it a 3-1 final and end San Jose’s perfect home record.
SCRATCHES Scott Thornton (groin), Evgeni Nabokov (sore upper body) missed the contest. Niko Dimitrakos was scratched due to Primeau’s return.