In a game that looked to match up the Sharks league leading power play with the Wild’s league leading, it was San Jose dominating the play at even strength that was the difference in the 3-1 victory.
“We only allowed one goal and we played as sound five-on-five as we had all year,” said Joe Thornton
Even though the Sharks could not score on the advantage, it was not necessarily for lack of effort or quality opportunities.
“I thought we were good on the power play even though we didn’t score,” said Thornton. “Fernandez was great. He stopped Cheech two times point blank.”
“Our power play looked good considering they are the best penalty killing team, but Fernandez was lucky and good,” said Ron Wilson. “The save on Clowe late in the second would have made it 3-1.”
Thornton’s tally was the game-winner and also his first of the season at home. On the play, Matt Carle put the puck toward the net and, after it hit the defenseman, Thornton used his big reach to sweep in the puck.
“I wasn’t aware of that, but I’m not worried about scoring goals,” said Thornton. “I’m just concerned with winning. Mattie made a great play getting the puck to the net and I banged it in,” said Thornton.
Carle’s assist gives him 14 points on the season and moved him into a tie in the NHL’s defensemen scoring race with Anaheim’s Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. The 14 points also have him tied for first in the NHL’s overall rookie point scoring race.
San Jose enjoyed a bit of retribution for Minnesota’s victory at HP Pavilion on October 21. This time Team Teal would not let the Wild’s trap frustrate them.
“We drove the net,” said Mike Grier. “The last game we tried to force to much.”
“We did the things we didn’t do the first game,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
For the second game in a row, Grier played with Thornton and, for the second game in a row, he scored a goal (although he was set up by Marleau). He now has a point in the last three games and five points in the last five games.
“He’s been playing great,” said Thornton. “He’s been finding avenues and the puck’s been going through.”
Just like Saturday’s goal against Pittsburgh, Grier’s shot was slowed by the netminder, but it found it’s way across the line.
Grier has brought some needed fight to Thornton’s line, but Wilson concedes that it may not be long before Jonathan Cheechoo is back in his usual spot.
“(Grier) has been playing sound and deserves the opportunity to play in some offensive situations,” said Wilson. “Cheech played hard tonight - that line grinded. A couple of more games like that and he’ll be back up with Joe.”
NABOKOV STRONG AGAIN
Evgeni Nabokov brought home the bacon Tuesday night by limiting the Wild to just one goal on 23 shots and he noted it was one of the team’s better outings on the season.
“I think it was a great effort for 60 minutes,” said Nabokov. “I don’t know if it was our best game, but it was one of our four or five best. The D attacked the net and we had some speed.”
With 10 minutes left in the third, Nabokov made a spectacular stop with the puck loose in the crease.
“Once in a while you need to get lucky,” said Nabokov.
Nabokov has allowed two or less goals in six of his eight starts.
ONE FOR THE KID Patrick Marleau
’s three-week old son attended his first Sharks game Tuesday night and dad delivered. Marleau set up the first goal with a pretty cross ice pass. Then he put the icing on the cake with a late third period tally.
The puck was promptly dug out of the net for the youngster.
“It was his first game and I wanted a goal for the little guy,” said Marleau.
For all the highlight level goals Marleau has scored in his career, he certainly didn’t plan on the follow through on the one dedicated to his new son..
“I definitely didn’t plan on falling down,” said Marleau.
The NHL’s general manger meetings concluded in Toronto on Tuesday with much discussion, but no concrete changes.
“We discussed scheduling and hitting,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. “From our point of view, we would like to see the travel equalized so when we go east, we do it in one trip instead of three.”
The schedule will be discussed further at the Board of Governors meeting in December.
As for hitting, Wilson and his brethren want to ensure the game they love doesn’t loose it, but they want to keep it clean.
“We want to make sure we keep hitting in the game, but with the good type like Kyle McLaren does,” said Wilson. “We don’t want people low-balled or see people leaving their feet to hit. We want the continue seeing the rules enforced.”
The Sharks are 16 games into their 82-game season and they have played just one of their 32 Pacific Division contests. That will change with the next three games against Los Angeles, Phoenix and again with Los Angeles.
“It’s important with games in the division to buckle down,” said Grier. “Especially on the road.”
“We had some success with L.A. last year and we struggled with Phoenix,” said Wilson. “Hopefully we can keep it going against L.A. and turn it around against Phoenix.”