Once again the shootout proved to be the Sharks demise as they fell to Minnesota 3-2 Thursday night at HP Pavilion. Even with the loss, Team Teal has taken four of the last six points they’ve played for and did gain one more point in the race for the postseason.
Vesa Toskala stopped the first four Minnesota shootout shots before yielding the game-winner.
“Toskala did a great job in the shootout,” said Ron Wilson. “We got one point, so I don’t view it as a loss.”
Still, the Sharks would have preferred to have had five of the last six points.
“We should have won,” said Joe Thornton
. “We have to protect the lead and win. It was a bad one to let slip away. We let down the last little bit.”
The effort was there, just not the result.
“I thought we played hard,” said Kyle McLaren. “All four lines were going.”
Still, it was the Sharks who had three hours of travel after playing in Anaheim the previous night, while the Wild were resting comfortably in their Silicon Valley hotel rooms.
“We had adverse conditions and came up with a point,” said Ron Wilson.
“We went into the third tied and when the third was ending, we were running out of gas,” said Wilson. “I was happy with the effort.”
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the win,” said McLaren. “We have to take the positives, move on and get two points Saturday night.”
Scott Thornton put some life into the Sharks when they trailed 1-0 in the second and he quickly tied the contest.
“That line was probably our best line all night,” said Joe Thornton
. “They had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They sparked the team.”
“We got the puck deep and Bernier and Thornton were great along the boards,” said Smith. “
The breaking point for the Sharks came late in the third when Minnesota was awarded a penalty shot. On the call, Toskala made an initial stop, but with the puck laying in the crease, and the Wild set to inevitably poke it in, Mark Smith reached out to pull the puck away. A defensive player covering the puck with his hand in the crease is an automatic penalty shot.
“If he didn’t (do what he did), it would have been a goal anyway,” said Wilson. “It gave us a chance to stop a goal. If we would have caught the break, we win the game. Gaborik made a nice shot.”
“The puck was there on the goal line and I tried to pull it out,” said Smith. “It was right there and I didn’t think about it. It should never have been in front of the net in the first place.”
Minnesota knocked the puck in just after the penalty shot was called, so if not for Smith’s effort, there would have been an automatic goal. This way Team Teal still had a chance on the penalty shot, although Gaborik beat Toskala to force overtime.
On Scott Thornton’s tally, both Steve Bernier and Doug Murray earned their first career NHL assists.
“It is fun to get the first assist,” said Bernier. “Scoring it on our first goal tonight made it even better. I hope it’s the start of more to come.”
Bernier was playing in just his seventh NHL game, but is getting more and more comfortable each night out.
“Tonight, I felt very good compared to the first couple of games,” said Bernier. “I was nervous the first game. Tonight was not perfect, but I felt better. I’m getting more confident.”