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Five Takeaways From Wild At Sharks

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 4-3 loss against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.



SAN JOSE --

FIRST TAKEAWAY

There were a few moments when the Wild found itself scrambling to get back into its defensive zone, and a pair of those instances led to San Jose goals.

Just 93 seconds after the opening faceoff, the Sharks sprung out of their end on a four-on-two. While the Wild wasn't scored on off the rush, Darcy Kuemper was forced into scramble mode, the puck was worked around the crease in each direction, and Tomas Hertl banked in a goal from a sharp angle.

In the second period, San Jose broke a 2-2 tie when Joel Ward scored from just below the faceoff dot. A three-on-two Sharks rush saw Kuemper go post-to-post to attack a Joonas Donskoi one-timer.

Though Donskoi's shot went wide, with Kuemper again forced to move horizontally, it left space open on the opposite post, and Ward was able to shoot onto an empty net.

"There were some things that we did too to put [our defense] under a little bit of pressure," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "It started a little bit with our third man in the offensive zone, who was caught on the wrong side of the puck and allowed them to build a lot of speed coming at our [defense]."

When a goalie has to make that kind of lateral push, anything generated toward the opposite post is difficult to get back to. The Wild averted goals-against on the first attempts of those two sequences, but San Jose managed to score off secondary looks.

SECOND TAKEAWAY

Don't look now, but the Wild's power play has goals in consecutive games, and this time around, it was the second unit.

After Thomas Vanek was absolutely robbed on an earlier power play, the Wild made good on its next man-advantage, and did so with good puck movement and getting shots on goal.

Jared Spurgeon had a one-timer ring the crossbar, creating a loose puck in the crease. Nino Niederreiter was next to it, jamming the play toward the center of the blue paint, before Charlie Coyle blitzed the traffic and shoved it home.

The Wild now has a power play goal in consecutive road games for the first time since it scored on the man-advantage in its first three road games to open the season. It's also the first time the Wild's second unit has produced a power-play goal in 17 games.

THIRD TAKEAWAY

Five points in the past seven games for Erik Haula, who continues to add offense to an already stellar defensive game.

You can read more about Haula's recent play here, but his latest performance against the Sharks featured everything that has made him so effective lately.

Haula, who is 52.8 percent on faceoffs in his past nine games, earned a secondary assist on Saturday when he won an offensive zone faceoff back to Marco Scandella in the first period, before Scandella's shot created a rebound for a Chris Porter goal.

Defensively, Haula was steady as per usual, and that accounts for his game at even-strength and shorthanded. Haula was out for 2:01 on the Wild's penalty kill, and Minnesota was not scored on during that time.

At five-on-five, Haula played 7:48, getting six defensive zone starts, and helping the Wild traverse those shifts without getting scored on. Rather, Minnesota did the scoring, with the Wild getting two goals with Haula out at even-strength.

He and the fourth line have been giving Minnesota a big boost, which included a goal on Saturday. With how much time the fourth line has been spending in the offensive zone lately, scoring seemed like it was bound to happen sooner or later.

FOURTH TAKEAWAY

The Wild's penalty kill, which has been near the top of the NHL since the New Year, had a couple of strong kills against the Sharks, but Minnesota put itself shorthanded too many times at SAP Center.

The Sharks had the fourth-ranked power play in the NHL entering the Saturday game, and San Jose found itself on three man-advantages against the Wild.

Minnesota killed off its first two penalties, but the third, which was taken 20 seconds after the Wild erased a Scandella tripping penalty, came back to bite Minnesota.

With the Wild also finding a rhythm at even-strength, the two quick penalties taken in succession disrupted the flow Minnesota had established.

"Getting into a little bit of penalty trouble in the second period changed the momentum of the game," Yeo said.

It was the first time the Wild had to kill three or more penalties in a game since it was shorthanded five times against the Florida Panthers on January 3. Minnesota went a perfect 5-for-5 that night, and while Yeo said he liked the aggressiveness his team played with that it needed to also add more discipline.

"[The Sharks] have talented players. We have a good penalty kill," Kuemper said. "I thought we did a good job tonight. Obviously you don't want to be giving those guys too many chances, but three's not too many."

The Wild has done that in the nine games since, and has had a strong penalty kill to boot when it has found itself shorthanded. But with the weapons the Sharks have, all of those penalties were playing with fire.

FIFTH TAKEAWAY

We'll assume it was the familiarity of the Pacific Division that helped Jarret Stoll on the Wild's West Coast swing.

After scoring a goal in Anaheim, and then getting honored by his former team the Los Angeles Kings the next night, Stoll scored again on Saturday, a crucial game-tying goal in the third period against San Jose. 



Stoll's latest goal began with a defensive zone faceoff, an area the Wild specifically acquired Stoll to be strong in.

He won that draw, and from there, his line made its way up ice. Jonas Brodin took a slap shot that created a rebound, and Stoll was first to the loose puck, slapping it past Martin Jones.

"If you're playing in the d-zone, you want to get it out, and you want to score a goal," Stoll said. "Hard work by our line, and by [Brodin] to get it through, and I just found a loose puck in the slot. I was lucky that the timing was there and it went in."

Stoll, who had been goalless in his first 16 games with the Wild, now has scored in two of his past three against teams he once called divisional rivals.

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