Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
There are many reasons why the San Jose Sharks are the top team in the National Hockey League, but there is no reason why the Minnesota Wild should feel defeated after a 5-2 loss on Saturday night. Sure, the Wild gave up four power play goals for the first time in franchise history (we’ll get to that), but five-on-five, the team really played well and controlled play for much of the night.
Evgeni Nabokov (one of those many aforementioned reasons) was spectacular in turning aside 36 Wild shots, and some glorious scoring chances. Owen Nolan scored his eighth goal in his last seven games against his former team, and Cal Clutterbuck
hit the 10-goal mark with first period goals.
About those power play goals. Like I said, the Wild gave up a franchise-record four power play goals against. I may lose all credibility when I say this, but in my opinion, the penalty kill actually did a great job in this game. I know, I know. I’m an idiot, but just here me out.
Jason Demers scored San Jose’s first power play goal with four seconds left on a Marty Havlat penalty, and it was just a shot from the point that beat a screened Josh Harding
. Demers scored again in the second, and again, it was late in the power play and another long shot from the point that squeezed through a screen. Joe Pavelski’s goal came when he rushed up the left side and just picked a corner with a wicked wrist shot. Dany Heatley
’s power play goal came when an errant shot went off his head and in.
I doubt Todd McLellan diagrammed any of those goals on a whiteboard. The Sharks just happened to find the net four times with Wild players in the box. And when Wild players are whistled for 14 penalty minutes in a 60-minute game, that’s a lot of time for power play goals to go in.
That brings us to my next point, which is going to be a time for venting. I won’t venture to say that any of the seven Wild penalties should not have been called. If you’re going strictly by the rulebook, six of the seven should have been called (the goalie interference call on Eric Belanger was completely bogus as he was pushed into Nabokov).
No, my beef is not with the refs calling everything tonight. My beef is that they called nothing when players were already in the box. On one Wild power play in the third, Martin Havlat had his stick held by Manny Malhotra as he was trying to start a rush up the ice. In another third period power play, Dany Heatley
thumped Belanger to the ice on a crosscheck, which was much worse than one called on Kyle Brodziak
just minutes before.
I’m guessing the Wild’s frustrations with the calls is they weren’t consistent from nearly every other game they played. Still, it wasn’t the refs that scored the five goals.
I’ll make this quick since I consider faceoffs one of the most boring topics in hockey, but they certainly made a difference tonight. The Sharks won 68% of the draws, and seemingly won every draw in the San Jose zone. Whenever the Wild needed a big faceoff win on the power play, the Sharks would gain control, send the puck down and make the boys in white carry the puck all the way up the ice.
Maybe if I bury this take at the bottom, nobody will notice. But midway through the third, I jotted in my notebook that the Wild did a great job of shutting down the most potent line in the League – Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley
. Then, Heatley and Marleau scored third period goals, but I stand by that assertion.
The Wild had these guys locked down almost all game long. Despite San Jose getting the final line changes, the Wild defensive units had them bottled up, and really were able to generate a lot of scoring chances when they were on the ice.