Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at 3-2 overtime loss against the San Jose Sharks:
At the pregame press meal, FOX Sports North’s Kevin Gorg gave me an interesting little nugget, San Jose’s period-by-period goal differential. The Sharks start quicker than Carl Lewis, coming into tonight’s contest outscoring opponents in the first period by 29 goals. The team had only a plus-6 second period differential and was even in the third. So, keeping the Sharks from a fast start was a part of the Wild’s game plan tonight.
San Jose came out of the gates quick, at one point holding an 8-1 shot advantage over the Wild. However, Minnesota weathered the storm and the momentum shifted like, um, Minnesota’s weather, after Matt Cooke’s goal (we’ll get to that).
It worked, but unfortunately for Minnesota, the Sharks flipped the script and came back with a big second period and won the game in overtime on a Joe Thornton slapper (more on that in a moment).
Cooke scored on a pretty amazing individual effort. He picked off a neutral-zone pass from Joe Thornton, tipping it off the boards into space. The forward was then off to the races, alone on Sharks’ netminder Antti Niemi. Cooke made a quick backhand-to-forehand move then threw it up high over Niemi’s blocker. It was his eighth goal of the season.
What continues to impress about Cooke and his linemates, Justin Fontaine and Kyle Brodziak, is they continue to put up points and playing against the opponent’s top line. With the Wild on the road the Sharks had the last change on faceoffs. Head Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t able to always get the line out against Thornton’s group, but the game-within-the-game battle was fun to watch, as you’d see the checking line jump out whenever they had a chance on the fly.
Keith Ballard scored his first goal in a Wild uniform and first since Oct. 6, 2011. The play started as Jason Pominville (more on him in a moment) knocked down an Antti Niemi clearing attempt from behind the net. He cycled the puck down to Mikael Granlund behind the net. The center pulled an escape move on Marc-Edouard Vlasic and swung behind the net. Ballard saw the play develop and alertly darted into open ice. Granlund fed the puck to Ballard, who one-timed a sharp-angle shot off Niemi’s pad and in.
In the first period, Ballard made a key defensive play with time winding down. The Sharks rushed in on an odd-man rush and Patrick Marleau made a saucer pass to a streaking Matt Irwin. As Irwin caught the puck in the slot, threw a perfectly timed hit and separated the Sharks’ defenseman from the puck and his stick.
Pominville’s assist was his 500th career point. Coincidentally, the Wild was here in San Jose last season on the Trade Deadline Day acquisition of Pominville. I was here sitting in the stands during practice when Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett were both pulled off the ice during the team’s morning skate, as they were part of the package that brought Pominville over from the Buffalo Sabres.
Since coming over to the Wild, Pominville has scored 24 goals and added 20 assists in 64 games. This season, he leads the Wild in goals and has formed a lethal combination with Granlund. The wing brings it every night and has been a consistent scorer over his entire nine-year National Hockey League career.
Yesterday, the Sharks extended both Thornton and Patrick Marleau to three-year deals. They celebrated by accounting for all three of the team’s goals tonight. Thornton’s two-goal performance was especially rare, only because he’s typically a pass-first center and leads the entire NHL in assists with 47. He probably should shoot more often because his overtime winner was a laser slap shot over the glove of Darcy Kuemper, who was solid again in goal making 29 saves.
Marleau is more of a natural goal scorer, getting the 426 of his career tonight. The Sharks drafted Marleau with the second-overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Who was he selected after? You guessed it, his buddy Thornton.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen any fisticuffs, so Clayton Stoner’s scrap with Mike Brown gets the first bonus take we’ve had in a while. In the second period, the two duked it out in one of the better tussles you’ll see, with Stoner taking it with a TKO. Unfortunately, on the road we can’t cut our own highlights, but I’m sure a quick Google search will turn up the fight vid. It’s worth a watch if fighting is your thing.