The Minnesota Wild were defeated by the San Jose Sharks by a final score of 3-1 Thursday night at the SAP Center. The Sharks avenged a loss five days ago to the Wild in the Xcel Energy Center. Special teams were the difference in this game as San Jose scored 3 times on 7 power plays. The Wild took 4 penalties in the 1st period alone and in related news, Joe Thornton, Tommy Wingels, and Jason Demers have Oscar nominations in the Best Drama category for their performances Thursday evening. A visibly infuriated Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo commented on the Wild’s penalties in his post game comments saying, “It must be nice to draw penalties like that. The other team goes stick on puck and you just kind of hold your head. “ Yeo told the assembled media to take a second look saying, “Make sure you look at the first penalty, make sure you look at it. To me that’s embarrassing. I don’t know, I guess we gotta ask our players to embellish more.” All three of the Sharks goals came on the man advantage. In total the Wild were assessed 16 minutes in penalties 14 of which were power play chances for San Jose, including a 1:30 5 on 3. The power play was assessed by a ref who didn’t see the actual play, just the aftermath. Replays clearly showed Konopka’s stick was down low and it was a Sharks teammate of Demers whose stick hit him in the face. The result of all those penalties was 3 goals for the sharks and a loss of many minutes of 5 on 5 skating. The Wild were doing quite well against San Jose at even strength. An angry Coach Yeo talked about this situation as well, “This is why I’m pissed off, our guys battled hard tonight, we didn’t do enough, there’s no question we were in the box to much. We didn’t finish well enough, our penalty kill, it doesn’t matter With how many time they dive. We gotta make sure we kill them off, or embellish. I shouldn’t say just dive. There is things in the bigger picture that we were better with.” It’s not hard to read between the lines and see Yeo’s criticism of the officiating crew and no disguising his displeasure over the play by the Sharks. San Jose scored a pair of power play goals in the first period by Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl. In the second period the Sharks added one more goal, the second of the game by Joe Pavelski. That would wrap up the scoring by San Jose. In the third period the Wild were able to finally break through and score a goal of their own. Defenseman Jonas Brodin ended the scoring drought with a goal on a feed from Justin Fontaine. Unfortunately that was the lone scoring highlight for the Wild.
Once again the Wild wasted a great outing by their goaltender. Niklas Backstrom made 36 save on 39 shots in the loss. His overall record drops to 2-5-2 with a .900 save & and a goals against average of 2.93. At the other end of the ice Antti Niemi picked up the win improving his record to 17-5-2 with a goals against of 2.23 and a.916 save %.
For the Wild this was Brett Bulmer’s first NHL game of the season. He was called up to fill the roster spot held by Mathew Dumba who is playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, in Sweden. Bulmer played a solid game Thursday and earned some high praise from The Wild’s head Coach Yeowho said, “I was impressed. I thought he played a strong game. He was hard, he was physical, he’s not fun to play against. He was good on the wall. I thought he was involved all night.”
The Minnesota Wild are now winless in their last four road games and this loss drops them out of third place in the Central Division. They’re now in fourth, a single point behind Colorado who moved ahead of Minnesota with a win Thursday. St. Louis is now 4 points up on the Wild with their latest win. When asked what his team had to do to break this road losing streak Yeo replied, “We just gotta keep on battling. We just played a team that lost 4 in a row. every team goes through it, so we’ll get through it. We make it hard on ourselves obviously. When you get in a hole like we did it makes it a lot tougher for sure, but we had chances.” Coach Yeo also addressed the tendency of the Wild to keep passing instead of taking a shot on goal, “We probably had 5 scoring chances where we didn’t get a shot on goal because we’re looking to make an extra play. We have to make sure we have a shooter’s mindset.” “We certainly generated enough chances tonight. We had some good looks where we didn’t capitalize. There were a few other times where I felt we had an opportunity to put a puck at the net and just crash the net and we passed on those.”
Minnesota doesn’t have much time to wallow in this latest road loss as they head to Denver for a game against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. The Wild’s coaching staff seem to have identified the problem, the hard part is going to be fixing it. Getting away from their pass first mentality and taking shots on goal as they present themselves is the challenge before the team.
The Wild are winless so far on this road trip. Minnesota has one more game on this road before they return home to face the Vancouver Canucks. The task before the Wild now is a game in Denver against the Avalanche in an important Central Division matchup. The Wild trail the Av’s by just a single point in the tight divisional race. I’ll be back Saturday morning with a preview of the Wild vs Avalanche. Until then this is Scott Drain still shouting, “Let’s Go Wild!!!”
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