For the second straight game, the San Jose Sharks were a sound 20 minutes of hockey away from earning two points. Yet for the second straight game, San Jose failed to score a single third period goal while conceding multiple tallies to the opposition.
Unlike the previous outing, where San Jose played arguably its worst game of the season from start to finish, the Sharks showed much more jump through 40 minutes in Minnesota. Goals from Joe Thornton in the first, and by Devin Setoguchi and Patrick Marleau in the second, built a 3-2 advantage heading into the final 20 minutes.
However, three unanswered goals from the Wild, all coming virtue of point shots in one way or another, made it a combined seven third period goals against in San Jose’s last two games.
“Seven goals in the last two games in the third period is not going to get us very far,” said Todd McLellan. “I thought we played better than the LA game, we made strides.”
But the man in charge in San Jose was quick to note the inefficiencies defensively regarding play around the net.
“I was disappointed with our net play, not only in the net but around the net,” McLellan said. “Basically all five of their goals came from that area. We have to be much more authoritative, we have some big bodies, we have people who have played there for many years and we got to be a lot cleaner in that area.”
One of the plays in particular to which the coach may have been referring to was Mikko Koivu’s second period goal which tied the game at two. Koivu scored from in close at the side of the net and took four-five wacks at the puck before jamming it through the five-hole of Antero Niittymaki.
Clearly it was a goal that Niittymaki would like to have back, but it is simply unacceptable for one player to have that many opportunities to jam home a lose puck. Dany Heatley tried to get back to tie up Koivu but instead of going for the lift and spin move to get inside position on Koivu, Heatley reached out with his stick from a good stride or two away, not the most effective solution.
In haste, Heatley turns to trying to push Koivu off the puck but Koivu had the lower center of gravity and was not going to be moved easily from his position by the side of the net. At this point, Koivu easily keeps swatting away at the loose puck as Heatley had given up on tying up the stick. And eventually, on that fourth/fifth swat, Koivu forces the puck across the line with nobody having taken away his stick.
Not to necessarily pick on Heatley, this play was just a concrete example of how the Sharks weren’t making the proper plays.
Of course it doesn’t help to have one of their best two way players in center Joe Pavelski missing his first game of the season but injuries happen to every team.
All three of Minnesota’s third period goals came virtue of point shots that got through traffic. Wild defenseman Nick Shultz got the primary assist on the tying goal as the rebound of his point shot was finished off by Chuck Kobasew.
A point shot by Brent Burns made it all the way through to the net and past a brilliant screen by former Shark Brad Staubitz to give the Wild a 4-3 lead and Kyle Brodziak’s second goal of the game came virtue of another point shot by Burns. This time around, the shot went wide and a fortuitous bounce off the end boards slid dangerously out to the side of the net. Brodziak was first to it and banked it in off the Sharks defense with Niittymaki scrambling back to the post.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, the Sharks struggled getting point shots even past the first defender. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Niclas Wallin and even Dan Boyle had point shots immediately blocked in that third period. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that; blocking shots defensively and getting pucks through to the net at the other end.
While San Jose’s effort certainly improved in Minnesota, it was the execution of these critical details that must be better in order to win consistently.