SAN JOSE – Zach Parise scored in the third period, the only score of the game in a manned net, sending the nose-diving Sharks to their sixth straight defeat at SAP Center on Saturday night, 2-0.
It took more than 44 minutes of game play, but the Wild finally broke the scoreless tie. Parise was left wide open just outside of the crease, received a pass from Mikael Granlund, and had plenty of time to shoot the puck and get it back to deposit his own rebound at 4:41. Brent Burns and Joonas Donskoi both vacated the front of the net, losing track of the Wild’s most dangerous scorer.
Since returning from sweeping a six-game road trip in November, the Sharks have lost seven of eight games (1-6-1). They are back to .500 on the season (14-14-1), and own just a 4-9-0 mark at home. A five-game road trip begins on Tuesday in Montreal.
Minnesota improved to 4-0-3 in its last seven, and ended a five-game losing streak in San Jose. The Sharks were shut out for the fourth time, as Darcy Kuemper stopped all 25 shots he saw.
Trying to jump on a Wild team that had played and lost the night before in Arizona, the Sharks had the better chances early. Melker Karlsson, Tommy Wingels and Joel Ward, all playing on separate lines, each had good looks at the net over the first few minutes.
Minnesota weathered the storm, though, and the Sharks had to rely on Martin Jones to keep it scoreless. The goalie negated Thomas Vanek’s breakaway with 3:54 to go in the opening frame, and later absorbed up a Mikko Koivu shot from the slot after a lengthy shift by Minnesota in San Jose’s zone.
Neither team was able to crack the scoreboard in the second, either. Jones’ key saves came on a Parise wrist shot midway through the frame, and late on a Wild power play he tracked Matt Dumba’s point blast with 16 seconds to go, not allowing a rebound.
San Jose’s best chance to score in the second came with less then three minutes left. On a two-on-one, Chris Tierney – arguably the Sharks’ best player of the night – tried slipping a pass through to Karlsson, who was bearing down on the net. Karlsson couldn’t find the disc, though, as Koivu grabbed him a bit from behind with no call.
The Sharks pulled Jones with 1:39 left in the third, looking for the equalizer, but Koivu’s empty net goal with 33.6 seconds left capped the scoring.
Coach Pete DeBoer started the game with all new forward lines to try and reverse the team’s downslide. The most notable move was splitting up Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton for the first time this season. That pair had started on the same line in 101 of the previous 106 games they were both active, dating back to the start of the 2014-15 season. They were reunited in the second period, though.
The Sharks were playing their 24th game in the last 26 without Logan Couture, who has been forced from the lineup for the second time this season. The 26-year-old had a procedure on Thursday after he was diagnosed with arterial bleeding in his right thigh area.
On defense, Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned from a three game absence due to a lower body injury.
The Sharks and Wild meet twice more: Jan. 23 at SAP Center and April 5 in St. Paul, in what in San Jose’s third-to-last game of the season.
Neither team scored a power play goal, as the Sharks were 0-for-2 and the Wild 0-for-1. San Jose had scored at least one power play goal in six of eight games prior to Saturday.
Jones started for the seventh time in the last eight games, and took the hard luck loss with 28 saves. He fell to 12-10-1 on the season, and 2-1-0 in his career versus Minnesota.
Kuemper, who also played Friday night in Arizona, recorded his first win in a game he starts (2-0-4). Regular starter Devan Dubnyk is out with a groin injury.
Ryan Carpenter made his NHL debut. The 24-year-old, who leads the Barracuda with 18 points (2g, 16a) in 20 games, was recalled on Friday to replace Matt Nieto, who missed his second straight game with a lower body injury.
Dylan DeMelo played in his second straight game, and fourth of his career, paired with Brenden Dillon as the third defense pair. Mirco Mueller was reassigned to the Barracuda earlier in the week, and Matt Tennyson was scratched.
Pavelski played in his 672nd NHL game, all with the Sharks, passing Mike Rathje for fourth all time in franchise history.
The Sharks will make their third East Coast swing of the season, beginning in Montreal on Tuesday. They also visit Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago and Los Angeles before Christmas, and don’t have another home game until Dec. 28 against Colorado.