SAN JOSE – Missing two of their better defensemen is a difficult enough task for the Sharks to overcome. Missing two of their better defensemen combined with a rare rough outing by their goaltender, though, is a recipe for disaster.
And disaster it was on Thursday at SAP Center against Minnesota. San Jose coughed up a pair of two-goal leads while Martin Jones had perhaps his worst full game of the season in a 5-4 loss, the Sharks’ third straight (0-2-1).
The frustrating part of it from San Jose’s perspective is that through two periods, they were playing a nearly perfect game. The Wild had just 11 shots on goal at the second intermission, trailing 2-1, and even though they tied it early in the third, the Sharks got a couple more to reclaim their second two-goal cushion of the night.
But even that wasn’t enough. Justin Braun failed to clear a puck from the defensive zone and that led to Eric Stall’s rebound score, and a pair of goals by Mikko Koivu – one of which came on a terrible rebound by Jones, and the second on a shot from the top of the circle that was also stoppable – capped the scoring in a 5-4 Wild win.
“We were really good for two periods,” Jones said. “Just one of those things, they get a couple bounces, get some momentum, and they really started buzzing there in the third.”
Pete DeBoer said: “We did a lot of really good things up until that point [leading 4-2], then the roof collapsed. We’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding – either a save, or an [offensive] zone shift. We didn’t tonight. That’s what happens.”
The Wild have been one of the hottest teams in the league since the start of December, and had a 12-game winning streak recently snapped on New Year’s Eve. Goalie Devan Dubnyk has been their rock, and entered the night as the NHL’s leader in both save percentage and goals-against average.
Getting four past him was an accomplishment. It should have been enough.
“We’ve been winning a lot of nights with two [goals],” DeBoer said. “The fact we got four is a bonus. That should result in a win, and [it] didn’t tonight.”
While Jones was off his game, the Sharks continue to have utter moments of chaos in their own zone without Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and to a lesser extent, David Schlemko.
Vlasic missed his third straight game since blocking a shot with his face against the Flyers on Dec. 30, and the absence of the team’s best defenseman in his own zone is evident. The Wild spent all kinds of time in San Jose’s zone after getting that third goal, including a long shift that eventually was capped off by Koivu’s game-winner.
“When they were in the zone, I don’t think we were closing as fast as we should. [We were] giving them too much time, and they’re good players,” Braun said. “With time, they’re going to make plays, and they did.”
Braun also pointed out that it wasn’t the inexperienced third defense pair of Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller on the ice for the Wild’s four third period goals. He and partner Brenden Dillon were on for the first two, while Brent Burns and Paul Martin were the pair trying to defend on Koivu’s two.
“It was guys that play regularly, and we’ve got to take more pride in that,” Braun said.
DeBoer said: “We’ve got guys getting an opportunity to play, and the veterans that are in the lineup need to do a little bit more. … Giving up five goals is inexcusable, and you’re not going to win in this league giving up five. That’s on our goalie, our team defense, everybody.”
The coach didn’t let himself off the hook, either, indicating he should have used a timeout at some point in the third period to settle the troops. It was easy to see the Wild were coming hard, but DeBoer opted to save the timeout in case he needed it for a challenge.
“Hindsight, I probably should have [used a timeout],” he said.
Still, he wasn’t going to toss the game tape in the fireplace, despite the late collapse.
“We controlled most of that game,” he said. “The momentum swung, and we didn’t stop it.”
Joel Ward said: “It was a game we had slip out of our hands, but you couldn’t ask for a better position, up by two late in the game.”