HP PAVILION — The trade deadline and exodus of Ryane Clowe dominated San Jose Sharks news this week, but the team was hard at work Wednesday night putting the smackdown — on the scoreboard and the ice — on the Minnesota Wild, taking the midweek match 4-2.
The victory increases the Sharks’ win streak to six, five in which the Sharks have scored the first goal. When asked about the confidence that comes from scoring first, captain Joe Thornton answered modestly:
“You know, I don’t know what the stats are, but I’m sure if you score the first goal, you’ve got a real good shot of winning the game. We just come out of the gate so strong, we feel like we’re well prepared and ready to go. … It’s real contagious right now.”
San Jose didn’t waste any time getting on the board, as Shark — and former-Wild, for that matter — Martin Havlat would coast into the blue paint and wrist a shot past Niklas Backstrom for his fifth goal of the season at 1:34 in the first period.
Thornton and Brent Burns, also formerly of Minnesota, would tally assists as the Sharks took the 1-0 lead. It would be Thornton’s 782nd career assist.
The Wild would get themselves into penalty trouble soon after, with overlapping trips to the box putting San Jose on the 5-on-3.
With 1:43 left on the power play, Dan Boyle would get a magnificent rush down the ice and notch his sixth goal of the year, putting the Sharks up 2-0 at 5:19.
One might think Boyle’s rush would be one for his personal record books. Boyle said post-game that it did, in fact, rank quite high with another goal he had against the Wild:
Sharks Defenseman Dan Boyle
“Probably second. The nicest one I scored was actually against Minnesota years ago when I was in Tampa. And Burns-y was on defense (laughs) … So you guys can look that one up.”
Despite keeping pressure on Backstrom the Sharks would not score again in the first. San Jose would also miss a handful of chances to put the puck back in the net into the second period.
At 10:33 in the middle period, former Shark prospect Charlie Coyle would get the puck on the rebound and — while Antti Niemi was still on his knees blocking the previous shot — would shoot it to the back of the net to put the Wild on the board 2-1.
The assault from former teammates continued with a slap shot by Dany Heatley at 10:58 to tie the game 2-2.
But the tie wouldn’t hold, as Brent Burns would feed the puck to Thornton for a wrist shot past Backstrom’s right shoulder at 14:42 to put San Jose back on top, 3-2.
The sold-out crowd would erupt into a fury of boos at 6:13 in the third when a scuffle broke out behind Minnesota’s net during a Sharks power play.
Penalties would put San Jose on the 4-on-3, and while on the man advantage, Havlat would get the puck on the rebound and feed it to TJ Galiardi who would “push” the puck in for his second goal of the season. Scott Gomez get an assist, and the Sharks would increase their lead 4-2.
Galiardi, who hasn’t seen much play time this season, was humbled when talking about the power play opportunity:
“It kinda caught me off guard there when they threw me out there! … Yeah (Ryan) Suter gave me a nice little crosscheck there from behind and called me an expletive (laughs), but then it’s sitting right there for me after that. As long as you stick around, you usually get lucky.”
Minnesota would explode for 18 shots in the third period, but Niemi was present to stop everything — including a dogpile-turned-fight with 2:46 left to play — from getting to the back of the net.
Another multi-player pile-up with :32 left in regulation would lead to a flurry of shots at Niemi, none of which the Wild would be able to capitalize on.
The frustrated Minnesota squad would continue to fire at Niemi and back up their lack of score by throwing punches at the Sharks.
When a shot right at the buzzer didn’t go in, the Sharks and Wild would engage in one huge brawl, in which Marc-Edouard Vlasic earned a game misconduct by sending Heatley bent over in pain as he very slowly rolled off the rink.
Sharks Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
“He took a swing at me and missed. I took a swing at him and got him. That’s what it is … I wasn’t intending to hurt him, I just wanted to slash him because he took a swing at me and missed, but he got me the shift before.”
The crowd would be a confusion of jeers and cheers as the Wild took their time crawling off the ice.
Not too much love lost between these two teams, in which so many opponents used to wear the same sweater? Thornton said dryly:
“It’s hockey. Once you throw on your jerseys and you stand on opposite sides, it’s, you know. … We’re not friends anymore.”
Head Coach Todd McLellan summed up the 4-2 victory, and the Sharks’ six-game win streak after the game:
“Maybe we’re prepared, on our toes a little bit more than we were early in the year. . .We seem to start well here at home, guys are excited about playing in-front of our fans. We get all four lines rolling, and when we get that we can stay fresh and jump on teams.”
The Sharks will be back in action at home Friday, April 5 to host the Calgary Flames. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.