The Wild were coming off a game in Columbus, that coach Mike Yeo said that they "can throw that one in the garbage." Returning to the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center, Wild goaltender Josh Harding was tested often and worked the rope-a-dope on the San Jose Sharks. Capitalizing on the very few opportunities, the Wild sent San Jose packing winning 3-1 in front of a sold-out, yet seemingly sleepy, home crowd.
It was scoreless after the first period in which the Sharks outshot the Wild 11-5. The only power play went the way of San Jose, however after Charlie Coyle was called for holding the stick of Joe Thornton. The penalty kill held strong and limited the Sharks to only one real decent chance, but Harding and his defensemen held strong and eliminated the rebound chances. The Wild controlled the dots in this period as well. Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press even reported that Coyle, who has been putrid in faceoffs this year, was 3-for-4.
The penalty kill slowly built momentum for the Wild throughout the second period. The Wild got a big goal from Zach Parise after a Marco Scandella shot bounced around the crease and Jason Pominville until Parise hammered it home. There was a long debate between the on-ice officials about the goal as replays showed the Pominville may have interfered with Antti Niemi. The Sharks tried to respond, but Josh Harding would be equal to the task as he made some fantastic saves with his glove, pads, and even his mask. Mikko Koivu would extend the Wild lead to two with a great move to the high slot where he would unleash a wicked wrister in to the upper left corner. It's the type of shot that you know he has, but you absolutely want to see more of. Minnesota would seem to be pulling out the rope-a-dope after being badly outshot 32-11 through two periods.
Minnesota wouldn't get its first shot on goal in the third period until the 13:37 mark. Josh Harding made some big saves and even got some help from his defensemen. Ryan Suter saved a goal by kicking out a puck that fluttered over Harding and into the crease. It seemed like Harding just was not going to be beaten tonight, but that changed when Patrick Marleau finally cashed in at the 18:19 mark with the extra-attacker on. Niemi would be pulled again, but this time Parise would shoot through Brent Burns to seal this one with an empty-net goal.
The Wild were badly outshot tonight, but not badly out-played. The Wild defensemen held a lot of the 38 shots for the Sharks to the perimeter and Harding helped his defensemen out by controlling his rebounds. Minnesota was efficient by scoring three goals on only 13 shots. The Wild penalty kill held the San Jose power play off the board on all four opportunities. Charlie Coyle was above 60 percent in the faceoff dots which helped the Wild control the dots with a 35 - 29 margin. "I thought Charlie was great with his faceoffs, I thought they started with the puck more..." Yeo said about Coyle improving in the dots. Ryan Suter led all skaters with 31:23 minutes time on ice. Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise scored for the Wild. Josh Harding's goals against average is now a league-leading 1.50, with a .938 save percentage.
1. Will Brent Burns, James Sheppard, Dany Heatley, Torrey Mitchell, or Charlie Coyle make their former teams pay tonight? Nope, other than Sheppard spearing Coyle in the most sensitive of manly places.
2. The San Jose Sharks are in the top-10 of Fenwick % (when the score is close; they're 5th). The Wild are also in the Top-10 of that category (8th), and have gone 4-2-1 against Top-10 Fenwick teams. Can the Wild continue to impress against tough possession teams? The Wild were almost never in possession of the puck tonight, but capitalized on their chances.
3. The Sharks have a ridiculous Top-6. Can the Wild's defense keep them quiet tonight? Kept them off the board. Harding was amazing.
4. Can the Wild get over last game's tired legs and score the first goal? They did score first, and second, and last.
5. Is Mikael Granlund back, yet? No.
Bonus: Is Martin Havlat really not playing tonight? How funny is that? Wouldn't have mattered.