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Niederreiter is Wild’s new OT hero as Wild tops Sharks 4-3

NHL: Minnesota Wild at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

After squandering a 3-0 lead, the Wild gathered themselves into overtime, controlled the puck, and Nino Niederreiter found the back of the net top put the Wild over the San Jose Sharks to wrap up a three-game road trip to California. Ryan Murphy scored a power play goal and Eric Staal scored two before Niederreiter’s overtime heroics.

The Wild started well in the first period. Minnesota had a game plan to protect Alex Stalock, a former San Jose Shark, and to get on the board early. After keeping the Sharks to just one shot through five minutes, the Wild would get an early power play. Jason Zucker connected with Ryan Murphy on the weak side for the first goal of the game. The Wild had to make a few plays to save puck possession in the zone, but after Staal sent the puck to Zucker below the goal line, it looked like everyone was on guard for the centering pass to Charlie Coyle in the slot. Murphy, instead, became an option as he pinched down low from the blue line and put the Wild up 1-0.

About halfway through the first, the Wild would get on the board again. Nino Niederreiter would break the Sharks’ line, but with immediate pressure by the San Jose defenders, Nino slowed up and sent the puck back to Mikael Granlund. Granlund moved the puck to the left offensive circle for Ryan Suter. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones expected Suter to one-time the puck and flopped toward Suter. However, Suter waited, and waited...and waited some more as he circled the net and found Staal’s stick with at wide open net. Minnesota was up 2-0 in the period, and the Sharks don’t give up a lot either.

Eric Staal would add a second in the second period. The puck caromed off the end boards after a Murphy shot missed the net wide. Staal just did tuck the puck in over the goal line for his second of the game.

The Wild’s momentum was slowed as the first went on because of two penalties the Wild had to kill. In the second period, penalties for Minnesota really became the issue in the game. Early, the story lines would have been the way special teams decided the outcome in the game. Wild cashed in on their man-advantage, while the penalty was very effective. However, no matter how good the PK is, if there’s four penalties in one period alone, any PK unit will get gassed.

Near the end of the 2nd period, the Wild were called to two minors in the same shift. Ryan Murphy was nabbed for hooking, and Staal for holding. It gave the Sharks a full minute of 4-on-3 and a full minute of 5-on-3 time. The Wild were effective in the 4v3 portion, not allowing much of anything. But Jonas Brodin blocked a Brent Burns shot and was hobbled a bit, and couldn’t get off the ice. The Sharks eventually oved the puck back to Burns in the left offensive circle for a one-timer that beat Stalock over the blocker. The Wild were seven seconds from getting Staal and Murphy back on the ice, and less than a minute from getting out of the period with a 3-0 score. Instead, the goal gave the Sharks a chance heading into the final frame.

Gustav Olofsson gave the Sharks a break early in the third with a tripping penalty. It would be Brent Burns again, from the blue line, who shot a frozen rope into the upper left corner of the net - just a laser beam - to bring the Sharks within a goal.

Minnesota couldn’t handle the barrage that ensued from the Sharks after that goal. Stalock made a couple saves he probably didn’t know he made, and some spectacular ones that kept the Wild in the lead. But he’d like to have Tomas Hertl goal back that tied the game. In an attempt to freeze the puck, Stalock chased puck that rolled off of him and tried to cover with his glove hand. But he didn’t have it and it went straight to Hertl for the Sharks to tie the game. It was an insane couple minutes of hockey as the Wild couldn’t do anything to get the puck out of the zone, and allowed the Sharks to come all the way back.

It was clear all the penalty killing, 14 minutes in all, was taking a toll on the Wild. The horn to sound the period couldn’t come soon enough for the Wild to re-group and give them a chance to still get the victory.

Bruce Boudreau went with Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, and most recent OT hero, Matt Dumba to start the 3-on-3 sudden death period. After a couple line changes, including lot of puck possession, but no shots coming, Dylan Demelo coughed the puck up to Nino in the Sharks’ end. Nino just had to shoot the puck and it went in. Wild let a 3 goal lead slip away, but the salvaged a point, and took the 2nd point in a very tough place to play. The SAP Center is a loud, raucous arena, and the Bay Area has taken to hockey quite well since the Sharks were awarded to former North Stars owners Gordon and George Gund (the ones who sold the team to Norm Green and the rest of the Baldwin Group) in 1991.

The Wild will head back to St. Paul to take on the Calgary Flames next. Minnesota has a 4-1 record in its last five games. Let’s hope it continues.