The Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks played a late game on the west coast Thursday night. At one point, there were some fears that this game might be canceled or postponed due to some coronavirus concerns in the San Jose area, but the NHL decided to have this game go on as scheduled. It’s the first of a three-game west coast road trip against the three teams at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, and an excellent opportunity for the Wild to pick up some much-needed points in their playoff race.
The Wild brought some good offensive pressure right from the start of the game, but then quickly quieted down. Most of the first two minutes was spent in front of the Sharks’ net, but nothing found its way in. The Sharks had most of the shots the next several minutes, but that didn’t keep the Wild from eventually striking first. Off of a face-off win by Mikko Koivu, Ryan Hartman passed the puck to Ryan Suter on the blue line, who then fired it past Martin Jones to make it 1-0 Minnesota.
With about seven minutes to go, Brad Hunt took the games’s first penalty. He went off for hooking, and the Wild penalty kill looked pretty good for the first minute of the power play. Once the Sharks were able to get set up offensively, Stefan Noesen redirected a shot past Stalock, and the game was tied at 1-1. That is where the score would remain at the end of the first period. Overall, it was not a great first period for the Wild. It was not necessarily bad, Minnesota looked good at times, but San Jose definitely looked better overall.
Both teams exchanged scoring chances during the first half of the second period. Kevin Fiala had a nice look after a nice setup from Zach Parise. Stalock needed to make a good stop to deny Marcus Sorensen. About nine minutes into the period, Greg Pateryn took the game’s second penalty. The Wild responded with a strong penalty kill, and that work gave them some momentum. Less than a minute later, Alex Galchenyuk picked up his second goal in a Wild sweater.
A shot from Suter on the point hit some traffic and ended up on the stick of Galchenyuk, who backhanded it over and past Jones. Just about three minutes later, Zach Parise added to the lead.
Next came some excellent skating by Fiala as he entered the zone and a pass to Kunin, who then perfectly set up Parise for the easy tap-in. The goal gave Parise a four-game goal streak and the assist extended Fiala’s point streak to six.
The third period began with an early Wild penalty by Matt Dumba and another successful penalty kill by Minnesota. Despite not scoring on the power play, the Sharks generated some good scoring opportunities. Joe Thornton eventually capitalized on one of these chances and made it 3-2 with about eleven minutes remaining. At this point in the period, the Sharks were all over the Wild and had their chances to tie the game. The Sharks took a penalty with 9:30 remaining, but the Wild could barely enter the zone on the ensuing man-advantage, let alone generate any offensive chances and were unable to regain their two-goal lead. It did not take the Sharks long after returning to even-strength to get back to applying pressure on the Wild. It felt like for much of the remainder of the game the Wild were just trying to get the clock to run out before the Sharks could score one more. Fortunately for Minnesota, that is exactly what happened. The Sharks, despite having some great chances, could not find the equalizer, and the Wild were still ahead when time ran out. It was not for a lack of trying by San Jose. They put 42 shots on goal, but Stalock managed to turn away 40 of them.
1. Wild begin road trip on right note
This road trip represented an excellent opportunity for the Wild to gain some important ground in the playoff standings as they play the three teams at the bottom of the Western Conference. They got their road trip started off the right way with an important win over San Jose to move into the top Wild Card spot in the west. The Wild will look to make it 2-for-2 on this trip and seven straight road wins when they play Los Angeles Saturday afternoon.
2. Fiala and Parise extend streaks
Fiala extended his point streak to six games with his assist on the Parise goal. By only notching the single point, his multi-point streak ends at five games. Even with just the single point, Fiala has been excellent. He was 12 points in his last six games and is emerging as a star on this Wild team.
Parise extended his goal streak to four consecutive games when he scored his 25th goal of the year in the second period. His two points on the night give him seven total in his past five games.
The two leading goal-scorers for the Wild are continuing to produce for this team and it is continuing to result in wins. They have been a huge reason why the Wild have climbed as far as they have in the playoff standings. These streaks are not going to last forever though, and the Wild will need others to pick up the slack when Fiala and Parise inevitably cool off.
3. Stalock continues to impress
Honestly, impress is an underestimate. Stalock was excellent tonight for the Wild. The Wild allowed the Sharks to be all over them at times, giving up 42 shots. But Stalock hung in there, turning away all but two of them. Stalock has now won six of his last seven starts. With Devan Dubnyk struggling at times this season, the Wild needed Stalock to step up and be more than just a decent backup. He has answered that call and more, turning into a reliable No. 1 goaltender for the time being.