After the sham that is the All-Star balloting, the NHL named the rest of the rosters Thursday. The next step will be choosing captains, who will select their teammates Jan. 26.
San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan sewed up one head coaching spot when the Sharks had the best point percentage in the Western Conference on Tuesday, Jan. 10. (It is interesting to note that players are not chosen or assigned based on conference, but coaches are.)
The Sharks began a stretch of 17 road games in the next 23 by taking on the Minnesota Wild, a team that had dropped 12 of 13. The hosts were playing without former Shark Devin Setoguchi, who was inactive for being late to a team meeting.
San Jose's shooters struggled against defenders in shooting lanes, missing eight shots and getting two fewer on goal than their opponent. Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck got the first goal 7:05 into the game—a wrist shot from the stick-side faceoff circle that Antti Niemi should have stopped.
But two quick penalties on Minnesota late in the first led to a five-on-three goal by Dan Boyle (Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton assisting) that tied the game. Penalties would hurt the Sharks in the second stanza, normally their best period.
In the first half of the second, Minnesota hit another gear. While the Sharks out shot them 4-2 because they had four more blocks, the Wild was able to gain enough momentum to draw a tripping penalty on Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
The Sharks killed the penalty, but Minnesota controlled the play for more than a minute after it was over (6-1 in shot attempts, 4-0 in shots on goal). They took the lead on a goal by Warren Peters 13:26 into the second.
Another penalty in the final two minutes allowed them to finish the period with a 21-15 edge in shots and 2-1 on the scoreboard. But the Sharks came out in the third attempting 12 of the first 18 shots and getting nine of the first 11 on net.
Unfortunately, the next shot was a Minnesota goal similar to the first. It gave them what might be considered a commanding 3-1 lead considering their defensive focus, but San Jose was not done: Benn Ferriero needed only 2:05 to answer, with assists by Vlasic and Boyle.
Again the Wild answered, putting six of the next seven shots on goal, including one that hit the back of the net by Matt Cullen with just 6:20 to go. The forward was playing in his 1000th game.
With 3:06 to go, Couture got his big goal (assisted by Brent Burns and Boyle) to make it a game again. On the next shot just 22 seconds later, Patrick Marleau tied the game (Thornton and Joe Pavelski assists). But despite carrying that momentum to register nine of the remaining 11 shots, the game remained tied through the shootout.
That is where Minnesota's superior goaltending Tuesday night carried them to victory. Josh Harding turned away both Sharks shooters while Niemi allowed goals on both shots, giving Minnesota the 5-4 win.
For the game, faceoffs were even but the Sharks had an edge in giveaways (2-10) and takeaways (5-4) and thus attempted 10 more shots and were out hit 20-13. Minnesota showed why it is the best shot-blocking team in the league with a 17-11 edge over San Jose.
The Sharks are in Winnipeg to play the Jets Thursday night.