The Sharks played with high energy from the opening faceoff. The Wild had better scoring chances early on, but Evgeni Nabokov made big saves on the dangerous Marian Gaborik and the skilled Pavol Demitra.
The Sharks opened the scoring on a Jeremy Roenick tap in goal. The play started with a Patrick Marleau take-away at center ice resulting in a tic-tac-toe passing play that included Curtis Brown. This marked Brown’s first game back after missing 24 games with a hand injury.
The Wild evened the score 49 seconds into the second period on a deflection goal by Stephane Veilleux. The goal resulted from a bad clearing attempt by Nabokov who was playing the puck on the end boards. The Sharks appeared to lose composure after the goal as the Wild poured on the pressure forcing Nabokov to make two more solid saves on Dimetra.
The Sharks eventually regained their poise and took the lead on a pretty backhand goal by Brown for his second point of the night. Roenick notched his second point of the night when he hit the streaking Brown with a tape-to-tape pass that Brown made good on.
The Wild lost defenseman Kurtis Foster when he was pushed into the end boards by Brown. The two were racing to a puck going over the end line as Foster was looking to get the touch for an icing call. Brown put an elbow on the numbers of Foster and he went hard into the boards. He was taken off on a stretcher while being comforted by Roenick.
The Sharks were fortunate that they only received a two-minute tripping penalty on the play. The Wild sustained pressure on the resulting power play, keeping the puck in the zone for an extended period. Nabokov continued his strong play making another save on a hard shot from Radivojevic.
Later in the second period the Wild's Mikko Koivu was called for a trip. The Wild goalie, Niklas Backstrom, was equal to the task, stopping a Campbell shot from the point. The Wild continued to kill off the penalty in a typical Jacques Lemaire, tight-checking, strong defensive fashion.
As the period wound down Brain Ralston shot the puck wide after a turnover by Campbell. This was Campbell’s second questionable play of the night. In the first period he gambled on a puck and was beat by the fast skating Gaborik who took the puck and forced Nabokov to make the save on a hard shot from inside the blue line.
Devin Setoguchi continued to skate hard in the second period to get scoring chances, but could not convert. He had seven shots on the night, but gave the puck away twice. He stepped on the puck late in the third period and went awkwardly into the boards. He skated off under his own power but did not return.
In the third, the two teams showed why they are among the league's best. The checking was tight and the mistakes were few. That ended when the tight checking led to some frustration on the part of the Sharks' Thornton who took a crosschecking penalty near the five-minute mark. The Wild made quick work of it with Gaborik burying a nice feed form Brent Burns to tie the game.
Marleau had a strong third period, setting up teammates, forechecking, and backchecking. The Sharks were savagely outplayed in the faceoff in the third period. This allowed the Wild to gain back some rhythm.
Despite this the Sharks took the lead when Milan Michalek stole the puck on the forecheck and threw it in front. Joe Pavelski grabbed the puck and put it on net with a spin around shot that deflected in off of a Wild defenseman.
With 39 seconds to go in the third period, Christian Ehrhoff was called for a hook. With an empty net and a two-man advantage the Wild tied the game with Gaborik’s second power-play goal of the night.
After a scoreless overtime that saw a rare three-on-three play for two minutes, the game went to the (can-we-get-rid-of-it-please) shootout.
The Sharks opted to shoot first, sending up their shootout specialist Pavelski who put it home stick side. Burns evened the score on his goal for the Wild. After a Marleau miss for the Sharks and a Gaborik miss for the Wild, Roenick went five-hole for a score on Backstrom. Nobokov then made a good save on the speedy Koivu to secure the point, the win, and a playoff spot.
Now comes the real test on Friday when the dreaded Ducks come to the Shark Tank. The Ducks are coming off a win over Dallas and are playing well despite losing players to injury and suspension.
Notes: Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray continued his strong play as he made big hits, cleared passes, and had all-around good puck support. At the start of the game he led the Sharks in plus/minus with a plus 19.
Devin Setoguchi also continued to work hard and play well but still needs to eliminate his lapses in concentration.
Nabokov is still having a career year.
Curtis Brown had a good game back, and Roenick had his best game in several weeks.
Like most Shark fans I am anxiously awaiting the return of Ryan Clowe to the lineup, as he adds major grit.