The San Jose Sharks will be playing their fifth game, since their losing streak hit six games, Wednesday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings. They have not lost since that skid, giving them two four-game winning streaks and a seven-game point streak this season.
San Jose's new mascot should be Tommy Smothers (the yo-yo-man...ask your parents—they will understand the reference).
As much as it was disappointing they had lost five of those six at home and three against teams with worse records, all four wins have been against teams ahead of them in the standings at the time, and two on the road.
The primary reason is the Sharks have begun scoring. After scoring nine goals in the first seven games of the month, the Sharks scored four in three of the wins on this streak (winning the other game 2-1).
The latest victim was the Minnesota Wild, a team that had beaten the Sharks in both previous matches, allowing just three total goals. But it took less than 12 minutes for San Jose to put one by Niklas Backstrom, as Logan Couture took a head-man pass from Jason Demers and let a rocket wrist shot go that clanked off the crossbar and in.
But the Wild answered quickly. In under two minutes, their captain Mikko Koivu put a slapshot by fellow-countryman Annti Niemi on the power play to even the score. It was the seventh game in a row in which Minnesota—not known for power play prowess—tallied a goal vs. the Sharks with the man-advantage and ended San Jose's streak of 18 consecutive kills.
It also led to them controlling play the rest of the period, but the Sharks turned up the heat in the second period. For the second game in a row, they registered 25 shots in the middle frame, with Devin Setoguchi scoring twice in the first seven minutes. But Minnesota registered 10 shots of their own, and Koivu put home another power-play goal to keep the game tight.
The Sharks came into the contest having given up 14 more goals than they scored in the third period, but Benn Ferriero made a nice move near the goal to put the home team back up by two in the first four minutes. With under four minutes left, Brent Burns got that goal back, but the Wild could never get the equalizer.
In all, San Jose registered 42 shots to Minnesota's 26 while only having two more miss the net (11-9) and two more get blocked (13-11). San Jose had only a 35-29 (.547) edge in the faceoff circle, but out hit Minnesota 22-16 despite controlling the puck more (leading to two more penalties, however).
This level of effort needs to be maintained from the Sharks because of the competitiveness of the Western Conference. Two games separate the sixth-best and 14th best records. A win Wednesday could give them the fifth best record (in point percentage, not total points—Anaheim has played two more games) in the West, while a loss could drop them to 11th.
What a difference between those outlooks heading into the All-Star break.