By Daniel Reedy:
The San Jose Sharks need to get defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic back as soon as possible.
In yesterday’s game at the SAP Center, the visiting Minnesota Wild shook off a pair of two-goal deficits to beat the defenseless Sharks, 5-4.
San Jose controlled the first two periods, limiting the Wild to just 11 shots through the first 40 minutes. Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk fended off every Sharks’ attack in the first, but San Jose broke the seal midway through the second period.
Winger Joonas Donskoi scored just his fifth goal of the season, rifling the puck in off a cross-ice pass from rookie forward Kevin Labanc.
A few minutes later, Joe Pavelski knocked in a rebound as the Sharks took a 2-0 lead. The goal was Pavelski’s 13th of the season.
It seemed as though the Sharks would take the two-goal lead into the third period, but with under two minutes remaining, San Jose’s young defenseman Dylan DeMelo had his shot blocked and took a penalty trying to recover.
The Wild capitalized with the man-advantage as forward Zach Parise won the battle for the puck and fed centerman Eric Staal who ripped a shot past Sharks’ netminder Martin Jones. The rejuvenated Staal has thrived in the change of scenery to Minnesota and is having his best year since the 2011-12 season.
Parise followed up with a game-tying goal, which flicked off Jones’ shoulder, barely two minutes into the third, his seventh of the season tying the game at 2.
Within the next two minutes, the Sharks answered with two goals of their own.
Veteran forward Joel Ward crashed the net and knocked in goal number three and his new linemate Patrick Marleau followed suit, firing a shot past Dubnyk to take San Jose’s fourth and final goal of the night.
Sharks’ fans certainly wish the game ended then as the next six minutes were all Minnesota.
One minute after Marleau’s goal, Staal scored again to cut the lead to 4-3.
Wild captain Mikko Koivu took over the game from there, scoring two goals in two minutes to tie the game and take the lead.
Minnesota scored those four, third-period goals on just nine shots.
Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer called the offense’s four goals a “bonus” since the team often wins while only scoring just a few, and was unsurprisingly disappointed with the team’s defensive performance.
“Giving up five goals is inexcusable,” DeBoer said.
When asked about the absence of the nearly always reliable, but currently injured Vlasic, DeBoer said the team can’t blame the injury for the defeat and called on the other players to step up.
“The veterans that are in the lineup need to do a little bit more,” DeBoer said. “It’s not an excuse.”
Vlasic is widely regarded as one of the NHL’s top blueliners but even when he is playing, he’s only on the ice for a third of the game. The Sharks can’t rely on him alone for stops.
With that said, he is sorely missed.
Young defensemen Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller were obvious weak links on the ice. Mueller is raw, but was playing in just his second game of the season. His mistakes shouldn’t be surprising; he just isn’t ready yet.
DeMelo on the other hand was inexcusably awful.
Like Mueller, DeMelo is young and inexperienced, yet he was appalling last night. He took two penalties, had two shots blocked and mishandled several passes which blew offensive opportunities and created chances for the Wild.
DeMelo wasn’t the only Sharks’ defenseman to turn the puck over repeatedly.
With Vlasic out, the team certainly relies on Brent Burns for strong play in the defensive zone in addition to his offensive threat, but the bearded superstar lost the puck for four giveaways.
San Jose’s other defensive star Martin Jones wasn’t terrible since he had little chance on the Wild’s goals, but giving five goals, as DeBoer said, is “inexcusable.”
The Sharks look to end their three-game skid against the Henrik Zetterberg and Red Wings on Saturday.