(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
By Ryan Donaldson
The Wild are seeking their first playoff berth in four years. The mission for the post-season continued Thursday night in
Minnesota did themselves no favors in the opening period of play after former Wild forward Martin Havlat tossed a centering pass in front of Niklas Backstrom that was inadvertantly deflected in by MN Captain Mikko Koivu. The Wild were not able to get anything generated offensively and after several Sharks’ scoring chances; Backstrom and the Wild headed into the first intermission down just 1-0.
Martin Havlat continued his bullying of his former club after drawing a penalty against Stoner. The vulnerable Wild could not afford to give up an additional goal, but Logan Couture received a pass from Patrick Marleau and in tic-tac-toe like fashion, one-timed the puck past the helpless Backstrom to give SJ all the momentum and a 2-0 edge.
The deflated Wild got just the spark they needed before the end of the period after a beautiful pass from newly acquired Jason Pominville connected with a streaking Pierre Marc-Bouchard leading to a breakaway. Bouchard showed off his quick hands and cut the San Jose lead in half after his deke and backhander found the top shelf over the shoulder of Sharks' goaltender Niemi.
Before the end of the period, Martin Havlat once again jumped on an opportunity to bury his former team. After Backstrom whiffed on a clearing attempt, the puck deflected out to an isolated Havlat who did not miss the wide open net. The gift of a goal for the Sharks gave San Jose the 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
The Wild allowed Raffi Torres to slide home a wrap around shot which made it a lop-sided 4-1 score to open up the 3rd period. Within a blink of an eye, a flustered Backstrom allowed a 5th goal get past him after a wrist shot from the hashmarks scurried through his five hole. Yeo pulled Backstrom immediately in favor of Darcy Keumper, who has seen extremely limited action in recent weeks. Keumper's rust was very apparant as he allowed a quick goal to make it a 6-1 blowout. The 6-1 score held, and despite the demoralizing loss, Minnesota will return to home ice after an otherwise successful (2-1) westcoast road trip.
A somber Niklas Backstrom told the media after the loss "We didn't deserve anything tonight." Minnesota fell to 24-17-3, and 7th place in the Western Conference, just two points ahead of the 8th place Columbus Blue Jackets. The Wild will look to regroup when they host familiar Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center Sunday evening at 5PM on the FAN!