The San Jose Sharks brought their A-game on the road Monday night and blanked the Minnesota Wild 3-0 to overtake first place in the Pacific division.
San Jose goaltender Martin Jones stopped 24 shots for the shutout.
The Sharks and Wild may not have been playing a playoff game on Monday night, but boy did it look like one. Both teams played tough and tight and refused to give each other any room. That is, until San Jose broke through in the second half.
Here are three takeaways from the season series finale:
Defense-heavy game: And not just because this was a low-scoring game. A low-scoring game can be the result of weak offense. The back-and-forth and shot-for-shot nature of Monday’s Sharks-Wild game was the work of two teams who buckled down and refused to give the opposition any room to work. (Honorable mention: Martin Jones, who tallied his third shutout of the season.)
You really have to give credit to the Sharks, who used their size to get around Minnesota’s defense. Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl were standouts in getting dangerous looks right in Devan Dubnyk’s grill -- even before they worked together to get the second goal on the evening. And, of course, Barclay Goodrow, who was posted up in front of Minnesota’s goal, deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot into the net.
Hats off to the penalty kill: The penalty kill was really good for both teams. San Jose had two opportunities on the man advantage in the first frame that could have given them an early lead. Minnesota, however, did a good job of breaking up the Sharks’ plays.
But the Sharks’ penalty kill was equally as effective when the Wild got two opportunities in the second stanza. San Jose had a problem killing penalties during a recent stretch, so it was definitely nice to see them tighten that aspect of their game up -- especially against a desperate team like Minnesota, who was pressing.
It always helps to win the first one: Sure, the Sharks have already played a ridiculous number of back-to-backs this season. But prevailing in the first game can really give a team a good boost they can carry into the following evening.
Winning such a tight game in Minnesota is great fuel for the Sharks before they play in Winnipeg on Tuesday. The Jets are just barely holding onto first place in the Central division and lost to San Jose when the teams last matched up. Having positive momentum coming out of the win over the Wild should set the Sharks up nicely.