SAN JOSE, CALIF. – The Wild, which hasn’t had a full practice in well more than a week because of a heavy schedule, looked like it Wednesday night.
A short-lived rally from two goals down against the San Jose Sharks was spoiled when the Wild began running around its own zone aimlessly and turning pucks over en route to a 4-2 loss at the Shark Tank.
Not spurred at all by the Jason Pominville trade earlier in the day, the Wild, which lost for the third time in four games, was a mess all night. The final straw came less than four minutes after former Sharks draft pick Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley scored goals 25 seconds apart to get the Wild back in a game it had no right to be in.
A remarkably bad shift started with Heatley falling and turning the puck over. That was followed by a Kyle Brodziak turnover, then Heatley not getting the puck out, then Jared Spurgeon coughing up the puck and finally Joe Thornton’s centering feed being redirected behind Niklas Backstrom off of defenseman Clayton Stoner.
It capped a nightmarish game by Stoner, one full of turnovers, penalties, curious decisions and poor positioning.
The Wild got off to a horrible start, getting scored upon first for the fourth consecutive game. The Sharks had a 2-0 lead by the intermission.
“Just another bad start for us,” Zach Parise said. “It’s kind of been the common theme the last while. Not good enough when you’re playing these teams that … are doing everything they can and playing their best to try to get in the playoffs, I think we expect easy games. Our starts are really killing us."
The Wild was lucky it wasn’t at least 5-0 because Patrick Marleau hit the post, Ryan Suter, who had one of his worst games in weeks, stopped a Brent Burns shot from trickling in and TJ Galiardi was denied on a breakaway.
After the Sharks already took a 1-0 lead on former Wild Martin Havlat’s fifth goal, Stoner, with nobody on him, airmailed a puck into the stands with Brodziak already in the penalty box. That gave the Sharks a long 5-on-3, and Dan Boyle, a defenseman, made a sick move around another defenseman, Suter, after skating untouched coast to coast to slip a pretty breakaway goal by Backstrom.
But the Wild started to slowly get the momentum back and tied the score on goals by Coyle and Heatley.
However, after Thornton’s goal, it was all San Jose as the Wild again looked disjointed in the third.
The game ended in ugly fashion when Heatley and former teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who were battling all night, got into a violent battle in front of the San Jose net.
Vlasic two-handed Heatley across the arm and then jumped him to the ice. Heatley skated in pain back to the Wild bench looking like he sustained an upper-body injury.
“He just swung at me and I swung at him,” Vlasic said. “He could have easily hit me. I wasn’t intending to hurt him. I just wanted to slash him because he took a swing at me and missed. He got me the shift before. If he’s going to slash me, I’m going to defend myself and just swing back and unfortunately I got him.
"I didn’t want to hurt him. If he’s going to slash me I was just defending myself and swung back.