SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Wild center Eric Staal has been in the NHL since 2003, racking up almost 1,200 regular-season games in 16 years.
And in his experience, the slash that winger Ryan Hartman put on the Sharks' Evander Kane didn't match the punishment — a major and misconduct in the third period that took precious attacking time away from the Wild as it tried to rally, a comeback that ulitmately fell short 6-5 to the Sharks Thursday at SAP Center.
Through two games, the Wild is 1-1 on its four-game road trip.
"I've played for a long time and I played a lot of years ago, and that was a pretty common slash back in the day," Staal said. "I don't think it's a major, but it is what it is. They called it. Great job [penalty] killing. We had some chances to tie it 6. Wasn't able to get it by the net."
After the Wild scored two goals earlier in the period to get to 6-4, Hartman levied a one-handed whack with his backhand to the left leg of Kane. Before that, Kane cross-checked Hartman and was penalized for it. But the Wild received the stiffer punishment.
After the game, Hartman declined to comment.
It wasn't the deciding factor in the game, but the sequence was a pivotal moment — especially since the Wild scored a fifth once it was back to full strength.
But perhaps the team wouldn't have even been playing catch up if it wasn't for its horrendous first period.
As a division rival to the Sharks when he was behind the bench in Anaheim, coach Bruce Boudreau is quite familiar with playing in San Jose.
"They try to win the game in the first period," he said.
The Wild was aware of this, and it expected a heavy push from its hosts even with the Sharks struggling to start the season.
So when the team was tagged for four goals in the opening frame, it wasn't surprised but it was frustrated — especially since the Wild worked its way back into the game.
"We weren't ready to play," Boudreau said.
San Jose scored four goals on 12 shots, getting the first in the first minute and adding another before the 6-minute mark. Goals 3 and 4 came with less than 5 minutes to play.
"It was a terrible start," Staal said. "I'm not going to make any excuses. Just wasn't good starting with my line. Disappointing because we talked about it. We know they like to come out fast and hard in the first period, and they did. And we just made some errors and some bonehead plays, and it cost us."
The Wild's coverage in its own end was spotty, particularly on the fourth goal when the Sharks broke in on goalie Alex Stalock at a 4-on-2 advantage.
"They played fast," Stalock said. "They came out ready. We know they come out fast here. We know what they do. They get the puck in to change sides and get the puck in the middle of the ice, and they kind of dominated the middle of the ice early on. They had chances and they scored on that."
Stalock was pulled after the first, getting replaced by Devan Dubnyk in the 500th game of his career. Dubnyk ended up taking the loss, giving up two goals in the second before making 12 stops in the third.
The Wild also finished the game shorthanded since winger Marcus Foligno didn't play after the first period, leaving with a lower-body injury.
Boudreau said he didn't know the severity of the issue, but there should be an update Friday when the team practices in San Jose before departing for Arizona.