SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Wild hurled more pucks at the net than it had recently despite getting outshot for the eighth straight game.
But the uptick still could have been higher, a disconnect that was unmistakable in a 4-2 loss to the Sharks on Wednesday at SAP Center on a winless road trip for the Wild that continues Thursday at Vegas.
"We were happy with the looks we're getting," coach Dean Evason said. "We're just not taking it when we get that look. Clearly, that's been an issue."
Goalie Martin Jones made 26 saves, backstopping San Jose to a sweep over the Wild after he was between the pipes for the eight-round shootout win on Monday.
After that game, which was the seventh in a row that the Wild was outshot and sixth time in that span the team has surrendered at least 30 shots, the coaching staff's message to the players was to wind up on more pucks. The group even watched video pregame that highlighted missed chances.
The talking-to seemed to sink in somewhat, with the Wild not getting overwhelmed on the shot clock in the early stages as had been the trend lately. But the team still wasn't as aggressive as it could be, and that proved costly against the Sharks.
"It was very frustrating," Evason said. "We did a whole presentation on passing up shots and just simplifying it. We still tried to look for the better one. We've got to get it through our heads that sometimes it's not a bad thing to get it there and get people around the net and get those second, third opportunities."
Rookie Kaapo Kahkonen, in his first start since his nine-game win streak ended March 20 in a blowout loss at Colorado, kept the game scoreless through the first period. He was especially clutch on the penalty kill, making three stops in a row against Timo Meier, Ryan Donato and Patrick Marleau. Overall, he had 29 saves.
But San Jose pulled away in the second.
Rudolfs Balcers roofed a headman pass from Tomas Hertl over Kahkonen 4 minutes, 41 seconds into the period after getting a step on Ryan Suter.
And on their second power play, the Sharks capitalized when Donato backhanded in a rebound at 9:22. They finished 1-for-3 with the power play, while the Wild went 0-for-2 after not getting a single opportunity on Monday for just the second time this season.
Evason scrambled a few of the lines that period, separating Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello by subbing Marcus Johansson in for Zuccarello; he joined Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman.
Eventually, Kaprizov started playing with Hartman and Fiala and that led to the Wild spoiling Jones' shutout bid.
At 8:23 of the third, Kaprizov scored on a seeing-eye shot through a Hartman screen for his team-leading 12th goal.
But the Sharks quickly reinstated a two-goal cushion at 10:58 on Nikolai Knyzhov's first career NHL goal, and that ended up the game-winner after Zuccarello scored with 13 seconds to go. The Sharks added an empty-net goal from Evander Kane with 1 second remaining.
"We didn't play our best in the first two [periods]," Zuccarello said. "We didn't play like we did in the third. Everyone … played with desperation. I think that's how we have to play all periods every game."
Not only is the Wild still seeking for its first win since a three-day break last week that was hyped as a launching pad for the rest of the season, but the group also appears to be searching for the game that was the catalyst for its previous success.
The team is still playing without Marcus Foligno (injured) and Zach Parise (COVID list).
But the vibe is off, too; the attentiveness and relentless that headlined the surge after the Wild's season was suspended by COVID-19 issues haven't been as visible.
And there isn't much time to figure out solutions.
"We're going into Game 3 of this road trip with one point," Hartman said. "I think that's enough motivation for everybody. We have an opportunity to get five out of eight [points], and that's the most we can get and that's what our goal is here moving forward."