SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Minnesota Wild has played itself out of the top eight in the Western Conference for the first time since Nov. 1.
It has only its lousy play outside of Minnesota to blame.
The Wild, a completely different team on the road compared to at home, was en route to its fifth consecutive road loss mere minutes into Thursday's game against the San Jose Sharks.
The problems prior have been a lack of execution, turnovers and soft plays in the offensive zone. The Wild added a new wrinkle on this night -- a lack of discipline as the Sharks scored three power-play goals on seven chances to send the Wild off into the chilly North California night reeling after a 3-1 loss at the Shark Tank.
"(That's) not the way you want to start a game," Wild winger Jason Pominville said. "They've drawn the most penalties in the league and they showed it tonight."
Now, not every penalty was deserved.
In fact, Zenon Konopka was nailed for a double-minor high-stick in the second period when his lumber didn't even come close to hitting defenseman Jason Demers. It was actually Sharks center Freddie Hamilton who clipped his teammate.
Konopka said he told the referee right away it was the wrong call and "of course, they scored on it."
Added Konopka: "We put ourselves in this position and now we have to get ourselves out. We'll be fine."
Nevertheless, the Wild, which actually had the better of the play most of the night at even-strength, fell behind by three goals on Joe Pavelski's second goal of the game. At that point, the Sharks were outshooting the Wild 26-12, with 18 of their shots coming on six power plays.
Jonas Brodin scored the Wild's lone goal at 12:36 of the third period for his sixth goal of the season.
The Wild, which has been outscored 14-4 and trailed 2-0 in each game during its 0-4-1 road slide, fell to 5-8-3 on the road and dropped to ninth in the West. The team is tied with Phoenix and Vancouver with 41 points, but the Coyotes have played three fewer games and the Canucks one fewer.
The Wild fell to 1-8 in its past nine visits to San Jose and 2-11-1 in its past 14. Niklas Backstrom fell to 1-9-1 all-time in San Jose.
Since Mikael Granlund's concussion nine games ago, the Wild's struggling second line has consisted of snake-bit Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle and a series of wingers, from Dany Heatley to Pominville to Jason Zucker to, on Thursday, Justin Fontaine.
Wild coach Mike Yeo decided to scratch Zucker one game after calling him up and elevate Fontaine, who has no goals since Nov. 9, from the fourth line. The move backfired.
In the first 12:47, the Wild put San Jose on the power play four times. Fontaine took two of the penalties.
With the Wild actually off to a good start, Fontaine's high-sticking minor on Brad Stuart led to Pavelski giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead 5:54 into the game. His shot from atop the left circle sailed by Niklas Backstrom through Patrick Marleau's screen.
"It must be nice to draw penalties," Yeo said later about Fontaine's minor, adding that Stuart's embellishment was "embarrassing."
It was the eighth consecutive road game the Wild surrendered the first goal.
After the Wild killed off a Ryan Suter interference penalty, Fontaine took an offensive-zone holding penalty. Thirty seconds later, Matt Cooke was tagged for tripping Joe Thornton.
That gave the Sharks a 90-second 5-on-3. The Wild killed the two-man advantage, but with four seconds left in Cooke's minor, Jonas Brodin's giveaway resulted in Tomas Hertl's power-play goal for a 2-0 San Jose lead.
To put the four power plays in 12:47 in perspective, the Wild has drawn three or fewer power plays in 14 of the past 15 games. The Sharks got seven power plays in the game; the most the Wild's gotten this season is six, and that was once four games into the season.
The Wild drew two power plays Thursday but couldn't get one by Antti Niemi. During one crazy sequence late in the second period, the Wild pinned the Sharks in their zone for what seemed like an infinite stretch.
But it was aggravating to watch. Despite the Sharks breaking two sticks and constantly failing to clear the zone, the Wild barely made Niemi make a save. It played on the perimeter, fired pucks wide and kept putting passes in teammate's skates (a constant sight in this game).
By the time the Wild players got to the bench, Suter logged a 3:07 shift and Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Pominville and Jared Spurgeon all logged 21/2-minute shifts.
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