SAN JOSE, Calif. – Dan Boyle delivered a proper finish to his length-of-the-ice rush that helped carry the streaking San Jose Sharks to their sixth straight win.
Boyle scored on a spectacular end-to-end rush with a two-man advantage and Joe Thornton broke a tie with a goal off the skate of a Minnesota defender to move the Sharks up in the standings with a 4-2 win over the Wild on Wednesday night.
“I’ve had a lot of highlight rushes, but I never seem to finish it with a goal,” Boyle said. “It was nice to put it away and get a little momentum for our team.”
Marty Havlat got the scoring started for San Jose, TJ Galiardi also scored and Antti Niemi made 31 saves to help the Sharks move into a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference. San Jose was in ninth place before this streak started last Monday.
“We want to catch teams,” Thornton said. “Most of the teams we’ve been playing lately have been ahead of us. We’re trying to hunt teams down and secure a good spot in the playoffs.”
Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild, who lost for the third time in four games following a seven-game winning streak. Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves as Minnesota lost consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 12-14 to fall into a tie for the Northwest Division lead with Vancouver.
“It’s been tough for a couple of games now,” Backstrom said. “We have a system that works. We have to get back to the details and doing the right thing. We have to be better with the puck and get a chance to play more in their end.”
The game ended with a scrum in front of the net that left Heatley hurt after being slashed in the arm by Marc-Edouard Vlasic. While the Wild were upset by the play, Vlasic said he was just retaliating. He received a game misconduct and a major penalty for the infraction.
“If he’s going to slash me, I’m going to defend myself and just swing back and unfortunately I got him,” Vlasic said. “I didn’t want to hurt him.”
Both teams made moves earlier in the day before the trade deadline with Minnesota acquiring forward Jason Pominville from Buffalo and the Sharks getting forward Raffi Torres from Phoenix and defenceman Scott Hannan from Nashville.
Minnesota overcame a slow start to tie the game with a pair of goals by players acquired from San Jose in a 25-second span midway through the second period.
Coyle, sent to the Wild in the deal for Brent Burns in 2011, fed the puck to Zach Parise, who was stopped on a shot and rebound attempt. But as the rebound of the second shot was trickling wide, Coyle reached his stick in and tipped the puck into the empty net.
Heatley, traded for Havlat two summers ago, then beat Niemi with a blast from the top of the circle to tie the game at 2.
The Sharks went back ahead after the Wild kept turning the puck over as they tried to clear the zone. The last turnover came when Burns took the puck from Jared Spurgeon and fed it to Thornton, whose pass back to Burns hit off Clayton Stoner’s skate and into the net to give San Jose a 3-2 lead heading to the third.
“It was a matter of execution,” Minnesota forward Kyle Brodziak said. “We made too many mistakes and a good team like that will capitalize on mistakes made in our own end.”
Galiardi scored his first power-play goal since 2009 early in the third when he poked in a rebound with Cal Clutterbuck out for hooking Andrew Desjardins.
The Sharks got off to another fast start, getting a goal from Havlat just 1:34 into the game. Boyle then delivered his breathtaking goal with the Sharks on a two-man advantage when Stoner shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game with Brodziak already in the box for hooking. Minnesota won the faceoff following Stoner’s penalty and cleared the puck.
Boyle retrieved it deep in San Jose’s zone and started his rush from behind the goal. He went straight up the middle and juked Ryan Suter inside the blue line before stickhandling past Backstrom to knock in the backhand to make it 2-0.
“Wow,” coach Todd McLellan said. “You could feel the excitement for him. There were a lot of wows. It was a pretty impressive individual rush.”
The Wild were fortunate the deficit wasn’t bigger after the first period. Patrick Marleau hit a post, Backstrom poke-checked the puck away from Galiardi on a breakaway and Suter then cleared a puck out of the crease after Burns’ shot hit Backstrom’s glove and trickled toward the net.
NOTES: Four of Boyle’s six goals this season have come in 5-on-3 situations. … Pominville is expected to join the Wild in Los Angeles on Thursday before they play the Kings. … Torres is expected to join the Sharks on Thursday and could play Friday night against Calgary.