ST. PAUL, Minn. – On the scoreboard and in the standings, the San Jose Sharks were a winning team again.
But on the ice, they’re still struggling to play the part of Western Conference co-leaders.
Christian Ehrhoff’s overtime goal sailed over Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom’s stick and salvaged a badly needed victory on Tuesday night for the Sharks, who blew a three-goal lead but managed to beat the Wild 5-4.
“We’ll take the win,” coach Todd McLellan said, “but I’m disappointed. We’ve won a lot of hockey games, and we need to carry ourselves like we have won a lot of hockey games. We need to play with more confidence. We’ve earned the opportunity to play confident and be confident.”
“Right now we’re fragile, and hopefully this snaps us out of it,” McLellan said.
The Sharks ended a four-game losing streak, but barely, and kept pace with the Detroit Red Wings for first place.
“When the game’s on the line, I want guys that want to be up to bat and hit the single or double that scores the winning run, rather than walking and getting to first,” McLellan said, less than an hour after the Red Wings also won in overtime. “We need to take the challenge on a little bit more.”
Scowling Owen Nolan fought for two goals – giving him 20 for the season – in the last six-plus minutes of regulation against his old team to tie the game for Minnesota.
The Wild were happy with a point after falling behind so big early on a rough night by the all-star Backstrom. He stopped only 18 shots and let two “weak” goals, in the view of coach Jacques Lemaire, past him in the first period.
“We were fortunate the bounces starting ending up on our side,” Backstrom said.
He has given up 17 goals in 4 1/2 games – he was pulled in one – since signing a US$24-million, four-year contract extension.
Travis Moen, playing his second game with the Sharks since being traded by Anaheim, joined Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo on a new first line. Moen chipped a puck out of the corner about four minutes in, and it took a wicked hop after making contact with Thornton and sailed softly above Backstrom’s glove.
Later, Moen put picked up a perfect rebound and slammed it past Backstrom after the goalie denied a short-handed breakaway attempt.