SAN JOSE, Calif. – Niklas Backstrom seemed to stop almost every shot San Jose sent his way. Fortunately for the Sharks, a couple of pucks that hit off Backstrom’s teammates found their way into the net.
Patrick Marleau got a fortunate bounce on his tiebreaking, power-play goal early in the third period and the Sharks went on to beat the Wild 3-2 Thursday night.
“Sometimes you need those bounces,” defenceman Dan Boyle said. “I thought their short-handed goal was one of those ricochet pucks that was a bounce on their side. We got some fortunate ones ourselves, obviously on the winning goal.”
With Clayton Stoner off for holding, Marleau did a good job settling a pass from Joe Pavelski in the circle and fired a shot that Backstrom blocked with his pad. But the rebound deflected off Minnesota defender Brent Burns’ leg and right past Backstrom for Marleau’s 28th goal five minutes into the final period.
It was Marleau’s team-leading 28th goal of the season and sixth game-winner since Feb. 1.
“It’s a good thing we have him, he seems to be the go-to guy right now,” coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s nice to see him get it on the power play. I’d like to see him do it for a long time yet.”
Logan Couture and Jamal Mayers also scored for the Sharks, who have won two straight following a three-game losing streak to stay atop the tight Pacific Division.
John Madden and Kyle Brodziak scored for Minnesota, and Backstrom made 47 saves as the Wild finished an 0-4 road trip that put a severe dent into their playoff hopes. Minnesota is in 11th place in the Western Conference, six points behind eighth-place Calgary with just over three weeks left in the season.
“You are always disappointed after a loss and obviously disappointed when you lose four in a row,” coach Todd Richards said. “We had some guys who really put it on the line tonight. We needed more guys to put it on the line. You never plan on this. We’re playing against some very good teams and some tough buildings.”
Backstrom did his best to keep Minnesota in this game, posting his most saves of the season and helping kill a San Jose power play that kept the Wild within one goal midway through the third. Devin Setoguchi hit the post on the power play but Backstrom did a good job covering up the rebound.
Two of San Jose’s three goals went into the net off Minnesota players, including a second-period score by Couture that deflected off Madden’s stick.
“It’s the way things are going,” Madden said. “I wasn’t back-checking my guy and I think it hit my stick. I couldn’t believe it went in, but that’s the way it goes. You just have to keep playing hockey. They didn’t stop playing when they gave up a short-handed goal. They kept playing. I think one thing we’ve been struggling with is the ups and downs of a hockey game. You play hockey and stuff happens.”
The Sharks got another break later in the third when it appeared as if Boyle had injured his left leg after being dragged to the ice by Mikko Koivu. Boyle punched the ice in frustration and was helped to the locker room before returning almost immediately.
Boyle said he initially thought the injury was much more serious.
“The body is not supposed to bend that way,” Boyle said. “It wasn’t very good. I’m happy with the way things are right now, but ask me tomorrow.”
The Sharks controlled the play in the second period, outshooting the Wild 21-9, but still found themselves tied heading into the third when Brodziak answered Couture’s fluky goal with one of his own.
The Sharks came into the game ranked third in the NHL on the power play but were unable to take advantage of two chances in the first period. The first man advantage ended early when Boyle was called for slashing while trying to break up a short-handed chance by Matt Cullen. On the second power play, the Wild got a goal of their own from Madden, who beat his former Chicago teammate Antti Niemi.
In between those two power-play chances, the Sharks struck first when Pavelski hit Mayers with a pass in stride and Mayers split two defenders before beating Backstrom with a backhand. Pavelski has six assists the past two games.
Notes: The teams split the season series, with each team winning both of its home games. … San Jose D Niclas Wallin missed the game with an upper body injury after taking a hard hit from Dallas’ Jamie Langenbrunner on Tuesday. … Minnesota D Marek Zidlicky was sidelined with a lower body injury. … The Sharks recalled LW John McCarthy from Worcester of the AHL before the game to replace Dany Heatley, who began his two-game suspension for elbowing Dallas’ Steve Ott in the head.