SAN JOSE, Calif. – With the style the San Jose Sharks play, Evgeni Nabokov is rarely peppered with shots on goal.
When he faced one of those types of games Saturday night, Nabokov delivered in fine fashion, stopping 38 shots to lead the Sharks to a 4-2 comeback victory Saturday night over the Minnesota Wild.
Patrick Marleau his second goal just nine seconds into the third period after Dany Heatley provided the tiebreaker late in the second to help the Sharks rally from two goals.
San Jose scored four times in less than nine minutes to turn the game around, but when asked to sum up the key to the comeback, coach Todd McLellan boiled it down to one word.
“Nabby. I thought Nabby made some tremendous saves tonight,” McLellan said. “He was very good making big ones when we needed them. He gave us a chance to find our way back in. He did his job tonight changing momentum.”
Nabokov was a big reason why the Wild converted just one of nine power-play attempts. His 38 saves were his most in a win since getting 40 in a 4-3 win at Colorado on Nov. 15, 2006. Only once in the last seven years has Nabokov faced
“When guys help with rebounds, that is huge,” Nabokov said. “Sometimes you have to get lucky. That’s part of any game. I never worry about how many shots. To me sometimes, the more shots, the better.”
The game was a homecoming of sorts for Wild coach Todd Richards, who was an assistant in San Jose last season. For a while it looked as if Richards would get the best of this game.
But injuries to forwards Petr Sykora and Cal Clutterbuck took away Minnesota’s depth and the Wild just ran out of gas late in the game.
“You could see it on the bench,” Richards said. “Guys were tired. They were labouring. They worked extremely hard but it’s tough when you have to shorten up your bench like that. … I’m proud of the way the guys played tonight. I’m disappointed we lost 4-2, but we did a lot of good things.”
Andrew Brunette and former Shark Owen Nolan scored for the Wild, who controlled the play for the first half of the game.
Minnesota spent much of the second period on the power play, but could manage only one goal in five power plays over the first 14 minutes of the period. The Wild even failed to score during 1:12 of a 5-on-3 advantage as Nabokov and the Sharks penalty killers rose to the challenge.
“He made some key saves for us and held us in there,” Marleau said. “We had a parade going to the penalty box and he held us in there.”
Minnesota’s only goal of the period came when Nolan’s shot from the circle, deflected off Boyle’s stick and fluttered over the shoulder of Nabokov, who had gone down to try to stop a low shot. That made it 2-0 midway through the second but Minnesota couldn’t score again.
Jed Ortmeyer started the comeback when he one-timed a blind pass by Jason Demers from behind the net past Niklas Backstrom at the 11:15 mark for his first goal with San Jose.
Just seconds after Jody Shelley got back on the ice after a penalty, he got the assist when Marleau knocked the rebound of his own shot past Backstrom.
The go-ahead goal came when Heatley took a pass from Boyle in the slot and scored his fifth goal in the past three games. Marleau capped it when he took a pass from Rob Blake after the opening faceoff and skated through the Minnesota defence with the quick goal that gave the Sharks control early in the third.
“We had a couple of mistakes and those are ending up in our net right now,” Richards said. “It was disappointing. We stared the third down by one. It’s tough when you give up a goal, first shift, nine seconds in. It kind of deflated us.”
NOTES: Marleau tied Bob Errey’s franchise record for fastest third-period goal, set in 1993 against St. Louis. … Sykora has a groin injury and Clutterbuck injured his ankle. Both will be re-evaluated Sunday. … When Manny Malhotra was kicked out of a faceoff during a 4-on-3 power play for the Wild, Boyle was forced to take just his seventh career faceoff. He lost it and is 1-for-7 in his 11-year career.