ST. PAUL, Minn. – The San Jose Sharks were relieved and back in first place in the Pacific Division after ending their long losing streak.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 18 shots, and four San Jose players scored to help the Sharks snap a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley, Torrey Mitchell and Joe Thornton all had goals for the Sharks. San Jose won for the first time since beating Nashville on March 11 and snapped its longest skid since Nov. 5-30, 2005. It was also the Sharks’ first road win since beating Detroit on Feb. 11.
“You know what can happen? I think there’s relief in the moment,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “You say, ‘Oh, we’re out of it. Whew!’ That doesn’t work. When we go home, we’ve got to have this same mindset.”
The Sharks were in first place in the West when they embarked on their six-game road trip on March 14. Their recent struggles dropped them behind Phoenix in the Pacific Division race, but this win pushed them back on top of the Coyotes.
“We need to keep working,” McLellan said. “Obviously, we know how fast it can go and get away from you.”
Guillaume Latendresse scored his team-leading 27th goal for the Wild.
Nabokov was 0-5 during the losing streak, but improved to 11-0-1 against Minnesota in his last 12 games. Nabokov hadn’t given up fewer than three goals in a game overall since March 6.
“In the first period they had a couple of power plays and were zipping around pretty good,” Heatley said. “Nobby made some big plays for us. I thought he was real good in goal.”
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota’s regular goalie, returned after missing seven games because of a groin injury.
Backstrom stopped 14 shots, but fell to 2-6-3 against the Sharks.
Pavelski beat Backstrom early in the first period to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.
“It’s tough to chase,” Backstrom said. “They’re a tough team when they get up. They played pretty tight and didn’t give us much.”
Heatley scored his 38th goal with a backhander midway through the second to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead, a rare cushion on this road trip. San Jose didn’t score first in any game of the trip.
Latendresse cut the deficit to 2-1 when he beat a sprawling Nabokov on the power play later in the second.
However, the Wild couldn’t carry the momentum into the third. Minnesota fell to 2-9-3 against San Jose in the last 14 meetings.
Mitchell scored his second goal of the season and first since Dec. 30 just 17 seconds into the third to put the game out of reach.
“Every time they had a little pressure we were able to chip the puck out of the zone,” Pavelski said. “We’ve been wanting to score first for a while and it happened tonight. With that momentum, we can win a lot of games.”
Thornton added an empty-net goal late in the third.
The Wild haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention, but their chances of reaching the post-season are slim.
“I think the desire and will was there. We played a very good team and we had our opportunities and were unable to cash in,” Wild coach Todd Richards said. “They had a lot of opportunities. Backstrom was good, but they obviously finished more than we did.”
NOTES: Sharks forward Jed Ortmeyer returned after missing three games with a lower body injury. He replaced C Scott Nichol, who was scratched because of an upper body injury. … Minnesota D Nick Schultz, the second player ever drafted by the Wild, played in his 600th NHL game. … Wild D Clayton Stoner likely is out for the season. Stoner hasn’t played since Jan. 5 after having sports hernia surgery. … Sharks D Rob Blake had two assists to snap an eight-game pointless streak. It was his first multi-point game since Jan. 18 against Calgary.