Steve Bernier’s fluke goal was the winner as the Sharks beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 for their fourth straight victory. Bernier missed a pass from Christian Ehrhoff only to have the puck bounce off his right leg and into the Minnesota net in the second period. “It was in the air, and sometimes the puck’s going to go by. Tonight, it hit my shin pad and went in the net,” Bernier said. “It’s always fun to see that happen.”
Minnesota, which lost at home for only the third time this season, had a season-low 16 shots on goal and lost for the third time in its last four outings. For defence-loving Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire, it was a case of getting beat at his own game.
“They play such a tight game, they don’t give you a lot of room and the chances you get, you have to capitalize,” he said. “The battles were won by them. This is the thing we work often on in practices, but it seems like its always the same guys that come out with the puck, and they have the wrong sweater.”
The Sharks, who won their two previous games in shutouts, lost their bid for a third straight shutout on an early goal. Minnesota winger Mattias Weinhandl gave the home team the lead at 2:54 of the first, beating Evgeni Nabokov with a low shot.
Rookie forward Joe Pavelski tied it for the Sharks on a first-period power play, tipping Matt Carle’s shot past Manny Fernandez. Pavelski, a star on Wisconsin’s NCAA championship team last season, has scored in consecutive games and has three goals in four NHL games.
“I don’t know if goals ever really come easy, but they’re coming right now, and that’s important,” said Pavelski.
An errant pass by Minnesota’s Brent Burns nearly gave San Jose a 3-1 lead in the third period. With a delayed penalty called on the Sharks and Fernandez on the bench, Burns’ pass sailed out of the offensive zone and slid the length of the rink, hitting the right post of the empty Wild net.
“The only thing missing was the finish tonight, because we certainly had a ton of chances,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said, after his team out-shot Minnesota 16-3 in the second period.
The game rosters were more notable for who was missing than who was dressed. Despite practising with the team this week, Minnesota forward Marian Gaborik remains out of the lineup with a groin injury and has not played since Oct. 20. He was joined in street clothes by Pavol Demitra, who missed his fourth consecutive game because of a concussion. The Sharks were missing forward Jonathan Cheechoo, who has missed six games with a left leg injury. He is expected to return Saturday in Detroit.
“Obviously, Marian’s going to come back soon and a lot of good things are up ahead,” said Fernandez, who had 29 saves. “You ask any team, do they need their star player? Obviously they do. Now a lot of our star players are out.”
Nabokov won his second consecutive start, finishing with 15 saves.
Notes: Weinhandl’s goal was his first point since April, and came on only his second shot on goal of the season. … Sharks forward Milan Michalek was a late addition to the lineup after missing the previous three games because of a bruised left arm. … Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster left the game in the first period and did not return after being struck in the neck by an errant clearing attempt while sitting on the Minnesota bench. … On Wednesday San Jose placed defenceman Doug Murray on injured reserve with upper respiratory problems.