Manny Fernandez made 31 saves as Minnesota easily won a meeting of 6-1 teams, slowing the Sharks’ best start in franchise history with four goals on just 14 shots in the first 47 minutes of the finale of a three-game California road trip.
One night after their unbeaten season ended in Anaheim, the Wild outclassed the Sharks with superior skating, passing and defence. Mark Parrish and Brian Rolston also scored, while Fernandez was outstanding before losing the chance for his second shutout of the season on captain Patrick Marleau’s goal during four-on-four play with 6:20 left.
And the Wild did it without star right wing Marian Gaborik, who sat out after straining his groin in the third period Friday night. The Slovakian scorer sat out 17 games last season because of two abdominal injuries, including a strained groin.
Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 14 shots, has been in net for both of the Sharks’ losses this season in his every-other-game platoon with Vesa Toskala, though Nabokov also has two shutouts in his four starts.
But while Nabokov gave up two soft goals, the Sharks rarely even threatened Fernandez in their first home loss of the year.
Reigning NHL MVP Joe Thornton has a minus-4 rating and still doesn’t have a goal this season, and San Jose went 0-for-4 on the power play after tying the franchise record with five man-advantage goals against Detroit on Thursday night. The Sharks’ vaunted top line of Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo and Mark Bell failed to score a goal for just the second time in its five games together.
Minnesota scored before the first stoppage of play when Brent Burns stole the puck behind San Jose’s net and fed Parrish for his second goal of the season.
Veilleux scored early in the second period, flinging a quick shot under Nabokov’s pads from the slot when the Sharks got lost defensively. Walz added another nearly 4 minutes later, tipping home Nick Schultz’s long shot off a faceoff.
Rolston added his sixth of the season on an easily stoppable slap shot that somehow eluded Nabokov with 12:59 to play.
Notes: The Sharks are headed on a five-game East Coast road swing. In all, nine of their next 12 games are on the road. … The Wild said Gaborik would return to the Twin Cities with the team Sunday to be evaluated by team doctors. … Walz returned to the lineup after missing two games with a hip injury.