Thornton's OT goal lifts Sharks over Wild
By Ross McKeon, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 2 San Jose 3
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Contract extensions agreed upon Friday by center Joe Thornton and left winger Patrick Marleau paid immediate dividends on Saturday night.
Thornton scored his second goal of the game 3:30 into overtime after center Patrick Marleau tied it in regulation as the San Jose Sharks beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2.
"It probably wasn't Jumbo's best game; he'll be the first one to tell you that," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Fumbled the puck and turned a few over, but he came up with two goals. Patty also scored. It's a nice little reward for them and our team."
San Jose won its sixth straight and opened a 10-point lead on third-place Los Angeles while keeping pace with first-place Anaheim in the Pacific Division. It's the third streak of at least six straight wins for the Sharks this season. Minnesota lost for only the fourth time in 12 games.
"If you get a point in this building, it's really not that bad of a thing," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "They are obviously a very strong team -- especially here at home."
It was role reversal as Sharks left winger Joe Pavelski held a puck just inside the Wild blue line and fed Thornton, who beat Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper with a slap shot from the left circle for his second goal of the game.
"I've been telling Pavs, 'you've been scoring too much, pass the puck,'" Thornton said in jest. "He competed and competed, laid the pass right into me and game over."
Pavelski saw his four-game goal-scoring streak end, but his contributions were key in other ways.
"Really good play at the blue line for him to protect the puck long enough and stay strong so that he could get somebody to come and help him," McLellan said. "He's been a really good player for us lately."
Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi had 20 saves.
"I thought my line had a lot of good chances throughout the game it really doesn't mean much if you don't convert on them," said Minnesota's Zach Parise, who returned after missing 14 games with a broken foot. "We spent a lot time in the offensive zone and got some decent rush chances."
Once the Sharks fell behind 2-0 after Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard's first goal in 115 games, McLellen tinkered with his forward lines as the hosts, too, went stagnant for a stretch of 22 minutes by producing only four shots.
"We can't fall into a trap where we get sleepy and lazy just because we're at home," McLellan said. "Teams are competing hard and we have to match that."
Thornton started the comeback with his seventh goal of the season at 11:12. He began the sequence by stealing the puck from Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner, took a pass from Pavelski and watched his shot knuckle in after caroming off Wild center Kyle Brodziak in front.
Just 49 seconds later, Marleau connected for his 22nd goal at 12:01 as the Sharks scored on consecutive shots to tie it. Marleau redirected a pass from right winger Tommy Wingels from the left circle past Kuemper.
"They had a couple of good pushes, but in the big picture we had a lot of good opportunities for good amounts of that game," Ballard said.
Minnesota took advantage of a Sharks turnover to score the only goal of the first period.
After San Jose rang off eight of the game's first 10 shots, the Wild broke through as third-line pest Matt Cooke tipped a Thornton pass at center intended for defenseman Brad Stuart and the left winger dashed around the Sharks defenseman to corral the puck off the boards. Cooke broke in alone and beat Niemi at 9:33 to score his eighth goal of the season.
"We started off good, then sort of went away," Thornton said. "You'd like to play a full 60 (minutes), but it's good to get the two points."
NOTES: The Sharks dominated the faceoff circle, winning 69 percent of the draws (41-18). ... San Jose is 49-6-1 when Marleau and Thornton both score goals in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau. ... Home ice has been key when the teams meet. Minnesota has won the last six in St. Paul and was 1-8-0 in San Jose going into Saturday night. ... RW Marty Havlat, LW James Sheppard and D Taylor Doherty were healthy scratches for San Jose. LW Jason Zucker and LW Stephane Veilleux did not dress for Minnesota. ... LW Tomas Hertl (knee surgery), RW Raffi Torres (knee surgery), RW Adam Burish (back surgery), D Scott Hannan (concussion) and C Logan Couture (hand) are still nursing injuries for the Sharks. G Josh Harding (illness), D Jared Spurgeon (lower body) and C Mikko Koivu (fractured ankle) remain out for the Wild.