Balanced attack leads Wild over Sharks 5-2
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mats Zuccarello had a goal and an assist, and the Minnesota Wild stayed hot at home by downing the San Jose Sharks 5-2 on Saturday.
Joel Eriksson Ek, Zach Parise, Kirill Kaprizov and Nico Sturm also scored on a night when 12 different Wild players had at least one point. Kaapo Kahkonen made 26 saves as Minnesota won its third straight and improved to 17-4-0 at home this season.
Brent Burns and Joel Kellman scored for San Jose, and Martin Jones made 19 saves on 24 shots before being replaced by Josef Korenar in the third period.
Sharks forward Patrick Marleau tied Gordie Howe’s NHL record by playing in his 1,767th game. He is set to break the mark on Monday in Las Vegas.
The game was stopped during the first period to announce Marleau’s record, and he received an extended ovation from both teams and the Xcel Energy Center crowd.
“When you get recognized like that, not only your team standing up for you but the other building’s fans cheering for you, the other team doing it, it hits home,” Marleau said. “It’s definitely humbling.”
San Jose opened the scoring midway through the first period when Burns beat Kahkonen with a wrist shot from the blue line for his sixth goal of the season.
The Sharks’ lead lasted less than 2 1/2 minutes. The Wild grabbed control by scoring three times in a span of 72 seconds.
First, in the final seconds of a power play, Marcus Johansson made a backhand pass from behind the net into the slot. Zuccarello’s shot was off target but it hit Burns’ skate and trickled into the net. It was Zuccarello’s 10th goal of the year and fourth in the last three games.
Just 36 seconds later, Jones stopped Jordan Greenway’s slap shot, but the rebound hit Eriksson Ek in the chest and dropped into the net.
“We caught a few (breaks) for sure tonight, but we thought we worked for a lot of our opportunities as well,” Wild coach Dean Evason said.
Then 36 seconds after Eriksson Ek’s goal, Parise beat Jones between the legs with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. Parise’s third goal in as many games gave him 400 points in a Wild uniform. He has been thriving of late playing on a line with Sturm and Nick Bonino, with the trio combining for 12 points in the last three games.
“I think our line is getting good chances,” Parise said. We are getting hardworking chances and rush chances. We’ve been playing really well without the puck. We aren’t spending a lot of time in our zone, and that makes the game a lot easier and all three of us are benefitting from that.”
Kaprizov made it 4-1 early in the second with his 17th of the season, tops among NHL rookies. He started the play by stealing the puck as the Sharks were trying to break out of their zone.
Kaprizov passed it to Zuccarello, who tried to set up Kevin Fiala in the slot. Fiala whiffed on his shot, but the puck found Kaprizov trailing the play, and he rocketed a shot over Jones’ shoulder.
Sturm extended the Wild lead to 5-1 with less than a minute left in the second. He picked up the puck in his own zone, skated the length of the ice, deked Jones out of position and scored on a wraparound into the open net.
Meanwhile, Kahkonen was steady in his first appearance since a 9-1 loss at St. Louis on April 9.
“A couple times there, I felt like I was doing almost too much trying to battle, but I think that was the way for me to come back from that embarrassment last time in St. Louis — just try to battle and fight for every single puck,” Kahkonen said.
As for the Sharks, their fifth straight loss left them five points out of the final playoff spot in the West Division.
“I think our team, we have to play an extremely detailed, hard-working game every game to be in them and win those games,” Burns said. “If it’s a little bit off, it’s going to look and feel like that.”
Sharks: At Vegas on Monday.
Wild: At Arizona on Monday.