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Sharks 6, Wild 1

The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Martin Havlat scored two goals and added an assist against one of his former teams, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Minnesota Wild 6-1 Thursday night.

Havlat's first multi-goal game of the season was his first since scoring a pair during a 3-2 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings on March 17, 2012.

Linemate Logan Couture added two goals to take the team lead with 19.

The Sharks' 11th win in 14 games enabled San Jose to keep pace with victorious the Los Angeles Kings. Each team has 55 points with four games remaining. The fourth-place Kings, who beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday, hold a tiebreaker edge over the fifth-place Sharks.

The Minnesota Wild slipped to seventh in the West, one point behind the victorious St. Louis Blues and two points ahead of Columbus.

Raffi Torres and Joe Pavelski scored within 22 seconds early in the third period as the hosts turned the game into a rout. Couture struck on a pass from Havlat at 9:15 of the third.

San Jose opened some breathing room by scoring twice in the middle period to take a 3-1 lead into the third.

Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner held Havlat, and the game's first penalty proved costly. Couture scored 64 seconds into the 5-on-4 by completing a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play that included teammates Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau at 5:29. The goal put San Jose in front 2-0.

Thornton's 786th career assist moved him into sole possession of 33rd place on the NHL's all-time list.

The Wild cut the deficit in half when Pierre-Marc Bouchard slipped behind Sharks rookie defenseman Matt Irwin to beat goalie Antti Niemi with a backhand on a breakaway at 9:44.

The visitors had two chances to tie -- Kyle Brodziak hit the near post with a wrist shot from the left circle, and Niemi made a pad save on a Mikko Koivu redirection -- before the hosts scored again.

Couture intercepted a clearing attempt from behind the net by Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom and fed Havlat in front for basically an empty-net goal at 14:32 of the second period.

The Sharks scored the only goal of a penalty-free first period they dominated in shots (12-7) and territorial advantage.

San Jose struck at 7:42 when Havlat led a 2-on-2 rush into the Wild zone. Havlat pulled up with a move inside the blue line and attempted to lead Couture with a cross-ice feed. However, Koivu, backchecking on Couture, inadvertently redirected the puck past Backstrom in what was credited as San Jose's fourth shot of the game.

The Wild had an opportunity 90 seconds earlier when trade-deadline acquisition Jason Pominville slipped behind San Jose defenseman Jason Demers for a breakaway that Niemi stopped.

Niemi, who started his 22nd consecutive game, made 27 saves.

Backstrom allowed five goals on 27 shots. Darcy Kuemper stopped one of two shots after replacing Backstrom in the third period.

NOTES: Niemi has started all but two of the Sharks' 20 games at home where he had a 1.76 goals-against average before Thursday. ... Former Wild defenseman Brent Burns had eight goals in 19 games since being moved to forward by San Jose before Thursday. ... Rookie defenseman Matt Irwin returned to the lineup after missing one game as a healthy scratch. He replaced Scott Hannan, who played on Tuesday for the first time since being acquired by San Jose at the trade deadline. Forwards James Sheppard, Tim Kennedy and defenseman Matt Tennyson also did not dress for San Jose. ... Minnesota was playing the final game of a three-stop trip before returning home for three straight (Calgary, Los Angeles and Edmonton). ... The Sharks have two games left on their current four-game homestand. ... Defensemen Nate Prosser and Justin Falk were healthy scratches for the Wild.
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