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Wild get just enough offense to beat Sharks

The SportsXchange

SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- On a night that was all about defense, the Minnesota Wild had just enough offense to hold off the San Jose Sharks.

Left winger Zach Parise had a pair of goals and center Mikko Koivu had another to supply the necessary offense, and goaltender Josh Harding had 37 saves as the Wild beat the Sharks 3-1 on Sunday.

San Jose (19-6-5), which has now lost three in a row, outshot Minnesota by a wide margin throughout, but could not find the back of the net until less than two minutes remained. Harding improved to 13-1-0 at home this season for the Wild (18-9-5).

"With the year he's having, he's not sneaking up on anybody anymore. He had a really good night," said Sharks coach Todd McClellan, praising the Wild goalie. "I thought there were times where we could've had better net presence. We thought we had to maybe score on the third rebound, never mind the second one. He was that mobile and agile. We got to a few of them with our goaltender pulled but it was not enough."

The Wild, who had played perhaps their worst game of the season on Friday in a lifeless 4-0 road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, looked in need of a wakeup call for much of the first 40 minutes on Sunday, but somehow emerged with a 2-0 lead.

"That performance in Columbus, we were flat. We were physically tired, mentally tired. We just didn't have it," Parise said. "To come back and win a game, then you go out and play some really important games against some teams we're chasing in the standings, you want to take care of what you've got to do at home. It was a hard game, and that's a tough team to play against."

After a scoreless first period, Parise opened the scoring with his second goal in the past three games early in the second.

As Wild right winger Jason Pominville was being checked into Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, Wild defenseman Marco Scandella ripped a shot from the blue line that hit bodies in front of the net. Parise pounced on the rebound and scored with Niemi still trying to get in position.

After a lengthy conference among the on-ice officials -- and complaints of goalie interference from the San Jose bench -- the goal was allowed to stand.

"I think I was bumped," said Niemi, who finished with 10 saves and fell to 16-5-5 this season. "I'm not sure where it happened or if they did it on purpose or not, but it did affect the play for sure. They thought it was outside the crease, and I'm not sure."

Koivu doubled the Minnesota lead five minutes later, taking a pass from defenseman Jared Spurgeon and threading a long-range shot through a crowd in front of Niemi and into the upper left corner of the net.

It was a doubly frustrating second period for San Jose, which not only allowed a pair of goals on just six shots by the Wild, but could not solve Harding despite 21 shots of their own -- one shy of the most Minnesota had ever allowed in a single period at home.

"It felt like we were defending an awful lot tonight, that's for sure," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Our execution wasn't good enough. There were too many broken plays in the neutral zone, too many turnovers in the neutral zone, allowing them to be able to counter right back. We did a great job defending tonight; we were really sharp in our zone."

The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play - a growing source of concern.

"That's probably been the story for the last week," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "Our power play has been sub-par. Five-on-five we looked sharp and then we kind of gave them the momentum when we were on the power play. Figure that out."

With Niemi on the bench for an extra attacker and less than two minutes remaining, left winger Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks to make it 2-1, snapping in a rebound during a scramble in front of Harding. Parise added an empty-net goal in the final seconds.

NOTES: Although the Sharks have not disclosed the nature of the injury to RW Mike Brown, the team placed him on injured reserve. Brown, who has two goals and an assist this season, missed the previous two games. ... Good news and bad news for Wild rookie D Matt Dumba. On Sunday he was a healthy scratch for the eighth consecutive game, but he will be playing hockey over the holidays, having been named to Team Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championships, which start Dec. 26 in Sweden. ... Sharks RW Martin Havlat was scratched on Sunday. The team did not reveal whether the night off was for health or performance reasons. Havlat, who spent two seasons with the Wild, had one goal and no assists in his previous five games, and had limped off the ice after blocking a shot in San Jose's last game. ... After four straight on the road, the Sharks return home for their next two, hosting the New York Islanders on Tuesday and the Wild on Thursday. ... Minnesota, which will play seven of its next eight on the road, opens a western swing on Wednesday when the Wild visit the Anaheim Ducks.
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