Steve Bernier scores 2 goals, Evgeni Nabokov makes 36 saves in Sharks’ 4-1 win over Wild
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Instead of fretting and fuming over a blowout loss to Buffalo last weekend, the San Jose Sharks threw a holiday party—and then got back to business Tuesday night with one of their most comprehensive wins of the season.
Joe Pavelski had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who moved back into a first-place tie with Dallas in the Pacific Division standings by winning at home for just the second time in six games since Nov. 12.
After Nabokov was yanked from an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Sabres on Saturday night, San Jose calmly returned from its holiday revelry with 60 more minutes of its usually solid defense, led by its workhorse goalie.
“I expected us to bounce back,” said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who shuffled his lineup without injured forwards Jonathan Cheechoo and Jeremy Roenick. “We didn’t even talk about that game. We focused on the things we need to do, and we did them.”
Those things include superb defensive play all over the ice. Though Minnesota took a season-high 37 shots, few really threatened Nabokov, who has started every game this season while the Sharks have given up just 66 goals— fewest in the Western Conference.
“Any time you lose big, you want to come back, especially in your own building,” said Nabokov, a one-man show in net since co-starter Vesa Toskala’s departure to Toronto in an offseason trade. “They were trying to really put everything on the net. That’s their style, and they try to capitalize on the rebounds. We knew what to expect, and I think our whole defense did a good job.”
Niklas Backstrom stopped 26 shots for the Wild, who have lost three of four. Branko Radivojevic ended Nabokov’s bid for his fifth shutout of the season on a power-play goal with 9:02 to play, but the Wild couldn’t raise their game to the Sharks’ level.
“We played a good team that got beat bad in their previous game,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “They were ready to perform as good as they could, and they did. We didn’t give them great chances, but they found ways to score goals.”
Mike Grier also scored for the Sharks, whose mediocre play at home has kept them from rising to the top of the West. The win was only San Jose’s fifth at the Shark Tank, matching three teams for the NHL’s fewest home victories.
“Everyone knows it’s been a tough ride for us at home,” Grier said. “It’s good to get feeling good about ourselves.”
A day after Lemaire called out his most skilled forwards for their lack of production, the Wild’s drought continued.
Marian Gaborik hasn’t scored a goal in five games, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard has no goals in 15 games. Pavol Demitra has just one since Nov. 1 while struggling with a groin injury, and Brian Rolston has two goals in his last 16 games.
“You can’t hide this,” Lemaire said. “If you’re playing good teams well and not winning, it shows you you’re not strong enough.”
Pavelski opened the scoring in the first period with a goal on a rebound of defenseman Craig Rivet’s shot. After Grier scored early in the second period, Bernier added two goals in 4 1/2 minutes, the second on a power play for his first multigoal game of the season.
“We played most of the game on our heels, and they skated circles around us,” Minnesota forward Aaron Voros said. “After the first period we were ahead in shots, but the second period was awful.”
Radivojevic scored his third goal of the season in front of Nabokov’s net.
The Sharks put Cheechoo and Roenick on injured reserve, keeping them out for at least one week. Cheechoo, a disappointment this season with just four goals in 28 games, has an injured groin, while Roenick has a minor knee injury. … The Wild finish up their five-game road trip with back-to-back games in Southern California this weekend. … Sharks D Kyle McLaren rocked Voros in a third-period fight. A few minutes later, Todd Fedoruk bested San Jose’s Alexei Semenov.