SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Marek Zidlicky’s teammates were glued to the television replays of his fluke goal from center ice, teasing the Minnesota defenseman about the serendipitous score that sparked the Wild’s biggest comeback victory in years.
“It’s a trick shot,” said left wing Dan Fritsche, laughing. “He works on it in practice all the time.”
Nobody in the opposite dressing room was joking around with San Jose goalie Brian Boucher, who might not live down this humiliating blunder for a good long while.
After Boucher allowed Zidlicky’s backhand from mid-ice to skitter between his legs for the tying goal and an instant blooper-reel lowlight, Mikko Koivu scored his second goal with 13.3 seconds left in overtime to finish the Wild’s 4-3 victory over the Sharks on Thursday night, snapping Minnesota’s four-game winless streak.
Zidlicky had no idea he was about to complete Minnesota’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit with 7:37 left in regulation when he dumped a backhand into San Jose’s zone from just past the center line. The puck somehow bounced sideways between the legs of Boucher, who whiffed with his glove like a nervous shortstop.
“I just threw the puck there,” said Zidlicky, who was just about to leave the ice when the Shark Tank crowd erupted in groans. “I was ready for a change, and I heard the bench saying we scored. It was a surprise for me.”
Boucher made 32 saves in his fourth straight start in place of Evgeni Nabokov, but the San Jose backup goalie couldn’t stop the night’s easiest shot. His mistake was the biggest factor in the Sharks’ fourth loss in five games, although San Jose still moved back into a tie for the overall NHL lead.
“The third one was a bad bounce, and it kicked to the side and snuck through my legs,” Boucher said. “I’m pretty upset about it. As much as the fans don’t like seeing that, you can bet I don’t want to let one like that in. That’s hockey sometimes, and it’s a bad break.”
Boucher, filling in while Nabokov is sidelined with a minor lower-body injury, got neither his pad nor his stick down to block the small space between his legs.
“That happens once a year, once every two years,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “Tough one for the goalie.”
Joe Pavelski scored two goals, and Ryane Clowe had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who tied Detroit with 94 points and two games in hand on the Red Wings—although San Jose sure doesn’t feel like the league’s best team.
Milan Michalek had three assists for the Sharks, who ruined the third penalty-free game in franchise history by blowing a three-goal lead at home. San Jose dropped to 26-3-4 at the Shark Tank and was outshot for just the fourth time in 28 games.
“We played very well for the first 38 minutes,” McLellan said. “I thought that’s as well as we’ve played in a long time. We executed, and then we let them back in the game, and right now we’re a little bit of a fragile team. You could see what happened after that.”
Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored, and Niklas Backstrom made 32 saves for the Wild, who snapped their skid with a gritty comeback in the final 23 minutes of regulation. Minnesota hadn’t rallied from a three-goal deficit to win since Nov. 16, 2006, at Nashville.
“What I get from this is the guys never stop,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “They kept working and working. We got a break on that (third) goal, and we felt good about that. We just kept playing hard.”
Until Boucher’s mistake changed the game, San Jose controlled play on the strength of its dominant second line of Pavelski, Clowe and Michalek.
Pavelski, who was thrown out of Tuesday’s loss to Dallas for what a linesman thought was a head-butt on Darryl Sydor, scored the Sharks’ first goal midway through the first period. After stopping a Minnesota clearing attempt at the blue line, he circled back toward the net and expertly tipped home a pass from Clowe for his 19th goal of the season.
Clowe scored about 4 minutes later with a shot that hit the supporting post in the back of Backstrom’s net and ricocheted out so quickly that it fooled the goal judge and officials, who had to review it.
Pavelski then scored his 20th goal of the season on a rebound of Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s shot midway through the second period, but the Wild scored twice in the final 2:08 of the period, with Koivu and Bouchard beating Boucher in quick succession.
The Sharks welcomed Travis Moen and Kent Huskins to their locker room before the game, but neither newcomer suited up. Both were acquired Wednesday in a trade with Anaheim. “I was pretty excited to come here to a great team,” said Moen, who expects to play Saturday. … Longtime Sharks captain Owen Nolan played his second straight game for Minnesota after sitting out three with a broken toe. … The Sharks play five of their next six games on the road, including a visit to Minnesota on Tuesday night. … Clowe had just one goal and one assist in his previous 10 games.