The Minnesota Wild gained some momentum heading into a stretch in which they will spend little time at home.
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Josh Harding made a season-high 37 saves in another strong home outing, and the Wild beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Sunday night despite recording a season-low 13 shots.
Zach Parise scored twice — once into an empty net — and Mikko Koivu added a goal for the Wild, who have won three of four.
”It was a hard game, and that’s a tough team to play against,” Parise said. ”We were able to hang on and win, so that’s important for us.”
Patrick Marleau scored with 1:41 left for San Jose, which went 1-3 on a four-game trip. The Sharks, who have lost three in a row in regulation for the first time this season, are 0-5-1 in their last six games in Minnesota.
Antti Niemi made 10 saves.
The Wild plays seven of their next eight away from home. To maintain their standing within the tough Western Conference, they will need to play better than their 5-6-3 road record.
”We don’t want to go out and make everything look pretty,” forward Matt Cooke said. ”We’re a team that’s going to go out and play responsible, take care of our own end, and capitalize on our opportunities.
”That should suit us well heading on the road.”
That was evident late against the Sharks when Minnesota focused on strong play in its own end against a team that was averaging an NHL-best 36 shots per game and scoring 3.34 goals. Minnesota held the Sharks to six third-period shots, after allowing 21 in the second.
”I feel like we got a lot of good practice in our defensive game tonight, and we were sharp,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. ”They got the one at the end, but I thought we did a really good job in the third period. We were playing tight, we had good layers, and we were tough to come through.”
Parise and Koivu scored second-period goals to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead. Parise pushed the Wild’s edge back to two goals when he scored at 19:54 of the third period.
”It’s always frustrating when you lose,” San Jose center Joe Pavelski said. ”We did a few of the things we wanted to and it didn’t feel like we gave them much. It was competitive, but we didn’t find a way.”
Harding, who improved to 13-1 at home, is 16-4-3 overall. He lowered his goals-against average to an NHL-best 1.50 and moved into a second-place tie with Niemi and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury for most wins.
”Whenever you can keep a team like that at bay, you’re going to be happy,” Harding said. ”I always say it, but when we have guys like our captain and the leaders on this team blocking shots like they were, putting their body in front of the puck, it makes everybody want to battle that much harder.”
The Wild blocked 18 shots, including three by Koivu and Cooke.
Two days after Sharks coach Todd McLellan questioned his team’s energy level following a 5-3 loss in Carolina, San Jose came out more aggressive.
The Sharks got the puck deep in the offensive end and outshot Minnesota 11-5 in the first period. Despite Harding giving up a number of prime rebounds, the Sharks couldn’t score.
However, a rebound led to Parise’s first goal early in the second period.
With Jason Pominville about to crash into him, Niemi blocked a slap shot from Marco Scandella, but the rebound was picked up by Parise in front. He quickly shifted the puck to his backhand and put a shot into the empty net.
McLellan was adamant that the goal shouldn’t have counted.
”I’ll be looking for an explanation,” he said. ”I don’t know how the outcome of the game would’ve gone, who knows what happens if that’s disallowed.”
Koivu made it 2-0 a little more than four minutes later beating Niemi with a wrist shot on the stick side.
Niemi was pulled for an extra skater with 2:15 to play, and Marleau got the Sharks on the board by squeezing a rebound between Harding and the left post.
NOTES: The teams will meet again Thursday at San Jose. . . . Wild fourth-line center Zenon Konopka returned after sitting as a healthy scratch the previous two games. . . . San Jose RW Marty Havlat was scratched. No reason was given, but he limped off the ice after blocking a shot Friday in Carolina. . . . Minnesota is 14-0-3 when leading after two periods.