On the scoreboard and in the standings, the San Jose Sharks were a winning team again.
But on the ice, they're still struggling to play the part of
Western Conference co-leaders.
Christian Ehrhoff's overtime goal sailed over Minnesota goalie
Niklas Backstrom's stick and salvaged a badly needed victory on
Tuesday night for the Sharks, who blew a three-goal lead but
managed to beat the Wild 5-4.
"We'll take the win," coach Todd McLellan said, "but I'm
disappointed. We've won a lot of hockey games, and we need to carry
ourselves like we have won a lot of hockey games. We need to play
with more confidence. We've earned the opportunity to play
confident and be confident."
"Right now we're fragile, and hopefully this snaps us out of
it," McLellan said.
The Sharks ended a four-game losing streak, but barely, and kept
pace with the Detroit Red Wings for first place.
"When the game's on the line, I want guys that want to be up to
bat and hit the single or double that scores the winning run,
rather than walking and getting to first," McLellan said, less
than an hour after the Red Wings also won in overtime. "We need to
take the challenge on a little bit more."
Scowling Owen Nolan fought for two goals - giving him 20 for the
season - in the last six-plus minutes of regulation against his old
team to tie the game for Minnesota.
The Wild were happy with a point after falling behind so big
early on a rough night by the All-Star Backstrom. He stopped only
18 shots and let two "weak" goals, in the view of coach Jacques
Lemaire, past him in the first period.
"We were fortunate the bounces starting ending up on our
side," Backstrom said.
He has given up 17 goals in 4½ games - he was pulled in one -
since signing a $24 million, four-year contract extension.
Travis Moen, playing his second game with the Sharks since being
traded by Anaheim, joined Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo on a
new first line. Moen chipped a puck out of the corner about four
minutes in, and it took a wicked hop after making contact with
Thornton and sailed softly above Backstrom's glove.
Later, Moen put picked up a perfect rebound and slammed it past
Backstrom after the goalie denied a short-handed breakaway attempt.
Minnesota's first even-strength shot didn't come until about 70
seconds remained in the first period, and the frustrated home crowd
booed the players off the ice as they retreated to the locker room.
Thornton added a power-play goal early in the middle frame to
give the Sharks a three-goal lead.
"If Bak would've been just a little better," Lemaire said,
"we could've won that game."
San Jose's top line sure worked, with Thornton scoring twice and
Moen getting a goal and an assist. The Sharks led 3-0, the same
advantage they had six days earlier in San Jose before the Wild
surged to tie the game on Marek Zidlicky's fluke goal that Brian
Mikko Koivu, who set up Nolan's first goal by hustling to take
the puck away in the corner after the Sharks won a faceoff, had the
winner in overtime last Wednesday.
This time, all-around sloppiness with the puck did in the Wild
despite late goals from Peter Olvecky and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
"You've got to be able to find the open man and make that
play," said Lemaire, whose team returns to the road after going
2-4 on the last trip and falling out of the last playoff spot.
Boucher, who made 25 saves, has played six straight while Evgeni
Nabokov has been out with an illness and a lower-body injury. He
wasn't very good, either, but Ehrhoff - who was scratched from the
last game after several weeks of sub-par play - bailed him out.
"We're not making it easy on ourselves, that's for sure,"
Missing-in-action star Marian Gaborik was scheduled to
travel with the Wild to Colorado. Gaborik, who has missed all but
six games this season because of groin and hip problems, will
resume practicing "when ready," according to the team.
The Sharks were short-handed themselves, with Nabokov still out and
stalwart defenseman Rob Blake not on the trip due to a sore foot.
The Wild were without top D Brent Burns, who has been ill and
went to see a doctor Tuesday for further examination. Burns has had
recurring headaches and concussion-like symptoms and will skip the
trip. Fellow D Kurtis Foster, who played his first game in a year
Saturday after recovering from a broken leg, was also scratched
because he's still a bit rusty. John Scott, a 6-foot-8 blue line
prospect, was recalled from the minors.
Thornton has 16 points in 13 games.
Nolan, who played for the Sharks from 1995-2003, raised his career total to 401 goals.