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St. Patty saves the day
Wild seeing green after Marleau's game winner
3/17/11 - By Mike Lee -

The Minnesota Wild have to be green with envy. Patrick Marleau celebrated St Patrick's Day by scoring the game winning goal in a 3-2 nail-biter with the Wild at HP Pavilion on Thursday night. Marleau and his teammates had to fend off a desperate Wild hockey club that was fighting for their playoff lives. Minnesota entered Thursday night's action having lost three straight games, sitting 4 points behind the 8th place Anaheim Ducks with 10 games to play. The Sharks scored goals in all three periods, but none was bigger than Marleau's power play goal.

While the loss adds a nail to the Wild's playoff coffin, San Jose was able to maintain their slim three point buffer in the division standings. Phoenix beat Edmonton to keep the Sharks in site for the Pacific Division crown. Los Angeles lost to St Louis to fall five points behind San Jose.

The Sharks would put 50 shots on Niklas Backstrom, tying their season high.

“We started the night with a game plan and we didn’t want to get away from it," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "We felt they needed to be patient. We thought by the end of the night, our defense would make the difference in the game. Not necessarily the offense.”

Backstrom stoned Logan Couture 7 minutes into the contest with a sliding double-pad save that deflected the shot into the net. Antti Niemi would answer with his own impressive glove save on a 15-foot blast seconds later.

After both teams traded penalties, the Sharks got some offensive output from an unlikely source. Jamal Mayers took a Joe Pavelski feed at the Minnesota blueline before blowing past defenseman Marco Scandella and sending a backhand shot past Backstrom. The goal was Mayers 3rd of the season and fist in 32 games.

San Jose used the goal to get the jets warmed up, but their lead would be erased on a sloppy power play.

Clinton Stoner put the Sharks on the power play after getting called for holding Kyle Wellwood's stick. The Sharks would promptly cough another short-handed goal. Wellwood, Ian White and Dan Boyle all converged on a puck that was cleared into their own zone, but John Madden fought off all three skaters and got off a shot that lifted over Niemi's blocker.

Patrick Marleau finished off the rest of the power play by hitting the left post, missing on his 28th goal of the season by inches.

A Matt Cullen tripping penalty 6:35 into the 2nd period set up a number of shots inside of 15 feet, but Backstrom was up to the task. Devin Setoguchi had two shots in repetition from 8 feet out that he couldn't get past the Wild netminder.

Couture would get back on the score sheet by scoring a crazy goal midway through the period. The rookie forward was skating toward the right corner, when he threw the puck at the net. The puck hit Madden in the stick just outside the right post, then knuckled over Backstrom's left shoulder, hitting the crossbar and bouncing over the goal line.

Once again, the Wild responded quickly, tying the game up at 2-2. Minnesota answered less than two minutes later, when Kyle Brodziak took a Martin Havlat feed on the left wing and snapped a shot just inside the right post for his 16th goal of the season.

The Sharks finished the period with 21 shots on Backstrom in the 20 minute window, but only had the one goal to show for it.

“You can create a lot of your bounces and a lot of your breaks," said Wild head coach Todd Richards. "San Jose did that tonight and they were rewarded with a couple nice bounces. The second period was the second time this year that we have given up 20 plus shots in a period.”

Clayton Stoner was forced to haul down Couture in the slot with a tackle from behind, setting up the go-ahead goal at the 5:00 mark. Marleau would get that 28th goal, courtest of a deflection off Backstrom and a Wild defender in front of the net. The veteran forward snapped a shot from the left side, before pin-balling it into the Minnesota net.

"That was a good time for the power play to step up," Marleau said. "We moved it around all night and got a lot of good looks at the net. Backstrom was really good on their side. We got an unconventional one, but it was also good to get one on the power play."

San Jose got a big scare moments later when defenseman Dan Boyle went down awkwardly after getting tangled up with Mikko Koivu. Both of Boyle's legs were bent in the wrong direction as he went down. He would pound his fist in agony as he lay face down on the ice. He skated off on his own power and disappeared into the dressing room for a moment before returning to the ice.

"I thought I was done," Boyle said of his injury after the game. "A couple of punches on the ice, then I took a couple of deep breaths. From where the pain was to where I was 30 seconds later was a huge difference. So far so good."

Former Shark Brad Staubitz was sent off for tripping Jason Demers at 8:56, then earned an extra 10 for jawing about it. Marleau just missed on his 29th of the season when Backstrom waited out a deek move before denying the chance. Setoguchi would follow that with a shot off the post, allowing Minnesota would survive the power play.

Minnesota pulled Backstrom with a minute to play. The Wild would create an opportunity in front of Niemi, but a mad scrum would end with a whistle after a pile of bodies piled up at the top of the crease.

“We had a few opportunities to safely advance the puck and clear the zone," said McLellan. "And for whatever reason it didn’t happen. We were not strong enough along the boards, maybe a little too fine with clearing attempts. And you know with the goalie pulled they are just going to throw it to the net. They crashed it hard but one of the strengths of Niemi is his ability to push back against the crowd and then smothering a couple of loose pucks.”

They would get no better chance as the final horn sounded to give the sharks a split in the season series.

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Scoring
1 2 3 T
MIN 1 1 0 2
SJ 1 1 1 3
1st period - 1, SJ, Mayaers 3 (Pavelski, Mitchell), 11:29. 2, MIN, Madden 12 (unassisted), 14:53, (sh).
2nd period - 3, SJ, Couture 27 (Murray, Demers), 11:33. 4, MIN, Brodziak 16 (Havlat, Bouchard), 13:23.
3rd period - 5, SJ, Marleau 28 (Pavelski, Setoguchi), 5:00, (pp).
Penalties
1st period - Zanon, MIN (tripping), 7:52; Boyle, SJ (slashing), 8:27; Stoner, MIN (holding the stick), 13:46.
2nd period - Cullen, MIN (tripping), 6:35.
3rd period - Stoner, MIN (holding), 4:22; Staubitz, MIN (tripping), 8:56; Staubitz, MIN (10 min misconduct), 8:56; Havlat, MIN (cross checking), 16:50; Mitchell, SJ (cross checking), 16:50.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
MIN - Backstrom 50 47
SJ - Niemi 30 28
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
MIN 12 9 9 30
SJ 12 21 16 50
Power Play Conversion
MIN 0 of 1
SJ 1 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Joe Pavelski
Niklas Backstrom
Patrick Marleau
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: Pollock, Rehman. Linesmen: Cameron, Heyer.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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