ST. PAUL -- For weeks, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has implored his team to get shots to the net to no avail. Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks, the message finally seemed to sink in.
Trailing 3-2 late in the third period, the Wild scored goals 1:14 apart -- both on redirected shots -- stealing a 4-3 win at Xcel Energy Center.
With time running down, Wild defenseman Marco Scandella's shot from the point hit Matt Cullen's stick at the left circle and past Sharks goaltender Thomas Greiss at the 14:33 mark, tying the game for the second time.
Just 1:14 later, faced with a decision to hold the zone or retreat on defense, Jared Spurgeon chose the former. His shot from the right point seemed innocent enough, but was tipped by fourth line winger Jed Ortmeyer and in for the game-winner with 4:13 to play. The goal was Ortmeyer's first in the National Hockey League in 23 months.
"I knew we were getting in the trade a guy who would shoot the puck," said Yeo, referring to defenseman Kurtis Foster, acquired Friday in the Marek Zidlicky trade. "I didn't know it was going to make everyone else want to shoot the puck every time they touched it, too.
"It's one thing to shoot the puck from the blue line. There's not a very good chance of it going in if we don't have the traffic in front. I thought we did a good job of that tonight."
The victory erased a brutal start for the home team. Lackadaisical effort on goals by Tommy Wingels and Joe Thornton staked the Sharks to an early 2-0 just 3:21 into the contest.
Yeo was highly disappointed with the first period, one which was salvaged by a pretty goal by Cal Clutterbuck midway through. After gathering in the puck in his own zone, Clutterbuck streaked down the right wall before wristing a weak looking shot towards Greiss. Somehow, the puck got through for his 14th of the season, closing the gap to just one after 20 minutes.
"It was a terrible first period for us," Yeo said. "Our d-zone coverage, we were on our heels the whole time. We sat around just watching them. Clutter got us that big goal and we got a little bit of life after that."
The Sharks killed the remainder of a penalty to start the second, but the parade to the box continued as Benn Ferriero's hooking penalty at 1:39 put Minnesota on its third straight power play.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Wild center Kyle Brodziak won a faceoff cleanly back to Nick Schultz at the point, who blasted a slap shot from the point that ricocheted off the stick of Patrick Marleau and over Greiss' shoulder at 1:43, tying the game at two.
"It was nice to chip in and be apart of the offense a little bit," Schultz said. "Unsung heroes gotta chip in and guys that don't normally score got some big goals for us. Heater, Seto, Cully, all these guys are doing it, for the most part, night in and night out. We need other guys to help chip in."
The game took an odd and scary turn on the next faceoff as Scandella and Sharks forward Jamie McGinn got tangled up near the Sharks bench and Scandella's stick hit Sharks coach Todd McLellan's head, collapsing him to the ground. After a brief delay, McClellan walked to the back with help from trainers, yielding control to assistant coach Matt Shaw. McLellan did not return to the bench, but watched the game from the locker room.
For the next several minutes, the Wild controlled play as the Sharks seemed obviously and understandably distracted.
"I think we were on our heels a little bit," Shaw said. "It was a bit of an emotional moment for everybody to have that go on. Probably, in retrospect, we should have tried to delay things for just a little bit longer."
San Jose, which had outscored opponents in the second period 76-49 this season, was outshot 13-2 and went to the third period tied thanks in large part to Greiss. In addition to a save-of-the-year candidate on Wild wing Dany Heatley, robbing the veteran with a glove save while laying on his back just seconds into the period, Greiss also shut down a shorthanded breakaway attempt by Cullen.
San Jose recaptured the lead midway through the third on a power play blast from the point by former Wild defenseman Brent Burns.
"In the past, you would see a goal like that deflate us," Schultz said. "But we hung with it and stayed with our game and that's what we need to do. We haven't been as resilient and had that urgency in our game but we did tonight."
Both teams settled into a neutral zone game after that until Cullen's tying tip shifted the momentum to Minnesota. The Sharks pulled Greiss with just under 90 seconds to play, but could only muster a couple of shots.
"Those could be odd goals or great goals by them," McGinn said of the deflections. "We have to do a better job of taking our men and closing out games. We just didn't finish it off tonight."
Backstrom recovered from the rough start to stop 25 shots in the win, although there was little he could do on any of the Sharks goals. Greiss made 22 saves.
The win allowed the Wild to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race. Dallas, which won in overtime against Vancouver earlier Sunday, maintains a five-point edge over Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot.
San Jose, which has been on the road for 16 days, finishes it's nine-game trip 2-6-1 and has surrendered the lead in the Pacific Division. The Sharks now trail Phoenix in the division race and are just one point ahead of the Stars for the seventh spot in the west.
"You gotta work out of it," Thornton said. "If you work hard, eventually you'll come out of it. I know no one is feeling sorry for us."
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