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Sharks beat Wild to snap four-game slide

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks flipped the switch on their sputtering power play and snapped their season-long four-game losing streak Thursday night with a 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild at SAP Center.

Joe Pavelski scored two power-play goals, and rookie Tomas Hertl added a third as the Sharks tied their season high.

"It's been better," Pavelski said of the power play. "We've obviously found our work ethic. It hasn't been pretty, but we've taken more shots and gotten a lot more pucks back and a few went in."

When the Sharks lost 3-1 at Minnesota on Sunday, they went 0-for-4 on the power play, a display that coach Todd McLellan called "awful" after the game. This time Pavelski and Hertl scored power-play goals in the first period when the Sharks had four chances and built a 2-0 lead. Pavelski scored another extra-man goal in the second period to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead entering the third period.

McLellan said he hopes the Sharks have recaptured their typical confidence on the power play, but he'll need more proof.

"The one thing they got back was their work ethic, for the most part," McLellan said. "You start there and you can certainly build off of it. Three for a night is a good night. A night that we'll take, and it obviously won us the game. Confidence is a strange thing. It can come and go quickly. You have to work hard to maintain it."

The Sharks (20-6-6) finished 3-for-7 on the power play; the Wild (18-11-5) went 0-for-3. San Jose had gone 2-for-22 on the power play in its previous six games.

An angry Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said his players spent much more time in the penalty box than they deserved, and he accused the Sharks of "embellishment" and "diving." He specifically pointed to the Sharks' first goal that came on their first power play with Justin Fontaine in the penalty box for high-sticking Brad Stuart.

"Must be nice to draw penalties like that, when the other team goes stick on puck and you just kind of hold your head," Yeo said. "Make sure you look at the first penalty because to me that's embarrassing. I guess we've got to ask our payers to embellish more."

Yeo said he thought his team "battled hard" and might have had a better fate if not for so many penalties he considered to be questionable.

"We didn't do enough, no question," Yeo said. "We were obviously in the box too much. We didn't finish well enough. Penalty kill, it doesn't matter how many times they dive, we got to make sure we kill them off. Or embellish. I shouldn't say just dive."

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made 28 saves, while Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom made 36.

Minnesota, which got a third-period goal from Jonas Brodin, continued to struggle on the road. The Wild are 13-3-2 at home but lost their fifth straight road game and fell to 5-8-3 away from Xcel Energy Center, including a 2-1 road loss Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

Minnesota lost for the eighth time in its past nine trips to San Jose -- all in regulation.

With Fontaine in the penalty box for high-sticking Stuart, Pavelski scored at 5:14 of the opening period on the Sharks' first power play. Dan Boyle sent Pavelski a pass from the point, and he ripped a shot from above the left circle past Backstrom, with Patrick Marleau providing a screen.

Minnesota killed off San Jose's second power play, but the Wild's parade to the box wasn't over. The Sharks got their third power play at 12:16 when Joe Thornton drew a holding call on Fontaine. Thirty seconds later, Matt Cooke tripped Thornton and went to the box.

The Wild survived all 1:30 of the two-man advantage, but Hertl scored with four seconds left on the 5-on-4 power play. After a Brodin turnover, Tommy Wingels threaded a pass to Hertl in the slot. The rookie, who drew his first NHL penalty in the second period, ripped the puck past Backstrom and inside the left post.

Hertl's team-high 15th goal gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead at 14:43.

"It was good," Sharks center Logan Couture said of the power play. "We went through a stretch there where it was losing us some games. I think our power play was the reason why we weren't winning. In this room, we've got a lot of skilled players that should go out and create momentum for our team if we're not scoring, and we're starting to score some goals. so it was good to see."

The Sharks had blown two-goal leads in two of their past four losses, but this time they didn't let Minnesota back into the game.

Pavelski made it 3-0 at 3:42 of the second period with Zenon Konopka in the box after getting four minutes for high-sticking Jason Demers and drawing blood. Replays showed that it was actually Sharks rookie Freddie Hamilton's stick that made contact with Demers' mouth, but that didn't help the Wild.

Matt Irwin took a pass from Thornton and fired a long slap shot; Pavelski scored from the slot on a rebound.

"That third goal was big for us," Pavelski said. "It gave us a little more of cushion. We haven't been able to find that third one lately. Still definitely would like to forecheck more and play with the puck more in the third. It's a big win for us. We had to get this one."

Brodin ended Niemi's shutout bid at 12:36 of the third period, banking a shot off Stuart and past Niemi, but that was as close as the Wild got.

Wild forward Jason Pominville pointed to his team's slow start -- Minnesota gave up the first goal for the eighth straight time on the road -- and missed opportunities to score throughout the game.

"They're a tough team to play against at home," Pominville said. "I think they've drawn the most penalties in the League. They showed it tonight. Whether we like the calls or not, there's nothing much you can really do. It's just unfortunate we put ourselves behind the 8-ball. It's tough to come back when teams have leads."

With just over eight minutes left to play, Couture was stuck near his left eye by a puck shot by a teammate. He skated off under his own power and went to the dressing room, but he returned later in the period.

"It was just knuckling, and me being stupid, I wear my visor up a little high," Couture said. "That had something to do with it."

Wild rookie forward Brett Bulmer, who was called up Thursday from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, made his season debut for Minnesota. He had four hits and took two shots in 10:18 of ice time.

"I was impressed," Yeo said. "I thought he played a strong game. He was hard, he was physical. He's not fun to play against. He's good on the wall."

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