Wild deny Sharks home ice for 1st round with 6-3 win
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild played the season finale with more urgency even though it was the San Jose Sharks who had something at stake.
Jason Zucker scored twice in the second period, Eric Staal matched the franchise record for goals in a season and the Wild denied San Jose home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 6-3 victory over the Sharks on Saturday night.
While the Wild were locked into the third seed in the Central Division, the Sharks needed one point to finish second in the Pacific and open the playoffs at home. Instead, San Jose lost for the fifth time in the final six games and will be forced to hit the road to start the playoffs against Anaheim in the first meeting between the rivals since the Ducks upset the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Sharks in 2009.
“It was disappointing tonight, but one game doesn’t define our season,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think if someone told me a month ago that we’d have 100 points, I would have taken that, regardless if we had home-ice or who we were playing or not.”
Mikael Granlund scored the tiebreaking goal 28 seconds before Zucker got his first and Jonas Brodin and Matt Cullen also scored for the Wild. Staal added an empty-net goal to tie Marian Gaborik’s franchise record for goals in a season with 42.
“I wasn’t going to miss that one,” Staal said. “It’s cool, it’s fun to have that alongside Marian, he’s a great player and a great goal scorer, so it was fun.”
Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves. Minnesota finished the season with 101 points, going over the 100-point mark for the second straight season and fourth time in franchise history.
“I thought our team played really hard,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I don’t know if (San Jose) took the night off, or not, I’m hoping to believe that we played well enough that we didn’t give them an opportunity.”
Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier scored for San Jose. Martin Jones allowed five goals on 19 shots before being replaced by Aaron Dell to start the third period.
The Sharks started strong in the second period and held Minnesota without a shot for more than eight minutes. But the Wild then struck twice within less than a minute midway through the period to take control.
Granlund started it with a wrist shot for his 21st goal before Zucker took over with two goals of his own, giving him 33 on the season and the Wild coasted from there to the victory.
“We didn’t play too well,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “We should have played better. Disappointing. I think over 82 games in the season we had a pretty solid year to make the playoffs.”
The Wild started fast, holding San Jose to no shots on goal for nearly nine minutes and taking a 2-0 lead on goals from Brodin and Cullen.
The Sharks then found their game late in the period and scored twice in 64 seconds to tie it, with Burns getting the first on a shot from the point and Pavelski tying the game after a turnover by Matt Dumba.
NOTES: Wild D Louie Belpedio made his NHL debut after signing a contract earlier this week following a four-year career at Miami of Ohio. He had two assists to become the first Minnesota player ever with two points in his debut. ... Sharks F Evander Kane returned to the lineup after missing two games with an undisclosed injury. ... Brodin’s goal gave him 100 career points.
Wild: First round of playoffs vs. Winnipeg.
Sharks: First round of playoffs vs. Anaheim.
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