SAN JOSE, CALIF. – The Wild forgot Martin Havlat no longer wears its sweater.
These days, Havlat is employed by the San Jose Sharks, but Thursday night inside the toughest building in the NHL for road teams, the Wild set the skilled winger up like he still resided in a condo along the Mississippi River.
Havlat scored two goals directly off Wild blunders as the Sharks trounced the Wild 6-1 inside the noisy, intimidating Shark Tank.
Logan Couture also scored two goals and had two assists and Joe Pavelski and Raffi Torres had a goal and assist apiece. Antti Niemi made 27 saves as the Wild fell to seventh in the Western Conference — four points ahead of ninth- and 10th-place Dallas and Detroit, who each have a game in hand on Minnesota. A victory would have put the Wild within two points of the Northwest Division lead.
Niklas Backstrom was pulled 4 minutes, 21 seconds into the third period after the Sharks turned a 3-1 lead to 5-1 in a 22-second span.
“We didn’t deserve anything today. Not even a power play,” Backstrom said after the Wild went without a man-advantage for the sixth time in team history.
Said coach Mike Yeo: “Not much to say, right? … It’s not much different if you lose 2-1 or you lose 6-1. Still counts as a loss.”
The Sharks are the NHL’s best home team, having lost once in regulation all season and riding a 15-game home point streak (11-0-4) since Feb. 5.
The Wild is 1-7-1 in its past nine visits to San Jose, 2-10-1 in its past 13. So the last thing it wanted to do in San Jose’s rink was score on itself.
That’s just what Mikko Koivu did 7:42 into the game. The Wild captain accidentally put the puck into his own net with a perfect redirection as he tried to pilot Havlat’s attempted pass to Couture wide of Backstrom’s cage.
Koivu was covering up for Jonas Brodin, who tried to pinch up the wall but got caught when Patrick Marleau quickly triggered the breakout.
To add insult to injury, it’s no secret Koivu and Havlat weren’t exactly pals as teammates.
The Sharks played a strong opening period. The Wild turned the puck often in the offensive zone, allowing San Jose to come with speed. Minnesota also lost 18 of 27 faceoffs.
In the second period, Couture made it 2-0 when he gained position on penalty killer Torrey Mitchell and finished off a pretty tick-tack-toe setup from Joe Thornton and Marleau.
The Wild trimmed the deficit to 2-1 on a silky-smooth breakaway goal by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He caught Pominville’s saucer pass out of the air, head-faked Niemi and roofed a backhander.
The Wild gained some momentum, but after Kyle Brodziak hit the post and Niemi denied Koivu’s try, San Jose made it 3-1.
Backstrom came out of the cage to attempt to rim a puck around the glass. Couture pinned himself against the wall, leapt and knocked it down. Before Backstrom could get back into the cage and recover, Couture centered a bouncing puck to the slot for Havlat, who fired a shot just by a sprawling Jonas Brodin.
The loss ended the Wild’s road trip at 2-1.
“Wish it was a great trip, but it was a good trip,” Yeo said. “We have to push this one aside quickly and focus on our next one.”