Rookie Hackett stops Sharks after Harding injured

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2011 - 6:57 AM

Rookie Matt Hackett got the victory in relief in his NHL debut.

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SAN JOSE, CALIF. - It was Oct. 4, 1991, and a dehydrated Jeff Hackett was lying on a table getting replenished intravenously.

He had just stopped 48 of 52 shots in a loss at Vancouver during the expansion Sharks' first game ever.

Assistant coach Drew Remenda walked into the trainer's room and put a game puck on his chest.

Hackett threw it back and said, "I've seen enough rubber tonight," Remenda, now the Sharks' television color analyst, said.

Twenty years later, Wild rookie Matt Hackett made his NHL debut against the team his uncle ushered into the league. Called on to relieve an injured Josh Harding 71 seconds into a game the Wild already was trailing, Hackett deserved an IV and a game puck himself after backstopping the Wild to a grueling, come-from-behind 2-1 victory at the Shark Tank.

"I'm still shaking," Hackett said. "I was shaking the whole time. It's my dream to play in the NHL, and to get my first win like that, it's the best feeling in the world"

It was the Wild's 15th victory in 19 games, a stretch that includes three five-game winning streaks. The Wild, which leads the NHL by three points, also tied a franchise record with its fifth consecutive road victory and won for a league-leading 12th time when getting scored upon first.

Hackett stopped 34 of 34 shots to become the 10th Wild goaltender to win a game, and Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored first-period goals after the Wild recovered from its worst start in memory. The Wild also played much of the game without Devin Setoguchi, who left because of an undisclosed injury. No updates were provided on either Setoguchi's or Harding's injuries.

The Sharks reeled off the game's first 16 shots, and that came in eight minutes. When Harding was hurt the Sharks already had eight shots and a 1-0 lead provided by Joe Pavelski.

Harding was injured after not being able to corral a Patrick Marleau rebound. Trying to fend off Pavelski, teammate Nick Schultz accidentally struck Harding in the head with an elbow.

Harding's mask flew off and he crumpled to the ice. He would later wince while moving his neck as he leaned on the cage.

Harding left with the undisclosed injury, and with Niklas Backstrom out because of a strained groin, Hackett entered.

But Hackett's no slouch. The 21-year-old 2009 third-round pick backstopped Mike Yeo's Houston Aeros to last year's Calder Cup Finals. He was recalled Saturday with a 9-3-3 record in Houston with a 2.11 goals against average and .927 save percentage.

Twenty-eight games in, Hackett was the 11th player from last year's Houston team to skate for the Wild this season, and the ninth rookie.

Hackett, cool and calm, made clutch saves, especially while killing a four-minute high-sticking penalty to former Aeros teammate Cody Almond.

Slowly, the Wild, behind a relentless forecheck, began to chip its way back into the game.

Finally, Koivu struck with his fifth goal on a Dany Heatley rebound. Casey Wellman, the former product of the San Jose Jr. Sharks program, picked up an assist for his first career three-game point streak and received applause from his excited family.

Then, late in the period, Torrey Mitchell upended Kyle Brodziak for a last-minute Wild power play. Beautiful puck movement between Jared Spurgeon and Koivu led to Koivu's cross-slot pass to a pinching Bouchard from the point.

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