Harding backstops Wild to 3-1 victory over San Jose

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2013 - 6:50 AM

The Wild, in turn, could manage only 13 shots, but Zach Parise scored twice. The team improved to 13-3-2 at home.

 

At one point Sunday night, one of the referees asked Wild defenseman Ryan Suter if the shot clock was right.

“Sometimes you’re in the heat of the moment, you don’t notice,” Suter said. “I was shocked.”

The San Jose Sharks peppered Wild goaltender Josh Harding with 38 shots, the most shots the Wild has allowed at home this season.

Conversely, the Wild sprayed 13 shots on Harding’s San Jose counterpart, the fewest the Wild has registered home or away this season.

Yet at the end of the night, the scoreboard read Wild 3, Sharks 1, and the Wild wasn’t apologizing.

“I thought we did a good job,” Suter said. “They didn’t have a lot of quality shots.”

“We kept them to the outside,” concurred captain Mikko Koivu. “To be honest, I didn’t feel like we had 13 shots. I thought we had more.”

The Wild made the most of them with Zach Parise and Koivu scoring second-period goals and Parise potting an empty-netter on one of the Wild’s two third-period shots.

Harding actually seemed to be fighting the puck early, but if so, he certainly recovered and got into a confident groove. Through two periods, the Wild was being outshot 32-11, allowing 21 shots in the second period.

Yet, Harding stopped them all and wasn’t beaten until Patrick Marleau scored with 1 minute, 41 seconds left.

“And it had to be 6-on-5 to get it. He looked sharp,” Sharks veteran Joe Thornton said.

Harding improved to 16-4-3 with a league-best 1.50 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. In Harding’s previous 15 wins, the Wild allowed an average of 22.7 shots per game.

“They make it tough on a goalie,” Harding said of San Jose. “You get to feel the puck, you know it’s going to come from everywhere. I’d almost rather those games sometimes than the 10-shot ones with three spread out here and there.”

As little as the Wild generated offensively, coach Mike Yeo was happy with the way it defended. “We were sharp in our own zone,” Yeo said. “Against the rush, we were clear and decisive sorting things out.”

The Wild did a terrific job keeping Sharks forwards from rebounds by boxing out bodies. Joe Pavelski said the Sharks just couldn’t get to Harding.

“We stressed before the game we have to be harder in front of our net,” said Suter, who made a goal-saving block late. “We’ve been getting kind of soft there.”

The Wild had a tough time getting to the offensive zone, partly because of neutral-zone turnovers. After a scoreless first, Parise got things started one shift after a tremendous momentum-building penalty kill with the first of his two goals. He has 14, tied with Jason Pominville for the team lead.

Matt Cooke drew applause on the penalty kill when he ate 15 seconds of clock by outbattling three San Jose players in one corner. “If you can go out and have a good kill, your team can get a spark out of it,” Cooke said.

Less than five minutes later, Dany Heatley forced a turnover, and Jared Spurgeon set up Koivu, who skated between the circles and ripped his seventh goal.

The Wild was glad to bounce back after Friday’s 4-0 loss at Columbus and before hitting the road for three consecutive games and seven of its next eight.

But it wasn’t an easy game.

“They do that overload in the D zone,” Parise said, a defensive-zone coverage taught by his former Devils coach Larry Robinson, now San Jose’s associate coach. “It makes it really, really hard to get anything going on the cycle. … That puck gets stuck in the corner, they put four guys in there and we’ve got two. You can’t do anything.

“We did it in New Jersey, so trust me, I’m familiar with it.”

 

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