SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Wild is about to start from scratch, but the team avoided entering its impending first-round playoff series with the Jets stuck in a rut by cruising past the Sharks 6-3 Saturday at SAP Center in its regular-season finale – the team’s first win since clinching Monday, snapping a two-game slide.
This put the Wild (45-26-11) at 101 points, the second straight season the team has reached 100 points and fourth time in team history.
Winger Jason Zucker scored twice, two players registered their first NHL points and center Eric Staal tied the franchise record for most goals in a season when he buried his 42nd into an empty net with 26 seconds to go.
Defenseman Jonas Brodin opened the scoring 10 minutes, 53 seconds into the first period on a one-timer, his 100th career point. The Tyler Ennis-Matt Cullen-Charile Coyle unit set up that goal and then contributed another when Cullen buried an Ennis feed, his second assist, at 14:52.
Two goals on three shots tied it for San Jose, with center Dylan Gambrell converting on a deflection at 15:28 before captain Joe Pavelski wired a shot by goalie Devan Dubnyk 1:04 later.
The Wild was slow to get pucks on net in the second but once it did, the goals poured in; winger Mikael Granlund started the parade at 11:19 with a glove-side shot. Winger Jordan Greenway assisted on the goal, his first NHL point.
Only 28 seconds later, Zucker lifted a backhand by goalie Martin Jones. And then Zucker capped off three goals on four shots in 4:06 with a wrister at 15:25, his 33rd of the season. Winger Nino Niederreiter set up both goals, and defenseman Louie Belpedio also assisted on Zucker’s second goal – his second career point after securing an assist on Cullen’s goal.
The Sharks added a third with 1:10 remaining, a redirect by wigner Timo Meier.
Dubnyk tallied 27 saves for his 35th win. Jones had 14 saves before getting replaced by Aaron Dell in the third. Dell had four stops.
San Jose went 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Wild was 0-for-1.
Winger Zach Parise rested as the odd-forward out.
Tragedy in Saskatchewan
Twenty minutes from Wild assistant coach Bob Woods’ family farm in Saskatchewan is the closest sizable city, Humboldt.
That’s where Woods’ son Brendan was born. His other son, Colin, played hockey in the community. And Woods’ mom and sister live there now.
Woods was reminded of all those connections to Humboldt after hearing a bus carrying its junior team was involved in a crash Friday in Saskatchewan that killed 15 and injured 14 others, a horrific and heartbreaking loss that has rocked the hockey world.
“You know everybody in the community, especially the hockey people,” Woods said. “It’s one of those things you always worry about, and you hope never happens. When you hear it happens, it hits close to home.”
The Humboldt Broncos, who are part of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, were en route to a playoff game when the collision with a transport truck happened on a rural highway. Coach Darcy Haugan was announced as among the deceased, and Woods remembers Haugan watching Woods’ practices when he was the general manager and head coach of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League from 2014 to 2016.
“It’s where you really get to know your teammates,” Woods said of the bus rides. “You’re playing cards. You’re watching movies. You’re visiting. It’s kind of your safe area for the most part.”
Colin Woods played for the Broncos for a season two years ago. Three of his teammates were still on the Broncos this season, and Woods knew some of the parents.
“That’s why my wife makes my boys text every time they’re leaving and every time they arrive safe because you worry about it,” Woods said. “The roads are never good this time of year, and the weather and the hours that you travel. A lot of guys can relate to it because we’ve all been there.”
Defensive depth growing
Coach Bruce Boudreau expects Jared Spurgeon (right hamstring tear) to practice Monday. He also anticipates defenseman Carson Soucy rejoining the Wild after getting assigned to the minors Friday.
Defenseman Gustav Olofsson traveled to San Jose after missing the previous four games while in concussion protocol. Although he didn’t suit up against the Sharks, he’s healthy.