SAN JOSE, CALIF. – After consecutive overtime losses and a sixth in seven overtime attempts 24 hours earlier in Arizona, Mike Yeo said Saturday morning that the Wild needed to look at the big picture.
It still had points in six consecutive games and was playing impeccable defense. He cautioned his team not to let that slip in an attempt to break free of a goal-scoring slump.
“We’re at a point where our game can start to go the other way,” Yeo warned.
Hours later, the Wild was outstanding defensively against the San Jose Sharks, got a masterful goaltending performance from Darcy Kuemper and a third-period winning goal from Zach Parise en route to a 2-0 victory at SAP Center.
In a game in which Yeo shuffled three lines early, the Wild was impervious to the fatigue that came from playing the night before. Kuemper made 25 saves for his sixth career shutout and first since Oct. 23, 2014.
“It was a gutsy effort by all the guys,’’ Kuemper said. “It’s always tough playing these back-to-back games against a fresh team. But we mustered all the energy we could and played hard all night.”
Parise ended a scoreless tie 4:41 into the third period with his ninth goal. It came off an outstanding forecheck from his line with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. As is his trait, Parise parked at the net and scored off his own rebound. Mikko Koivu later added an empty-netter, sealing the victory that sent the Sharks to their sixth consecutive defeat.
In ending a five-game winless skid in San Jose, the Wild extended its point streak to seven games (4-0-3) and has allowed five goals in the past six games.
In fact, take away the two overtime goals, and the Wild has allowed three in the past 18, 20-minute periods.
There was a certain irony to Kuemper winning his second game of the season and first in a start Saturday.
Former Wild goalie prospect Matt Hackett was in the arena earlier in the day playing as a member of the AHL San Diego Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks’ affiliate, against the San Jose Barracuda, the Sharks’ affiliate.
In 2013, the Wild was in this very same arena when it chose to keep Kuemper and trade Hackett in the Pominville deadline deal.
After weathering some early Sharks pressure, the Wild gained momentum after Yeo juggled three lines, including the struggling Jason Zucker-Koivu-Nino Niederreiter line.
Yeo moved Charlie Coyle from center to right wing with Thomas Vanek and Koivu, Erik Haula centered Zucker and Niederreiter, and Ryan Carter was moved from right wing to center between Chris Porter and Justin Fontaine.
The Vanek-Koivu-Coyle line threatened for much of the night, and the Wild controlled play the rest of the period and had the better of the chances.
Martin Jones, who entered with a 2.35 goals-against average and .916 save percentage, was solid. His best saves came on a Vanek breakaway and a Haula cut to the net from out of the corner.
The second period started slowly for the Wild. The Wild barely got a sniff of the offensive zone in the first eight minutes and had no shots other than a harmless Ryan Suter floater.
But after a TV timeout, the Wild found its legs and Jones was under attack. Suter had a nice try from the bottom of the left circle, a Parise chance seemed to fool Jones and he denied Haula and Granlund on point-blank tries.
On the other end, Kuemper also stood tall as the Sharks began crashing the net. His best stop came when he challenged Brent Burns between the circles.
“It was awesome for him mentally to get the win, to get the shutout and get rewarded for how well he has been playing,’’ Parise said of Kuemper.