Patrick Marleau got a fortunate bounce on his tiebreaking, power-play goal early in the third period and the San Jose Sharks went on to beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 Thursday night.
With Clayton Stoner off for holding, Marleau did a good job settling a pass from Joe Pavelski in the circle and fired a shot that Niklas Backstrom blocked with his pad. But the rebound deflected off Minnesota defender Brent Burns' leg and right past Backstrom for Marleau's 28th goal 5 minutes into the final period.
Logan Couture and Jamal Mayers also scored for the Sharks, who have won two straight following a three-game losing streak to stay atop the tight Pacific Division standings.
John Madden and Kyle Brodziak scored for Minnesota and Backstrom made 47 saves as the Wild finished an 0-4 road trip that put a severe dent into their playoff hopes. Minnesota is in 11th place in the Western Conference, six points behind eighth-place Calgary with just over three weeks left in the season.
Backstrom did his best to keep Minnesota in this game, posting his most saves of the season and helping kill a San Jose power play that kept the Wild within one goal midway through the third. Devin Setoguchi hit the post on the power play but Backstrom did a good job covering up the rebound.
Two of San Jose's three goals went into the net off Minnesota players, including a second-period score by Couture that deflected off Madden's stick. That proved to be enough to keep the Sharks in third place in the conference, three points ahead of Pacific Division-rival Phoenix.
The Sharks controlled the play in the second period, outshooting the Wild 21-9, but still found themselves tied heading into the third. The teams traded goals less than 2 minutes apart as Minnesota again quickly responded after falling behind.
San Jose took a 2-1 lead on a fluky play. Couture sent a puck toward the net from the corner and it deflected off Madden's stick and popped up over Backstrom and into the net.
Minnesota got the equalizer with a pretty response when Martin Havlat flipped a short pass over Mayers' stick and right to Brodziak, who beat Antti Niemi from in close.
Backstrom kept the game tied, coming up with a tough pad stop on Pavelski in the closing minute of the period.
The Sharks came into the game ranked third in the NHL on the power play but were unable to take advantage of two chances in the first period. The first man advantage ended early when Dan Boyle was called for slashing while trying to break up a short-handed chance by Matt Cullen. On the second power play, the Wild got a goal of their own from Madden, who beat his former Chicago teammate Niemi.
In between those two power-play chances, the Sharks struck first when Pavelski hit Mayers with a pass in stride and Mayers split two defenders before beating Backstrom with a backhand. Pavelski has six assists the past two games.
Notes: The teams split the season series, with each team winning both of its home games. ... San Jose D Niclas Wallin missed the game with an upper body injury after taking a hard hit from Dallas' Jamie Langenbrunner on Tuesday. ... Minnesota D Marek Zidlicky was sidelined with a lower body injury. ... The Sharks recalled LW John McCarthy from Worcester of the AHL before the game to replace Dany Heatley, who began his two-game suspension for elbowing Dallas' Steve Ott in the head.