Published April 19, 2013
| Associated Press
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Marty Havlat scored twice against his former team and the San Jose Sharks closed in on a ninth straight playoff berth, beating the Minnesota Wild 6-1 on Thursday night for their most lopsided win of the season.
Logan Couture added two goals and two assists, and Raffi Torres and Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks, who have won three straight games to remain tied for fourth place with Los Angeles in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Antti Niemi made 26 saves in his 22nd straight start.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the lone goal for the Wild, who dropped behind St. Louis into seventh place in the conference. Minnesota has a four-point lead over ninth-place Dallas and Detroit in the battle for the final playoff spot in the conference but has one fewer game remaining.
There was little carry-over from the nasty finish to the last meeting between these teams two weeks ago in San Jose. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was fined for slashing former teammate Dany Heatley at the final whistle. Vlasic then took Heatley to the ice in an ensuing scrum and Heatley suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. But with both teams fighting for playoff position, this was not the time for retribution.
Havlat has struggled to produce in his two seasons in San Jose since being acquired in a deal for Heatley in July 2011. But he has excelled against the Wild this month with three goals and two assists. He has no points in his last 10 games against the rest of the league.
Along with the two goals, Havlat also drew the penalty that set up Couture's power-play tally when he was held by Clayton Stoner early in the second.
The Sharks capitalized on a nifty passing sequence when Joe Thornton fed Patrick Marleau behind the goal line and Marleau set up Couture in the slot for a one-timer that made it 2-0.
Bouchard brought the Wild back when he beat Niemi with a backhand on a breakaway off a nice feed from Jason Pominville, but Havlat restored the two-goal lead late in the period with help from his linemate Couture.
Couture leaped to knock down Niklas Backstrom's clearing attempt behind the net and quickly fed Havlat in front for the easy goal with Backstrom scrambling to get back in position.
Torres and Pavelski then broke the game open when they teamed up for a pair of goals in a 22-second span early in the third period. The first came when Torres forced a turnover from Jonas Brodin and then skated around the net to beat Backstrom on a wraparound for his first goal with the Sharks on an assist from Pavelski.
They stayed on for the ensuing faceoff scored again to end Backstrom's night. Torres shot was blocked and went right to Pavelski in the slot, who scored his 14th goal of the season.
Couture added his second against Darcy Kuemper on an assist from Havlat midway through the third.
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead after the first period when Niemi stopped Jason Pominville on a breakaway shortly before San Jose capitalized on a fortuitous bounce. Havlat's centering pass to Logan Couture deflected off the stick of back-checking Mikko Koivu and into the net to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
NOTES: San Jose improved to 16-1-5 at home this season. ... Havlat has four goals in his last 29 games with three coming against the Wild. ... Minnesota F Mike Rupp missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.