ST. PAUL (AP) Niklas Backstrom stopped 36 shots, Andrew Brunette scored the game’s only goal and the Minnesota Wild shut out the powerful San Jose Sharks 1-0 on Tuesday night.
The Sharks held an 18-4 shots advantage midway through the second period, but found themselves trailing after Brunette scored a 5-on-3 goal with 7 minutes left in the period.
Harassed by Wild defensemen Brent Burns and Nick Schultz, and denied by Backstrom all night, the Sharks’ dangerous top line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau was shut down. Backstrom recorded his first shutout since March 3, 2010, at Calgary.
The Wild killed five power plays, highlighted by a key stop with 7 minutes remaining in the third. The Sharks entered as the top power-play team in the league at 31.6 percent.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Wild against the Sharks and snapped Backstrom out of a funk against San Jose.
Before the shutout, Backstrom was 2-7-3 with a 3.19 goals-against average vs. the Sharks. The Fin made several key saves on Sharks power plays, including denying Joe Pavelski in the third on a 5-on-4 advantage.
After starting slow, the Sharks had won four of the previous five and scored 20 goals in the four wins.
The Wild had just six goals in their last four games, but managed to do enough to earn another important win against a quality opponent. The Wild also had a big victory over the Washington Capitals last Thursday.
Brunette scored by taking a pass in the crease from Martin Havlat and beating goalie Antero Niittymaki. Brunette had fanned with an open net seconds earlier, and looked relieved after making the most of his second chance.
The power-play goal was the Wild’s second in their last 20 chances.
Niittymaki made his third straight start and stopped 15 shots.
Notes: Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard skated at full speed during practice Monday, but did not set a date for his return from a concussion. Bouchard has been out since Oct 6, 2009. … Brunette’s goal was the first 5-on-3 goal allowed by the Sharks this season. … Wild D Cam Barker returned after missing the last four games with a groin injury. … Sharks coach Todd McLellan moved C Torrey Mitchell from the second line to the third and dropped Devin Setoguchi to the third. … Several Wild players have grown mustaches to support Movember, an annual charity event in November that encourages men to grow mustaches to raise awareness of cancers affecting men. Cal Clutterbuck’s mustache even has its own Twitter page.
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