SAN JOSE – Logan Couture and Marty Havlat each had two goals in leading the Sharks in a rout of the Minnesota Wild at HP Pavilion on Thursday night, 6-1. Raffi Torres and Joe Pavelski also scored for San Jose, which remains in fifth place in the Western Conference.
Couture finished with four points, a new career high, while Havlat’s three-point night was the first of his Sharks career.
The Sharks put some distance between themselves and the Wild, opening up a four-point lead on Minnesota, which would have overtaken San Jose with a regulation win. San Jose has a three-point lead on sixth-seeded St. Louis, and remains tied with Los Angeles.
The Kings, who appear more and more likely to be San Jose's first round opponent, own the tiebreaker with the Sharks and remain in fourth after beating Columbus on Thursday night.
The Sharks took a 2-0 lead on the power play. Joe Thornton found Patrick Marleau down low, and Marleau quickly passed to an open Couture in the slot. Couture had position on Torrey Mitchell, after Marleau drew Ryan Suter out from in front of the net at 5:29.
Minnesota responded with a breakaway goal by Pierre-Marc Bouchard at 9:44, when he raced ahead between Dan Boyle and Matt Irwin and made a pretty move to his backhand to cut the Sharks’ lead to 2-1. Antti Niemi stopped Jason Pominville on a breakaway in the first period, but couldn’t get a piece of Bouchard’s slick move.
The Wild made a push after that, including Kyle Brodziak’s shot from the circle that rang off of the post with 7:10 to go. Instead of tying it up, though, the Wild allowed Havlat’s second goal of the game at 14:32. Couture knocked down Niklas Backstrom’s rim from behind the net, and found Havlat in the slot before the goaltender could recover.
The Sharks put it away early in the third. Torres pressured Jonas Brodin in the offensive zone after Pavelski pushed it ahead, and Torres’ wraparound goal at 3:59 gave San Jose a three-goal cushion. The lead increased to 5-1 just 22 seconds later, when Torres’ shot from the top of the circle was muffled by Jared Spurgeon, but trickled to Pavelski for an easy conversion. Backstrom was pulled at that point.
Couture scored on a one-timer from the slot on a pass from Havlat, who deftly played the puck to himself off of the back of the net, at 9:15 to cap the scoring.
Havlat’s first period goal came when Mikko Koivu inadvertently tipped his attempted pass to Couture into the Wild net at 7:42. Havlat has five points in his last 12 games (3g, 2a), all against Minnesota, and had just two goals in his last 28 games before Thursday’s game against his former club.
Pavelski, Torres, and Marleau (2a) all had multiple-point games.
The Sharks improved to 12-2-1 against the Northwest Division. They took two of three from Minnesota in the season series, both at HP Pavilion.
The Sharks have scored one power play goal in four of their last five games (4-for-12), converting on their one and only advantage against Minnesota. The Wild did not have a power play.
Thornton leads the league with 19 power play assists.
Making his 31st start in the last 32 games, Niemi took over the league lead in wins with 23. He made 27 saves in what was also his 22nd straight start, and is 6-2-1 career against Minnesota.
Backstrom, who has 22 wins, was pulled in favor of Darcy Kuemper after allowing five goals on 27 shots. Kuemper surrendered Couture’s goal and faced just two shots.
Irwin returned to the lineup after a one-game absence in place of Scott Hannan.
The Wild’s Dany Heatley is expected to be out for the season following left shoulder surgery. He was hurt in a wrestling match with Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the previous game between the teams on April 3.
The Sharks have four games remaining. They will enjoy a two-day break before facing Columbus on Sunday at 5 p.m. at HP Pavilion, and host the Dallas Stars next Tuesday. That’s followed by games in Phoenix on Wednesday and Los Angeles on April 27.