SAN JOSE –- Despite icing their most inexperienced lineup to date this season, the Sharks found a way to increase their home winning streak in a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at SAP Center.
The Sharks, down several players due to injury, have now won six of their last seven games, all in regulation. They’ve triumphed in five in a row on home ice, including the first two of a five-game homestand.
San Jose led 1-0 after the second period, but Minnesota tied it just 1:03 into the third. Tommy Wingels slid a clearing attempt right to the stick of Christian Folin, and the defenseman’s first NHL goal came on a blast through a screen and past Alex Stalock.
Joe Pavelski responded with the game-winner less than a minute later, though. The winger got open in the circle and one-timed a Joe Thornton pass at 1:48 to give the lead right back to San Jose.
Brent Burns power play goal against his former team broke a scoreless deadlock. The defenseman rifled a shot from the point that hit the Wild’s Jared Spurgeon’s stick blade and deflected in at 14:51 of the second period.
Earlier in the frame, Logan Couture’s defensive awareness helped to keep the Wild off of the board. Thomas Vanek had Stalock beat on a wraparound attempt a little more than two minutes into the middle frame, but Couture’s quick stick prevented Vanek from completing the maneuver.
Then, with seven minutes to go, Spurgeon passed up what looked like a sure goal on a two-on-one rush, opting to pass through the slot towards teammate Zach Parise. A back-checking Couture snuffed out that opportunity with about 13 minutes to go in the second period, though.
Down several healthy bodies, the Sharks recalled forward Chris Tierney and defenseman Matt Tennyson for the game. Tierney centered the fourth line and was playing for the first time since Nov. 1 after spending the past month in the AHL, while Tennyson suited up for his second game of the season paired with Scott Hannan.
The Sharks were without Marc-Edouard Vlasic (upper body) Mike Brown (lower body), Tyler Kennedy (shoulder) and Matt Nieto (ankle). Nieto could return as soon as Saturday, though, while Vlasic’s injury isn’t thought to be long term.
Tierney, Tennyson, Mirco Mueller, Melker Karlsson and Barclay Goodrow, each of whom has fewer than 25 of NHL experience, all dressed for the win.
The Sharks and Wild will play the rubber match of their three-game season series on Jan. 6 in St. Paul. Minnesota won the first game there on Oct. 30, 4-3 in a shootout.
San Jose is 5-1-1 in its last seven games against the Wild, and 14-1-1 in the last 16 at SAP Center.
The Sharks were 1-for-3 on the power play, and are 4-for-14 in their last six games (28.5 percent).
The Wild went 0-for-2, and have scored just one power play goal in 15 road games this season (1-for-44).
Stalock was making his third straight start for the first time in his career, and it was also the St. Paul native’s first appearance against Minnesota. He recorded his fourth win with 18 saves, including stretching out to stop Spurgeon with 2:36 to go in regulation.
Antti Niemi was scheduled to start on Tuesday, but got dinged up in the morning skate. He dressed as the backup and should be an option to play on Saturday.
Kuemper took the loss, allowing two goals on 30 shots.
Minnesota was outshot for just the fourth time this season.
Thornton had two assists, moving past Montreal legend Jean Beliveau for 39th place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1220 points.
John Scott came out of the lineup after a season-high six straight games, while Tye McGinn drew back in for his second game in the last five.
Minnesota was without defensemen Marco Scandella (suspension) and Keith Ballard (concussion), the latter of which was seriously hurt on Tuesday.
The Sharks will open a three-game season series with the surprising Nashville Predators on Saturday. They’ll enjoy four days off before hosting the Edmonton Oilers next Thursday, and close out the homestand against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, Dec. 20.