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The Sports Xchange, Published December 08 2013

Harding stays hot in Wild's victory

ST. PAUL – On a night that was all about

defense, the Minnesota Wild had just enough offense to hold off the San Jose Sharks.

Left winger Zach Parise had a pair of goals and center Mikko Koivu had another to supply the necessary offense, and goaltender Josh Harding had 37 saves as the Wild beat the Sharks 3-1 on Sunday.

San Jose (19-6-5), which has now lost three in a row, outshot Minnesota by a wide margin throughout, but could not find the back of the net until less than two minutes remained. Harding improved to 13-1-0 at home this season for the Wild (18-9-5).

“With the year he’s having, he’s not sneaking up on anybody anymore. He had a really good night,” said Sharks coach Todd McClellan, praising the Wild goalie. “I thought there were times where we could’ve had better net presence. We thought we had to maybe score on the third rebound, never mind the second one. He was that mobile and agile. We got to a few of them with our goaltender pulled but it was not enough.”

The Wild, who had played perhaps their worst game of the season on Friday in a lifeless road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, looked in need of a wake-up call for much of the first 40 minutes on Sunday, but somehow emerged with a 2-0 lead.

“That performance in Columbus, we were flat. We were physically tired, mentally tired. We just didn’t have it,” Parise said. “To come back and win a game, then you go out and play some really important games against some teams we’re chasing in the standings, you want to take care of what you’ve got to do at home. It was a hard game, and that’s a tough team to play against.”

After a scoreless first period, Parise opened the scoring with his second goal in the past three games early in the second.

As Wild right winger Jason Pominville was being checked into Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, Wild defenseman Marco Scandella ripped a shot from the blue line that hit bodies in front of the net. Parise pounced on the rebound and scored with Niemi still trying to get in position.

After a lengthy conference among the on-ice officials – and complaints of goalie interference from the San Jose bench – the goal was allowed to stand.

“I think I was bumped,” said Niemi, who finished with 10 saves and fell to

16-5-5 this season. “I’m not sure where it happened or if they did it on purpose or not, but it did affect the play for sure.”

Koivu doubled the Minnesota lead five minutes later, taking a pass from defenseman Jared Spurgeon and threading a long-range shot through a crowd in front of Niemi and into the upper left corner of the net.

San Jose 0 0 1— 1

Minnesota 0 2 1— 3

First Period—

Second Period—1, Minnesota, Parise 13 (Pominville, Scandella) 3:55. 2, Minnesota, Koivu 7 (Spurgeon, Heatley) 8:11.

Third Period—3, San Jose, Marleau 13 (Irwin, Couture) 18:19. 4, Minnesota, Parise 14 (Brodziak) 19:54 (en).

Shots on Goal—San Jose 11-21-6—38. Minnesota 5-6-2—13.

Power-play opportunities—San Jose 0 of 4. Minnesota 0 of 2.

Goalies—San Jose Niemi 16-5-5 (12 shots-10 saves). Minnesota Harding 16-4-3 (38-37).

A—18,411 (18,064). T—2:28.