Cullen's goals in regulation and shootout spark Wild win
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cullen celebrated a career milestone in style on Tuesday. The Moorhead native, playing in his 1000th NHL game, scored in regulation and again in the shootout en route to the Wild's 5-4 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks.
The Wild built leads of 3-1 and 4-2, only to see the Sharks come roaring back late in the third period, scoring twice in a span of 22 seconds to tie the game. In the overtime, the Sharks peppered Wild goalie Josh Harding.
But Minnesota held on to force the shootout, then got goals from Cullen and Mikko Koivu, while Harding stopped Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe, giving the Wild their first two-point game of 2012.
"The bounces were on their side," said Harding, who finished with 34 saves. "Everything would hit them and go right to their stick. They actually missed a couple of opportunities to score goals. But that's the sign of a good team. We'll take this as a stepping stone in the right direction, because I felt we played our hearts out tonight."
On Monday, Cal Clutterbuck and a few other players with to the hospital to visit Jack Jablonski, the high school player who was paralyzed in a game late last month. Clutterbuck made the high school sophomore a promise, and on Tuesday, he kept that promise.
"I told him I was going to score a goal today, so I thought I'd get that out of the way in the first five minutes so I didn't have to worry about it all night," Clutterbuck joked. "I should've scored three or four for him."
The Wild were clearly overmatched in the "offensive weapons" department on Tuesday, as the Sharks are a dangerous team with the puck, and the Wild were without names like Latendresse, Bouchard and Setoguchi. But gritty play by the likes of Clutterbuck, Casey Wellman, Justin Falk and Cullen made the difference in getting the home team a much-needed win.
Still, San Jose flexed enough offensive muscle late to turn a two-goal Wild lead into a tie game in seemingly the blink of an eye. And in the overtime, the Sharks dominated and looked to be on the brink of sending the Wild to another disheartening loss.
"At the end of the game we played like a team that's been struggling," Cullen said. "We didn't have that same confidence and poise that we have when we're winning. But it's a testament to the group we have that we found a way to hang on and get the win."
Harding admitted that the five-minute overtime felt like it lasted about two hours, as the momentum-possessing Sharks held the puck in the Wild zone and out-shot the Wild by a 23-10 margin over the last 25 minutes of the game. But Harding held strong, and the skaters gave him just enough of a break to get to the shootout. There the two Wild goals, versus none for the Sharks, meant just the second Wild win in the past month. For a team that has fallen from first to eighth in the Western Conference standings over that span, the importance of that second point was noteworthy.
"It's time," Cullen said. "We've struggled here for long enough, and you can't afford to struggle too long in this league. Teams pass you by, and we see where we are in the standings. We want to climb."
• 2: Number of 5-on-3 power play goals scored against the Wild this season after San Jose got its first goal with a pair of Minnesota players in the penalty box.
• 1: Career points by Wild center David McIntyre, who got an assist in his third NHL game.
• 13: Number on the Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey sweater worn by Max Jablonski, who got a thundering ovation when he planted the Minnesota Wild flag at center ice before the game.
• 800: Career points by Sharks center Patrick Marleau, who scored in the third period for San Jose.
We knew the Wild would be down a forward, with Pierre-Marc Bouchard going on the injured reserve list on Tuesday with continuing concussion symptoms (which the Wild inexplicably referred to as a "lower body injury" earlier). What was unexpected was the healthy scratch of Devin Setoguchi for disciplinary reasons.
"It was a violation of a team rule," Yeo said. "It's not an easy decision, especially how valuable he is to our team. The thing is, we all have to be held accountable."
Wild - Cal Clutterbuck 11 (Wellman, Zidlicky), 7:04
Sharks - Dan Boyle 3 (Marleau, Thornton), 16:08, PPG
Wild - Warren Peters 1 (Falk, McIntyre), 14:26
Wild - Nick Johnson 5 (Heatley, Falk), 7:42
Sharks - Benn Feriero 5 (Vlasic, Boyle), 9:47
Wild - Matt Cullen 11 (Wellman), 13:40
Sharks - Logan Coture 17 (Burns, Boyle), 16:54
Sharks - Patrick Marleau 16 (Thornton, Pavelski), 17:16
Shots: Wild 10-11-8-2-31; Sharks 8-7-18-5-38. Saves: Wild, Josh Harding (34-38); Sharks, Antti Niemi (27-31). Power plays: Wild 0-for-3, Sharks 1-3.
After so many road trips where the Wild take off from MSP and head west, their plane will be bound for Points East this time. Thursday night in Chicago the Wild begin a four-game road trip during which they'll visit the Blackhawks, Blues, Flyers and Maple Leafs.