Wild edge Sharks 2-1
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Not bad for an emergency goalie.
Minnesota was without starting goalkeeper Niklas Backstrom because of a lingering groin problem and Josh Harding was forced out of the game less than two minutes in.
Enter Matt Hackett, who recorded 34 saves to win in his NHL debut in the Wild’s 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
“Really impressive,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s not as easy team to play against in your first game and it’s not an easy situation to go in and play your first game. The way he handled it, he was in control all night.”
Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored late in the first period in support of Hackett, who replaced Harding 71 seconds into the game as the Wild won their fifth straight on the road. Minnesota won for the 12th time after giving up the game’s first goal.
“I didn’t know it was that bad,” Hackett said. “I just jumped in there and tried to stop pucks. I’m still shaking. I was shaking the whole time. It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s a tough building to play in but it’s a fun one too.”
Hackett’s uncle, Jeff Hackett, was the Sharks’ original goalie and he’s been taking lessons from him all his life.
“It was awesome,” Wild center Kyle Brodziak said. “He made some unbelievable saves. There’s nothing else you can say. He was just awesome.”
Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks, who have lost four of their last five games.
Harding left with an apparent neck injury 11 seconds after allowing goal in the first minute of play. He was hit in the face by teammate Nick Schultz, who was trying to block Pavelski from the net.
Bouchard’s power-play goal, with 12 seconds left in the first period, was set up by Koivu’s perfectly placed pass from off the right board. Bouchard wristed it inside the near post for the go-ahead score.
Koivu tied the game with 2:19 left in the first period after Dany Heatley’s shot bounced off Niemi’s pads to Koivu’s stick.
“Our special teams let us down a little but tonight,” Pavelski said. “We got the start we wanted and we had enough good looks to put in more than one.”
The Sharks did not convert on three power-play opportunities, which included a four-minute stretch.
“There were a lot of missed opportunities,” Sharks defender Dan Boyle said. “We had a ton of chances but our execution … that’s a word we’re going to hear a lot … we’re just not putting the puck in the net right now.”
Wild forward Casey Wellman, who grew up an hour from San Jose, recorded a point while playing in front of family and friends for the first time. His father, Brad Wellman, was a major-league infielder and played five years with the San Francisco Giants.
Wellman tipped the puck forward during a line change that led to Koivu’s goal for his fourth point in three games.
The Sharks took the lead in the first minute of play off a face-off. Pavelski won the drop, with Boyle slapping a spot off the pads of Harding. Pavelski was all alone and found a hole along the ice.