The Wild scored a pair of goals in the first period in jumping out to a two-goal lead, and that was all it needed in a 3-1 win over the Sharks at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday evening in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would suggest.
The Sharks lost for the first time in regulation since Feb. 9 in Boston (5-1-3).
The Wild regained first place overall in the Western Conference, with its third win in four games. It also won its 10th straight game after a loss, after dropping a 1-0 decision in Columbus on Thursday.
All of the scoring before a late empty netter came in the first period, and the Sharks were fortunate to be only down by 2-1 for most of the game.
Minnesota controlled play at the outset of the first period, but Martin Jones made a pair saves on Ryan White from point blank range, and another on Jason Pominville later on.
The Wild earned a power play later on a marginal call on Dylan DeMelo, and capitalized when Zach Parise, stationed in the slot, redirected a shot-pass from Pominville at 11:06.
The lead increased to 2-0 at 15:24, when Eric Staal whipped in a nice backhanded feed from the corner by Matt Dumba. Minutes earlier, Chris Stewart thought he had given Minnesota a two-goal lead, but his shot sailed into the back of Jones’ sweater at the neck, causing some momentary confusion.
The Sharks got on the board before the end of the first, courtesy of the fourth line. Justin Braun went behind the goal line to Micheal Haley, who quickly found Melker Karlsson in front for a goal at 18:26.
Special teams play dominated the second period, as the Sharks were forced to kill off 3:53 of a Joe Pavelski double-minor for high sticking. The Wild managed just one shot over the extended advantage.
Rather than tie it up, though, the Sharks squandered a pair of power play opportunities later in the second, as that group continued what has basically been a season-long slump.
Jones kept the Sharks in the game, and stopped three breakaways – one in each of the three periods on Marco Scandella, Parise, and Mikael Granlund, in that order.
The Wild didn’t allow the Sharks any high danger scoring chances in the third period until Devan Dubnyk stopped Chris Tierney in front with 2:02 to go.
Staal got his second of the night into an empty net with 1:49 left.
Entering with the league’s best power play at home, the Wild finished 1-for-4 with a man advantage.
The Sharks went 0-for-3. San Jose is 2-for-20 on the power play over its last eight games, and just 26-for-166 (15.6 percent) since Nov. 1.
Jones, far and away the Sharks’ best player on the night, fell to 30-16-6 on the season with two goals allowed on 27 shots. He’s 0-2 against Minnesota this season, and 2-3-0 in his career.
Dubnyk recorded his league-leading 35th win, two of which have come over San Jose. The NHL’s leader in save percentage made 20 stops.
The Sharks were still without new addition Jannik Hansen, as he sorts out his immigration. Hansen isn’t expected to make his debut in teal until Thursday’s home game with Washington at the earliest.
On defense, DeMelo returned from a broken wrist in place of David Schlemko, who suffered a lower body injury on Thursday. DeMelo was playing his first game since Jan. 10 in Edmonton.
Joonas Donskoi, now an option after recovering from an upper body injury, was a healthy scratch as Marcus Sorensen remained in the lineup.
Minnesota’s Parise and Pominville were both returning after missing three games with the mumps.
The Sharks wrap up their quick two-game road trip on Monday in Winnipeg. San Jose has downed the Jets in both meetings so far, including a 4-3 win at MTS Centre on Jan. 24.