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Gaborik scores league-leading 11th goal

11/10/2002

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- It's hard to say what's more surprising:
the Minnesota Wild's spectacular start or the San Jose Sharks'
startling defensive lapses.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Wes Walz scored third-period goals as
Minnesota stayed atop the Western Conference with a 4-2 victory
Saturday night over the Sharks.

Marian Gaborik scored his NHL-leading 11th goal, and
Cliff Ronning also scored as the Wild improved to 10-3-2 for 22 points --
the best mark in the West for the third-year franchise built around
Gaborik, a collection of gritty role players and the neutral-zone
trap defense.

As the players dressed in the Wild's locker room for a quick
flight to Anaheim, Bouchard took plenty of good-natured ribbing
over his first NHL goal, which came early in the third as Minnesota
broke a tie.

"After that, he wasn't the same player,'' Minnesota coach
Jacques Lemaire said. "He was going all over the place. That was
good for us, though. ... We're a skating team. Our guys, when
they're at their best, we move the puck, and that's what we did.''

Bouchard, the eighth overall pick in last June's draft, tucked
Ronning's pass behind Evgeni Nabokov 1:38 into the third. Bouchard
led the Quebec major junior league with 140 points in 69 games last
season, but he had just two assists in his first six NHL contests.

"It's a pretty good feeling,'' Bouchard said. "I was so happy.
I got a great feed, and to get the winning goal is pretty fun. I
tried to stay focused for the rest of the game, (but) it was
hard.''

Walz backhanded his own rebound past Nabokov less than two
minutes after Bouchard's goal, with Andrew Brunette picking up his
second assist. That silenced a sellout crowd at the Shark Tank, and
the Wild trapped their way to the victory.

"Sometimes they're just set up in a trap,'' Sharks defenseman
Marcus Ragnarsson said. "We talked before the game about how our
break was going to be, but I don't think we did a good job reading
it, and we made a lot of turnovers.''

Ragnarsson and captain Owen Nolan scored for the Sharks, who are
expected to contend for the conference title. Instead, San Jose's
desultory start was extended by wasted scoring chances and another
poor third period -- though coach Darryl Sutter also cited the
Sharks' penalties and tepid 5-on-5 play.

"Consciousness by our defensemen is just not there,'' Sutter
said. "We turned the puck over too many times, and our defensive
coverage tonight was about as bad as I have ever seen it by three
or four guys. It cost us a hockey game.''

Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves for Minnesota, improving to 4-0-1
in his last five decisions. His every-other-game platoon with Manny
Fernandez has worked as well as everything else done by Lemaire
during the Wild's fantastic start.

Minnesota, which had lost two of its previous three, got its
second win on a four-game road trip that concludes Sunday in
Anaheim.

"The road game is always a tougher environment, so you try to
simplify your game,'' captain Brad Bombardir said. "We're getting
good at that.''

Nabokov made 29 saves in his seventh straight start for the
Sharks. He's 2-4-1 since returning from his contract holdout.

Ragnarsson and Nolan scored back-to-back goals in 113 seconds
early in the second period to give a 2-1 lead to San Jose, but
Gaborik forced a turnover and scored the tying goal seven seconds
after Nolan's goal.

Midway through the second period, Minnesota enforcer Matt
Johnson got a game misconduct for checking from behind -- but the
Sharks couldn't score on the ensuing five-minute power play despite
strong puck movement by defenseman Mike Rathje, who has begun to
fill retired Gary Suter's role as the power-play quarterback.

San Jose dropped to 1-1-1 on a four-game homestand that
concludes Monday night against the New York Rangers. The Sharks
will spend the following 19 days on an eight-game road trip.

Game notes
Minnesota D Andrei Zyuzin, a former No. 2 overall draft
choice by the Sharks, was knocked on the ice by a hard hit from
Scott Hannan late in the second period, but he recovered in time to
get an assist on Bouchard's goal. ... Sharks GM Dean Lombardi
reports no progress on negotiations between the team and holdout D
Brad Stuart, who missed his 14th game. Last season, Rathje missed
24 games in a similar standoff. ... Teemu Selanne, Patrick Marleau
and Marco Sturm have one goal apiece in the Sharks' last seven
games.