Series (Game 2 of 4)

Minnesota leads 3-1

Game 1: Thursday, October 31st
Game 2: Saturday, November 9th
Game 3: Saturday, January 25th
Game 4: Friday, February 7th

Wild 4

(10-3-0, 22 pts)

Sharks 2

(5-7-1, 12 pts)

10:30 PM ET, November 9, 2002

SAP Center, San Jose, California

1 2 3 T
MIN 1 1 24
SJ 0 2 02

D. Roloson (Wild - G): Saves: 35, Save Pct.: .946

C. Ronning (Wild - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

W. Walz (Wild - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Gaborik scores league-leading 11th goal

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.

Marian Gaborik

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press