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Thornton's goal leads Sharks over Wild, 3-2, in OT

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Joe Thornton's overtime goal gave the Sharks a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, extending their winning streak to six games.

The shot at 3:30 of the extra period was Thornton's second goal of the night and both came on assists from Joe Pavelski.

The Wild took a 2-0 lead on goals by Matt Cooke and Keith Ballard, only to see the Sharks tie the score on tallies by the two veterans who each received three-year contract extensions the previous day, Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan stuck with his plan and put Antti Niemi in net against the Wild even though backup Alex Stalock has shut out the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets in his two starts during the current win streak.

McLellan didn't see it as a case of not going with the hot hand.

"I think we have a hot hand in both," the coach said before the game. "When you're on whatever streak we are, six of the last seven, I know Nemo's been part of that, too. It takes the whole team, it takes everybody to be involved. There's no reason for Nemo to be punished just because Alex gets his shutouts."

Any thoughts of Niemi shutting out the Wild ended fairly early.

Minnesota took a 1-0 lead at 9:33 of the first period on a solo effort by reformed agitator Cooke. First Cooke got his stick on an errant pass from Thornton to Brad Stuart in the neutral zone, then corralled the puck off the sideboards and skated in ahead of Stuart to beat Niemi.

The Sharks outshot Minnesota 11-7, but didn't have any outstanding scoring chances. Tyler Kennedy appeared to have Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper out of position on a wraparound at one point, but Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter prevented Kennedy from getting off the shot.

The Wild bumped their lead to 2-0 early in the second period on a play that started when Niemi mishandled the puck behind his own net. Eventually, Ballard pinched deep into the right faceoff circle where he scored after taking a pass from center Mikael Granlund.

San Jose regrouped, however, and a pair of goals 49 seconds apart midway later in the second period evened things up.

The Sharks got on the board at 11:12 when Thornton and Pavelski reversed roles. This time Pavelski, who was on a goal-scoring tear, passed the puck from behind the net to Thornton and his one-timer floated over Kuemper's shoulder.

On the next shift, Tommy Wingels carried the puck into the Wild zone and was about to get off a shot when his stick was tied up by Wild center Kyle Brodziak. His initial shot delayed, Wingels sent the puck toward the slot where Marleau redirected it into the net.

The crowd inside SAP Center thought the Sharks had taken the lead a few minutes later when the puck crossed the goal line after John McCarthy hacked away at it against the post, but the play had been blown dead.

--Wild coach Mike Yeo was very much aware of Pavelski's torrid goal-scoring pace of 19 goals in the past 21 games, including the last three game-winners, and wanted his defenders to be conscious of the Sharks forward's presence on the ice.

"When a guy's feeling it like that, you have to expect that he's going to be getting himself into positions and certainly he's going to be shooting pucks every opportunity he gets," Yeo said. "So it won't be enough for us to be close to him. We're going to have to make sure we're on him and on him tight."

--Fists flew late in the first period when Mike Brown and Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner dropped the gloves.

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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