San Jose Sharks look to keep momentum going vs. Minnesota Wild

Mar 29, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing Kevin Labanc (62) scores against Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot (33) during the shootout at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks will need a very strong push over the final 22 games if they hope to avoid missing the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1996-97.

The Sharks can take another small step toward dodging that fate when they host the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.

San Jose beat the Wild 4-3 in a shootout on Monday night, bouncing back after combining to get outscored 9-2 in consecutive losses against the Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix last weekend.

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The Sharks would prefer to be winning by wide margins, but they’ll take whatever victories they get while their backs are against the wall.

“Winning close ones and learning how to win those games is a big deal for us,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said after the win on Monday.

Minnesota will surely be looking for a better performance after failing to take advantage of three days between games heading into Monday’s opener of a four-game trip.

The Wild have been superb at home, winning their past 11 games in St. Paul, Minn., to set a franchise record, but are 0-3-1 in their past four road games with just one win away from Xcel Energy Center since Feb. 24.

“There’s no quit in this group, and that’s always a good sign,” Marcus Johansson said. “You’re not going to win every game.”

Johansson, whom the Wild acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in September, was among the bright spots in the loss on Monday.

Johansson, playing in his fourth game since missing 16 games with an upper-body injury, scored the first goal of the game to give him goals in back-to-back games for the first time since Oct. 7-9, 2019.

Johansson has been playing on the same line as Kevin Fiala, who has three points in his past two games and six in his past eight.

“We like to play a little bit of the same type of hockey where we hold on to the puck and create room for each other out there,” Johansson said of Fiala. “It’s been fun lately. I feel like my game has gotten better and better the last few games since I got back.”

Minnesota coach Dean Evason also singled out Fiala for his responsible play.

“He’s not getting his looks because he’s blowing zones,” Evason said. “He’s staying involved and staying committed and competing at both ends of the rink. So, if he continues to do that, he obviously has the skill set to produce.”

The Wild were also boosted by the play of Nick Bonino on Monday. He scored his first goal in seven games.

The Sharks will be without Matt Nieto, who has a lower-body injury that will sideline him for at least another week.

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Jeffrey Viel made his NHL debut in Nieto’s spot on Monday.

Viel fought Luke Johnson three minutes into the game, becoming the third San Jose player in team history to have a fight in his first NHL game.

Johnson was also in the lineup for just the seventh time this season. He went 6-for-7 in the face-off circle on a night the Wild won just 41.5 percent of their draws.

–Field Level Media