Ryan Suter scored 19 seconds in, Kirill Kaprizov scored for the fifth straight game and the Minnesota Wild clinched a playoff spot with a 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
“It’s important for any team to enter the playoffs to be playing at the top of our game,” Suter said. “I don’t think now is the time to take our foot off the gas. There are things we need to work on and I’m sure we will work on those. Just trying to be consistent.”
Marcus Foligno and Jared Spurgeon also scored in the first period as the Wild jumped on top early to join Vegas and Colorado as three of the four playoff teams in the West Division following their sixth straight win.
Kevin Fiala and Nick Bonino also scored for Minnesota and Kaapo Kahkonen made 27 saves.
“We’re still chasing the top teams,” Foligno said. “That’s probably the biggest thing right now. Yes we did make the playoffs, which was a huge objective of ours at the start of the season. But hopefully we can get higher and catch a team or two. There’s still work to be done.”
The Sharks lost their eighth straight game and appear on the way to missing the playoffs for a second straight season. They are five points behind St. Louis for the final spot in the West.
Martin Jones allowed three goals on eight shots in the first period before getting pulled for the eighth time in 32 starts this season.
Logan Couture, Evander Kane and Joachim Blichfeld scored in the third period for the Sharks in the first game game this season in front of any spectators in San Jose. The Sharks allowed friends and family of players and organization members in preparation for the first game with fans on Monday night.
There was little to cheer about after a pregame ceremony for Patrick Marleau, who broke Gordie Howe’s all-time games played record on Monday night in Las Vegas.
“There should have been emotion,” Couture said. “The ceremony was emotional. We all love Patrick in our room. We should have at least shown up and played for him. … We stunk it up. Nothing to be proud of for us in that room.”
Suter scored on the opening shift when he beat Jones to the short side off the rush. Minnesota added two more goals off the rush in the period, taking advantage of poor defensive play from San Jose.
Foligno beat Blichfeld for position to tap a pass from Joel Eriksson Ek just seconds after Kahkonen robbed Marc-Edouard Vlasic off a good set up from Marleau to make it 2-0.
Spurgeon added a goal late in the first from the circle off a pass from Ryan Hartman.
“The start was a disaster,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “Right from the first shift, the first goal. We’re fighting for our lives. To be down 1-0 on the first shot of the game was a horrible goal. That took some wind out of our sails. That’s an excuse as well. You have to be able to rebound. We had 59 minutes left to play.
The Sharks controlled play for most of the second period but Kahkonen was sharp and Fiala scored late in the period when he batted a rebound of a shot by Marcus Johansson out of midair into an open net to make it 4-0 against Josef Korenar.
Marleau’s teammates all wore jerseys with his No. 12 in pregame warmups before an emotional ceremony honoring his recent record.
Marleau was joined on the ice by his wife and four sons as a video narrated by former teammate Joe Thornton featuring congratulations from dozens of former and current teammates and Gordie Howe’s son, Mark, and messages from Marleau’s parents and siblings, who couldn’t be on hand.
The tributes from former teammates continued at stoppages throughout the game.
“It was super special to hear from those guys and all the kind words they had,” Marleau said. “It really hit home with me.”
Wild: Host St. Louis on Wednesday.
Sharks: Host Arizona on Monday.