ST. PAUL, Minn. - Talent and hard work have made the San Jose Sharks the NHL's top road team. A little luck never hurt, either.
Jonathan Cheechoo's goal on a fortunate bounce was the game-winner and the Sharks made a mark in the NHL record book, winning 3-2 for their 10th consecutive road victory on Monday night. The goal came just 10 seconds after the Minnesota Wild had tied the score.
Steve Bernier and Kyle McLaren also scored for the Sharks, who last lost a road game on Nov. 9, and are now tied with four other teams for second on the NHL's list for consecutive road wins.
"We got kind of a lucky bounce and Cheech buried it," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who marvelled at his team's effort. "You play four games in six nights on the road, with cross-country travel, and it's pretty phenomenal we found a way to come back on them."
Detroit won 12 straight on the road in March and April of 2006. The Sharks are at home for their next four games, but will have a chance to tie Detroit's record when they visit Anaheim and Phoenix in the middle of January.
"I really don't know what it is," said Joe Thornton, who had two assists. "We feel comfortable on the road. I can't put one thing on it. We try to play the same on the road as we do at home, but we got wins on the road, so it's been exciting."
Evgeni Nabokov had 19 saves in the victory.
Minnesota, which had won six of its previous eight games, trailed 2-0 after two periods, but tied the game on goals by Dominic Moore and Mark Parrish.
On the ensuing faceoff, Cheechoo got behind the Wild defence, came in alone on goalie Nicklas Backstrom and tucked a low shot past the goalie to quiet the sellout crowd.
"We worked hard to get tied, then a weird bounce and they score from it," Backstrom said. "It was a tough goal for us."
Said Cheechoo: "You don't draw those plays up. It was just something where it got dumped in, the guy tried to jump for it and it bounced off his glove, and the other D was caught going the other way and basically gave me a breakaway."
The Sharks started the game with six unanswered shots on goal, and got the opening period's only goal on a controversial play.
Thornton's repeated attempts to stuff the puck between the right post and Backstrom's left skate were stopped, but Bernier swept in forcing Backstrom and the puck over the goal line. After a brief video review, Bernier was credited with the goal amid a hail of boos from the Minnesota fans.
"When you look at it you're wondering why he doesn't blow the whistle," said Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire. "The guy that scored, I don't think he can push the goalie in, and he was trying to do that. So to me, it's questionable."
McLaren doubled San Jose's lead late in the second with the Wild defenders scrambling. Thornton's shot was tipped on goal by Michalek, and McLaren backhanded in the rebound after Backstrom made the initial save.
Backstrom finished with 22 saves.
Notes: Wild defenceman Keith Carney was a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game. He has no goals and two assists in 25 games this season. ... McLaren's goal was his first of the season. His last goal came on March 11, 2007 in a 3-0 home win over Edmonton. ... Sharks defenceman Doug Murray returned to the lineup on Monday after missing San Jose's previous four games with an ankle injury. He had an assist on Cheechoo's goal.