ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Back in his baseball-playing days as a kid in Saskatchewan, Patrick Marleau batted from the right side of the plate.
But with 35 seconds remaining in overtime Sunday and the puck about to float into the San Jose goal over the shoulder of Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, Marleau had no choice but to swing away as a left-hander. Using his stick as a bat, he made solid contact and sent the puck veering in another direction, preserving a 2-2 tie and forcing a shootout.
He then came through with the shootout goal that gave the Sharks a 3-2 victory, their franchise-record ninth consecutive win.
It was a busy five minutes.
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"It was kind of flopping over the top of Nabby. I was able to get a pretty good swing at it, and I was lucky enough to hit it," Marleau said, playing down the hand-eye coordination required to keep the shot by Minnesota scoring leader Marian Gaborik out of the net.
Marleau and Joe Pavelski scored on Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom during the shootout. Nabokov stopped Mikko Koivu and Gaborik, letting only a shot by Pierre-Marc Bouchard into the net.
The victory enabled the Sharks to temporarily jump ahead of the Dallas Stars in the Pacific Division race with 88 points, though Dallas reclaimed the lead by beating Colorado later Sunday.
San Jose scored 46 seconds into the game when Milan Michalek took a pass from Brian Campbell and fired the puck past Backstrom. The lead grew to 2-0 when left wing Tomas Plihal converted a penalty shot at 13:44 of the first period.
Minnesota scored at 4:11 of the second period when a shot from the point by defenseman Kurtis Foster eluded Nabokov. That's where it stayed until the final minute.
At that point, a fairly routine hockey game went a little wacky.
With Backstrom on the Wild bench in favor of an extra attacker, the puck ended up on the stick of Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell. Instead of doing the safe thing and clearing the puck out of the zone, Mitchell took aim at the open net and fired away. His shot missed by inches, but that resulted in an icing call -- and a faceoff deep in the Sharks' zone.
"I don't know what I was thinking. ... It was stupid," the first-year center said. "Rookie move, rookie move. Usually, I'm a lot more responsible than that."
Sharks coach Ron Wilson said Mitchell's mistake might have been less costly in the old NHL, when teams could change players after an icing call.
"But now you don't have the right matchups on the faceoff, and you're in serious trouble," he added.
Minnesota won the faceoff, and a shot by right wing Brian Rolston ricocheted twice -- off the skate of defenseman Craig Rivet, then off the shin pad of defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- before crossing the goal line and sending the game into overtime.
That's when Marleau came to the rescue, foiling a Wild odd-man rush with defenseman Christian Ehrhoff the only one back as Gaborik and Koivu skated in on Nabokov.
With the victory, the Sharks showed more resiliency than they displayed earlier this season.
"We're at a point now where a little bump in the road isn't going to harm us because of where we are in the standings, where we've put ourselves," Wilson said. "You start to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and the lights behind you are starting to fade. It's a nice feeling."