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Couture's late goal gives Sharks victory over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Logan Couture's late third-period goal lifted the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 win over Minnesota and eliminated the Wild from the Western Conference playoff race.

Couture, playing in his 21st NHL game, tipped Dan Boyle's shot past goalie Niklas Backstrom. That broke a tie with 3:51 remaining and sent the Sharks to their fourth victory over Minnesota this season.

Evgeni Nabokov had 25 saves for the Sharks, improving to 12-0-1 in his last 13 starts against the Wild. Backstrom also stopped 25 shots, but it wasn't enough to keep Minnesota from missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol scored to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead in the first period. Cal Clutterbuck and Antti Miettinen answered in the second to get the Wild even.

The Wild nearly grabbed a 1-0 lead, but captain Mikko Koivu's shot during a power play hit the right post. San Jose then took over.

Malhotra redirected Rob Blake's shot past Backstrom at 7:19. The Sharks' lead doubled 5:03 later during a scramble in front. The puck squirted loose and was snapped in by Nichol, who recorded his fourth goal of the season and his first since Feb. 4.

But Minnesota rallied in the second. Guillaume Latendresse's shot deflected in off Clutterbuck's arm 5:10 into the period, and the Wild tied it at 6:59 when Miettinen fired a shot past Nabokov during a power play.

The Sharks' first power play nearly produced a short-handed goal for the Wild. James Sheppard got free for a breakaway and he was hooked by Boyle on his way to the net.

Sheppard was awarded a penalty shot, but Nabokov made a pad save on him during the attempt to keep the game tied.

On the winning goal, Boyle's stick snapped as he was trying to fire a slap shot from the blue line. The slow, trickling puck got through the Minnesota defense and made its way to Couture, who tapped in his fourth career NHL goal.