A slow start eventually cost the San Jose Sharks in a loss to a team that could eventually be the biggest obstacle to their first Stanley Cup appearance.
The Sharks try to rebound from their first loss in six games Saturday night when they host the surging Minnesota Wild.
San Jose (35-10-9) outscored its opponents 26-7 during a five-game winning streak after beating Northeast Division-leading Buffalo 5-2 last Saturday.
The Sharks' run was in danger early Thursday, giving up three goals in a 3:21 span in the first period before rallying and eventually falling 4-3 in overtime to Chicago. San Jose salvaged a point in the overall NHL standings, and that's the difference in its lead on the Central-leading Blackhawks.
The Western Conference's top two teams aren't scheduled to meet again in the regular season, so the next matchup would come in the conference finals if the standings remain the same.
"We're all going to talk about how hard we fought and we worked our way back into the game but that start was unacceptable," coach Todd McLellan said. "The mistakes we made the first 5 minutes of the game, that's not a characteristic of ours and is unacceptable.
"Yeah, we fought back and we are proud of that but you're not going to win many games against good teams in this league with that kind of start."
Joe Pavelski is looking to continue his scoring burst after playing a big part in the Sharks' rally Thursday. He scored twice for the second straight game, giving him five goals and six assists in six games.
The right wing has four goals and an assist in four meetings with the Wild at HP Pavilion.
The Sharks are 10-0-2 against Minnesota (27-23-4) dating back to November 2006, including a 5-0-1 mark at home. They continued that success by rallying from a two-goal second-period deficit to win 4-2 at home on Oct. 10 behind two goals from Patrick Marleau, who leads the league with 35.
The Wild are seeking to match their season-high four-game winning streak. Backup goaltender Josh Harding has been a big reason for their current run.
Harding likely will make his third consecutive start and first against San Jose as Niklas Backstrom is expected to miss his second straight game with a sore back.
Harding also suffered an injury Thursday, overcoming a sore hip to make 29 saves, and Martin Havlat scored with 4:49 to play in a 1-0 win over Colorado. The shutout was Harding's first since Oct. 14, 2007.
Harding, who is 5-7-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average in 15 games, was injured midway through the third period. With Backstrom sidelined, Minnesota had recalled journeyman Wade Dubielewicz from Houston of the AHL earlier in the day.
"I was concerned at that point in watching him try to get up," coach Todd Richards said of Harding. "He looked like he was hurting and in a lot of pain. The referee went over and talked to him and he gave him the OK. Luckily, for us he was able to finish the game."
While Harding has been solid, Havlat is providing some scoring punch. The right wing has three goals and five assists during a six-game scoring streak, and is third on the club with 37 points.
Havlat has one goal and one assist in nine games at San Jose.