Late rally lifts Wild past Panthers
The Minnesota Wild erased nearly an entire game of lackluster play with two goals in 46 seconds apart at the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime to defeat the Florida Panthers 3-2 Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.
Mikko Koivu scored for the second time in as many games 15 seconds into overtime on a breakaway. He received a pass at the Panther blue line and split the defense for a short breakaway and beat Jose Theodore with a deke to the forehand.
Koivu won the opening draw of overtime back to Clayton Stoner, who in turn sent a cross-ice pass to Tom Gilbert. The Panthers never touched the puck in the extra session.
“It was a great play by (Gilbert),” Koivu said. “Right on the tape and I was able to get a little speed and get through the (defensemen).”
Of course, Koivu would not have had the opportunity to win the game if Erik Christensen did not tie it with 31 seconds remaining in the third period.
Mike Yeo pulled Niklas Backstrom for an extra attacker right around the 19:00 mark for Christensen. The hottest Wild goal scorer corralled a rebound off the post and tucked it into the open from the top of the crease. Christensen now has five goals in the last nine games.
“Once we had that extra attacker, we did all the right things we should have been doing all game,” Christensen said. “Get in hard on the forecheck and create turnovers. (Koivu) kind of wheels out, gets the puck up high to the point and put the puck on net.”
The Wild generated very little offense over the first 59 minutes, including 17 shots through periods and one really good scoring chance that was shot wide of the net.
“Wins are wins,” Koivu said. “That’s what matters.”
The Wild (32-35-10) were once again on the short-end of the stick of the penalty calls; getting called for five minors, compared to two against the Panthers. It did deserve most of them, but a terrible high sticking call on Kyle Brodziak – in which Wojtek Wolski got hit in the face with his own stick – led to the game’s first goal.
Scottie Upshall made the power play count by beating Backstrom between the pads just 22 seconds into the man advantage. He has the fifth best goals per game mark against the Wild with eight goals in 16 games.
The Panthers (37-24-16) re-claimed a one-goal lead at the 13:16 mark of the third period when Tomas Fleischmann beat Backstrom on a backdoor play during a 4-on-3 power play.
“It kind of felt like the life was sucked out of us,” Christensen said. “We were just sort of stunned.”
The Wild erased the first one-goal deficit just one minute and three seconds into the third period when Brodziak scored his team-lead tying 21st goal of the season.
2010 second round draft pick Jason Zucker made his NHL debut for the Wild with a 12 shift effort that included three shots and two hits. He became the team-record 45th player to dress for the Wild this season, including the 14th rookie and eighth player to make his debut for the Wild.
No. 3 – Tomas Fleischmann. The Panthers forward recorded a goal and an assist.
No. 2 – Erik Christensen. The Wild forward scored a goal.
No. 1 – Mikko Koivu. The Wild forward scored the game-winning goal in overtime. He also assisted on the game-tying goal.
Florida 0 1 1 0 – 2
Minnesota 0 0 2 1 – 3
First Period – None. Penalties – Koivu, Min (hooking), 9:53.
Second Period – 1, Florida, Upshall 2 (Fleischmann, Campbell), 13:27 (pp). Penalties – Brodziak, Min (high sticking), 13:05.
Third Period – 2, Minnesota, Brodziak 21 (Clutterbuck), 1:03. 3, Florida, Fleischmann 25 (Garrison, Campbell), 13:16 (pp). 4, Minnesota, Christensen 6 (Gilbert, Koivu), 19:29. Penalties – Veilleux, Min (holding the stick), 3:52; Kulikov, Fla (hooking), 7:18; Brodziak, Min (tripping), 11:35; Koivu, Min (delay of game-puck over glass), 11:44; Versteeg, Fla (high sticking), 11:47.
Overtime – 5, Koivu 12 (Gilbert, Stoner), :15. Penalties – None.
Shots on goal – Florida 9-8-10-0 27. Minnesota 13-4-7-1 25.
Goalies – Florida, Theodore (22-25). Minnesota, Backstrom (25-27). A – 16,952. Referees – Justin St. Pierre, Mike Leggo. Linesmen – Mike Cvik, Brad Lazarowich.