ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild have become strong finishers.
Antti Miettinen scored two of Minnesota’s three third-period goals, and Niklas Backstrom set a franchise record for career wins in the Wild’s 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
Kyle Brodziak, Mikko Koivu and Owen Nolan also scored to help Minnesota win its fourth straight game. The Wild have scored 19 goals during the streak, nine in the third periods.
Minnesota overcame a four-goal, third-period deficit Saturday night to beat Chicago 6-5 in a shootout, and Guillaume Latendresse scored in the third to beat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Monday night.
“If we really believe in ourselves every game and every minute of every game, not just one or two periods of the game, I think we can really be a dangerous team and I think guys are really starting to realize that,” Brodziak said.
Coming out of a timeout on a 4-on-3 power play in third, Marek Zidlicky passed to Koivu in the right circle. His touch pass went to Miettinen in the slot, and his one-timer beat Roberto Luongo on the stick side at 1:08 for a 3-2 lead.
After an aggressive forecheck by Eric Belanger, Nolan’s wrist shot from the right dot trickled in off Luongo’s glove at 7:50. Miettinen scored on a slap shot at 9:32. The goals were Minnesota’s first three shots of the period.
“It’s been getting into kind of the foundation of our team. That’s getting pucks deep, working and getting bodies to the net,” coach Todd Richards said. “Our third periods have been strong because it’s about the little things.”
Luongo, who stopped 14 shots, was replaced by Andrew Raycroft after the last goal. It was the third time this season Vancouver allowed three third-period goals.
“I have to make some saves,” Luongo said.
Backstrom stopped 29 shots for his 114th victory with Minnesota. Manny Fernandez held the previous franchise record, winning 113 times from 2000-07.
“It’s more about the two points,” said Backstrom, playing his fourth season in Minnesota.
After a 5-10-0 start, the Wild has gone 19-10-3 and are now just two points out of a playoff position, the closest they’ve been since Oct. 9.
“It’s a long road still, but I think everybody in the locker room is very confident with the way we are playing,” Miettinen said.
Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows scored for Vancouver. The Canucks have lost three straight for the first time since Nov. 6-12.
Burrows, fined US$2,500 for saying referee Stephane Auger issued retaliatory calls against him Monday night in a loss to Nashville, took one high-sticking penalty.
“That’s absolutely no distraction at all,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “That’s not why we lost this game.”
The Canucks, who entered the night 27th in the league with 16 penalty minutes per game, were whistled for six minor penalties, the same as Minnesota.
However, tempers flared after Minnesota took control. Vancouver’s Darcy Hordichuck fought Derek Boogaard midway through the final period, Minnesota’s John Scott pummeled Alexandre Bolduc in a fight 17 seconds later. Minnesota’s Shane Hnidy and Vancouver’s Tanner Glass also fought in the period.
Brodziak gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead less than 2 minutes into the game, redirecting a pass from Latendresse past Luongo.
Koivu beat Luongo with a high wrist shot 1:34 later for a 2-0 lead. It was the first time in 30 games since Nov. 12 that Minnesota scored the game’s first two goals.
Kesler had a power-play goal late in the first for Vancouver, poking in a puck that trickled away from Backstrom, who thought he had it covered after stopping a slap shot from Mason Raymond.
Vancouver pressured Minnesota throughout the second – holding a 14-4 shot edge – and was rewarded when Salo’s slap shot through traffic was tipped in by Burrows late in the period.
NOTES: Miettinen’s first goal was Minnesota’s first in 21 power-play chances against Vancouver this season. … Luongo started his 18th straight game. … RW Cal Clutterbuck, who missed part of the morning skate because he didn’t feel well, played for Minnesota. He took an elbow to the head from Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar on Monday. … The Canucks are in a stretch of playing nine of 11 games at home, before an eight-game trip going into the Olympic break. The only other road game during the stretch is Jan. 20 to Edmonton. … Boogaard has gone 200 games without a goal. His last goal was Jan. 7, 2006.