Despite the loss, Vancouver (41-23-6) retained first place in the tight Northwest Division, one point ahead of second-place Minnesota (40-24-7.) But the Wild earned its fifth win in eight meetings between the two clubs as their regular-season series came to a close.
Mikko Koivu and Brian Rolston scored in regulation for Minnesota, which overcame a 2-0 deficit.
Jan Bulis and Matt Cooke scored first-period goals for Vancouver. The loss prevented Roberto Luongo from becoming the first goaltender in Canuck history to record 40 wins.
Bulis opened the scoring 4:37 into the game as he converted a pass from Jeff Cowan. Bulis’ shot actually hit the post but the puck then bounced in off Minnesota goaltender Nicklas Backstrom.
Cooke gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead about two minutes later as he deflected Brendan Morrison’s pass from the wing that deflected in off Burns’ skate.
Cowan, known more for his toughness than his puck prowess, also assisted on that goal, giving him eight points in 10 games. He had enjoyed the first six-game scoring streak of his career between March 1-8 and earned the nickname Cowan The Bra-barian after a woman through her bra on the ice as he scored twice against Tampa Bay last week.
Vancouver dominated the opening period, outshooting Minnesota 10-5.
Koivu cut Minnesota’s deficit to 2-1 at 7:52 of the second, taking Keith Carney’s pass from behind the Vancouver goal. Carney, a defenceman, made a rare move into the offensive zone and stripped the puck off Cooke before passing to a wide-open Koivu.
It was revenge of sorts for Carney, who was picked up by Vancouver at last year’s trade deadline from Anaheim but not re-signed in the off-season.
Minnesota controlled play most of the period, forcing Luongo to preserve his team’s lead. On his finest save of the period, he snared Marian Gaborik’s wrist shot after the Wild sniper skated out of the corner and circled towards the slot.
Rolston made it 2-2 with only 3:23 remaining in regulation, beating Luongo on a slapshot from just inside the Vancouver blue-line. Luongo had a clear view of the shot, but appeared to misjudge it as the puck went in over his outstretched left leg.
The goal came just moments after Luongo had robbed Pavel Demitra.
NOTES – Centre Nathan Smith played for Vancouver after being called up from Manitoba of the AHL to replace Tommi Santala, who suffered a shoulder injury Sunday against Anaheim . . . Vancouver defenceman Willie Mitchell sat out with a sore groin. Rory Fitzpatrick took his place . . . Manny Fernandez, the Wild’s normal starting goalie who returned to the lineup last week from a knee injury, backed up Backstrom for the fourth straight game . . . Wild centre Wes Walz missed his fourth consecutive contest because of a back problem.