ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild players were simply relieved.
Two days after being booed off home ice, the Wild appeared on their way to a second consecutive loss after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period Sunday night against Phoenix. Instead of sulking or quitting, Minnesota rallied for an improbable 6-5 overtime victory.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard had much to do with that.
With an extra skater on the ice, Bouchard’s shot from the blue line got past goalie Jason LaBarbera with 26 seconds remaining in regulation to tie it at 5-5. That gave Minnesota another chance to pick up points on the team ahead of it in the Western Conference standings.
And the Wild took advantage.
When Minnesota dumped the puck into the offensive zone on the first shift of overtime, Bouchard won a battle in the corner and found Cam Barker on top of the left circle. Barker immediately fired the puck on net and beat LaBarbera 46 seconds into overtime.
“The game was like a movie,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “It had drama, at times it was a comedy, at times it was a horror, but it had a great ending.”
After letting go of the shot, Barker wasn’t so sure that the game was really over.
“I actually thought he stopped it, then their player kind of got in front of me,” Barker said after his first goal of the season. “Then I heard everybody screaming and the horn go off. It was a good sound to hear, obviously.”
The significance of the victory—and the two points that go with it—was not lost on the Wild players, especially with a three-game trip beginning Tuesday night.
“It was a crazy night,” Bouchard said. “That’s a big win, but it was a weird one. Get the lead, lose the lead, but we’ll take those two points. It’s a great comeback. We have to learn about certain things we did tonight and be a little bit better when we have the lead, but we’ll look at the positives too.”
That was the attitude Richards was taking.
“We did some things in the game that we don’t want to do,” he said. “But I’m leaving here looking at the positives. We scored six goals, we dealt with adversity and we handled it.”
The Coyotes, however, felt they should have closed it out in regulation.
“We have to find a way to win, and we haven’t done it,” forward Shane Doan said.
“You give up one in the last minute, you’re never too happy with the results.”
Especially after the rally the Coyotes put together during the final 20 minutes of regulation. Entering the third period trailing 3-1, Phoenix tied it with goals 13 seconds apart.
Scottie Upshall made it 3-2 when he took a pass from Doan and knocked it past Theodore. Keith Yandle tied it when he knocked in the rebound of Vernon Fiddler’s shot at 4:57 of the third period, prompting Minnesota coach Todd Richards to take his timeout.
Brent Burns gave Minnesota a 4-3 lead with his 12th goal of the season at 11:14, but Ed Jovanovski tied it for Phoenix about 3 minutes later with a diving goal.
When Ray Whitney scored the second of his two goals with 2:55 left to give Phoenix a 5-4 lead, the Coyotes appeared on their way to finishing off what would be a remarkable comeback. Instead, Phoenix lost for the fifth time in seven games and seventh in 10 games.
“We just kind of lost a little bit of our mojo there in the third,” said Minnesota’s Andrew Brunette, who scored two early goals for the Wild. “The first two periods we were kind of controlling the game, then got in trouble in the third and lost our confidence way too quick. We’ve been having trouble here at home, so it was nice to feel a little bit of energy in the building when we were down by a goal. There hasn’t been much energy here all year, so it was nice to hear them roar.”
Nick Schultz also scored for Minnesota while Mikko Koivu had four assists. Jose Theodore made 39 saves for Minnesota as he picked up the 250th victory of his career, making him one of only eight active NHL goalies to reach that mark.
NOTES: With two third-period assists, Doan has points in six consecutive games and 21 points in the past 19 games. Upshall has five points in the past three games. … Minnesota is 14-2-2 when it scores at least three goals. … Phoenix entered the game having fared better against teams from the Northwest Division than any other. The loss dropped the Coyotes to 6-2-2 against the Northwest.