SUNRISE, Fla. – The Minnesota Wild finally won a shootout.
Matt Cullen and Erik Christensen scored in the tiebreaker to lift the Wild to a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. The Wild had lost three shootouts in a row and six of seven.
Cullen and Kyle Brodziak scored in regulation, Dany Heatley had two assists, and Niklas Backstrom stopped 41 shots for the Wild.
Christensen scored the first goal in the shootout, followed by Cullen. Backstrom stopped Kris Versteeg and Sean Bergenheim to seal the win. Cullen is 7-for-13 in shootout attempts this season.
“It’s nice, you get two goals like that bang-bang right off the hop, but great for Backstrom, too, first off for getting us to that point,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “He stood in tall for us, and then in the shootout he was great, too.”
The Wild won for just the second time in nine games.
“These points are valuable. Whether we like the shootout or not, it’s part of our game,” Christensen said. “You have to be good at them.”
Bergenheim and Mikael Samuelsson scored for the Panthers, who got 26 saves from Jose Theodore. Florida has lost four straight.
“You get 40-plus shots, you’ve got to find a couple more goals in there somewhere,” Panthers centre Stephen Weiss said.
Florida tied it at 2 on Bergenheim’s goal with 4:12 left in the third period. Bergenheim grabbed a loose puck in traffic in front and wrapped a shot around a defensive player and past Backstrom.
Minnesota had taken a 2-1 lead on Cullen’s power-play goal earlier in the period. Heatley’s shot was blocked by Theodore, but Cullen grabbed the loose puck in front and swept it into the open net at 1:14. Cullen had gone 15 games without a goal before he scored against Boston on Sunday.
“It was nice to get that extra point,” Cullen said. “We battled really hard. Every point is at a premium right now. That was so important for us to get both points.”
Florida took a 1-0 lead on Samuelsson’s power-play goal in the second. Weiss took a shot from the right circle that hit the post and bounced off Tomas Kopecky and out to Samuelsson in the left circle. His wrist shot beat Backstrom on the stick side at 13:23.
The Wild tied it with 20 seconds left in the second. Marek Zidlicky took a shot from just inside the blue line that was tipped by Heatley. The puck hit Theodore’s blocker and came out to Brodziak, who scored on the rebound.
“That’s what we needed to do,” Brodziak said. “Both times we got pucks to the net, we had a guy standing there for the rebound and it paid off. It’s a good recipe that we’ve got to stick with.”
The Panthers fell to second place behind Winnipeg in the Southeast Division, who beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Thursday night.
“We can’t expect other teams to lose every game. We have to bear down and do our part,” Samuelsson said. “If you’re not winning games, you’re not making the playoffs.”
NOTES: Weiss played in his 614th game for the Panthers, passing Radek Dvorak for the most in franchise history. … D Ed Jovanovski returned to the Panthers lineup after missing 14 games because of a broken right hand. … Florida recalled RW Michal Repik and C Jonathan Matsumoto from AHL San Antonio. D Nolan Yonkman was assigned to San Antonio. … The Wild recalled G Matt Hackett from AHL Houston on Wednesday. Hackett backed up Backstrom, and G Josh Harding didn’t make the trip. … C Mikko Koivu missed his third straight game because of an undisclosed injury.