ST. PAUL, Minn. – Instead of letting a third period lead slip away, the Minnesota Wild took one away.
Marc-Andre Bergeron assisted on a pair of goals early in the third as the Wild rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Friday afternoon, the team’s first victory this season when trailing after 40 minutes.
With the Wild trailing 2-1, James Sheppard tipped in Bergeron’s slap shot to tie it at 2. Bergeron then set up Mikko Koivu’s game-winner as the Wild denied new Lightning coach Rick Tocchet his first road win.
“It’s always a little more intense in the third,” said Bergeron, who has five assists in Minnesota’s last three games. “I’ve had a lot of shots blocked, so it’s something I’ve been focusing on to get those shots through. The last couple games have been good.”
Minnesota beat Washington 4-3 on Monday after leading 4-0 in the third and lost 4-3 to Dallas on Wednesday after leading 3-1.
“We showed that we can battle back and had a really strong third period, which is a big reason why we won,” said Nolan, who has two goals in as many games for the Wild.
Eric Belanger scored an empty-net goal in the final minute for the Wild.
Ryan Malone scored his third goal in as many games for the Lightning, who are 1-2-3 since Tocchet took over for the fired Barry Melrose.
“It seems like we’re waiting for something bad to happen, instead of sticking to what we’re trying to do,” Tocchet said. “A couple of guys had the ‘deer in the headlights’ look. We’ve got to keep attacking.”
Malone, who signed a hefty free agent contract with Tampa Bay in the off-season, has six points in the Lightning’s last four games. With the game tied 1-1 near the midway point of the second period, he finished off a scramble in front of the Minnesota net, slapping in the loose puck after teammate Vincent Lecavalier was checked into the crease.
“I got a goal, but it doesn’t matter because we lost,” Malone said.
The Wild struck first when Owen Nolan scored his third goal of the season, a shot on net that deflected off Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith. Tampa answered in the final minute of the period with a power-play goal by Radim Vrbata. The Wild’s Nicklas Backstrom stopped a Steve Downie breakaway in the second period but surrendered Malone’s goal just seconds later.
Backstrom, who has started 19 of 21 games this season, had 35 saves – six during two full minutes of a 5-on-3 Lightning power play. Smith had 29 saves for Tampa Bay, which has one win in its last nine games.
“It was scary, that 5-on-3, 3-on-5 at the end, especially with the guys they have. We had a couple breaks there,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “They came close, but you have to give the guys who killed the penalty credit. Usually, you lose a game this way very easily.”
Notes: Lightning defenceman Marek Malik, injured in Wednesday’s loss to the Rangers, was out of the lineup with a lower-body injury. … The Wild held a brief ceremony to honour Lightning assistant coach Wes Walz before the game. An original member of the Wild, Walz played in 438 games with the team before retiring a year ago. … Wild forward Andrew Brunette has the longest consecutive games streak in the NHL at 474.