ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) — A late collapse overwhelmingly
negated the fact that the Minnesota Wild stayed perfect in
Derek Roy scored 44 seconds into overtime after a late
third-period surge as the Buffalo Sabres handed the Wild their
first loss of the season with a 4-3 victory on Thursday.
Adam Mair and Thomas Vanek scored 46 seconds apart in the final
four minutes of the third to erase a two-goal deficit for
Buffalo (6-0-1), which avoided its first loss in regulation.
“We’ve been showing this all year,” Vanek said. “Obviously,
it’s not something we look for, to be down late in the game, but
it shows good character for the team – never quitting.”
This marked the first time the Wild have squandered a two-goal
lead with less than five minutes remaining in regulation and
lost since December 16, 2001, when they suffered a 3-2 home
defeat to the Colorado Avalanche.
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire noted his team’s lack of
aggressiveness in its own end in the final minutes as a main
reason for the deflating loss.
“It was a couple of plays that we’re hoping to get the puck,”
Lemaire said. “We get out of position and they make a play and
it’s in the net.”
The Wild (4-0-1), who entered as the only team still owning a
perfect record this season, scored three unanswered goals after
Drew Stafford netted his second in as many games in the first
period to give the Sabres a 1-0 edge.
Minnesota also was the last club remaining with an unblemished
mark last season. That distinction went to the Sabres in
2006-07, when they began the campaign with 10 straight wins.
Benoit Pouliot fired a slap shot from the right faceoff circle
past goaltender Ryan Miller – who made 30 saves – at 9:57 of the
second to forge a 1-1 tie. Less than five minutes later,
Stephane Veilleux beat Miller with a wrist shot to give the Wild
a 2-1 advantage.
“The second period was great for us,” Minnesota goaltender
Niklas Backstrom said. “It feels bad to lose a game like this,
but it’s hockey. We have to learn from this and be sharp and
strong in the future.”
Defenseman Brent Burns extended Minnesota’s lead with a
power-play tally 29 seconds into the third. Burns stole a
clearing attempt from Miller on the left side and fired a wrist
shot into the open net for his first goal of the season.
“It was good for us to stick with it, especially the way the
third period started,” Miller said. “That was about the most
embarrassing thing I’ve done in my life. I took my eye off it
to see where I could put it, and when I looked back down, the
puck wasn’t where I thought it would be. I figured if I played
long enough, I’d make the blooper reel.”
However, Backstrom was unable to preserve the lead down the
After Mair cut the deficit to 3-2 with exactly four minutes
remaining and Vanek registered his league-leading eighth goal of
the season, Roy completed the comeback in dramatic fashion.
“It was a tough goal to start the third, having that bad
bounce,” Roy said. “That killed our momentum. We had to
respond. We got a lucky bounce on the first goal and went to
work after that.”
“We’re going to carry every win we can get,” Buffalo coach Lindy
Ruff said. “You’ve got to win a little bit ugly sometimes and
you’ve got to get lucky.”
Roy took a pass from behind the net by defenseman Henrik
Tallinder and slid the puck under Backstrom’s pads from the
doorstep to hand the Wild their first loss in nine home games
dating to last season.
“(The rally) kind of killed our momentum,” Pouliot said. “We
got a bad break, and it just trickled in pretty much. I mean,
we have to come back on Saturday for a big win.”
Backstrom made 20 saves but fell to 11-0-5 in his last 16
decisions since a regulation loss to Chicago on March 4.
“I thought it was our best game,” Lemaire said. “We were on
them, we didn’t give them a lot. It’s a team that if you let
them play, they can hurt you, and they did.”