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Fernandez comes up big in shootout to lead Wild past Flames 3-2

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Rolston and Koivu scored in the shootout and Manny Fernandez stopped two of three shots, leading the Wild to a 3-2 victory on Thursday night in a game bogged down by 18 penalties - nine for each side.

The Wild have played a league-high nine shootouts, winning seven. Rolston has scored on four of his six shootout opportunities this season, and Koivu is 6-for-9.

Rolston relies on pure power, frequently using his slap shot to score - as he did to beat Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, who made 25 saves.

"I obviously don't want to do it every time," Rolston said. "Who knows? We'll see what happens next time. Maybe I've got 'em guessing."

Koivu followed with his signature top-shelf backhand move. Then Fernandez denied Kristian Huselius on the final attempt to earn his second straight win. Fernandez, who made a season-high 38 saves, has rebounded from a miserable 16-game stretch in which he won only once, stayed on the bench five times, got pulled twice and was stuck with eight losses.

Coming off a shutout of Carolina on Tuesday with wins in 10 of his last 12 starts, Kiprusoff gave up two goals in the first 16 1/2 minutes - power-play scores by Koivu and Rolston - but settled in after that.

But he couldn't stop Minnesota's two shootout stars, even though he knew what Koivu was going to do.

"He did it perfect, hit the crossbar and put it in," Kiprusoff said. "It's a pretty nice move."

Rhett Warrener and Jarome Iginla scored second-period goals for the Flames, who bounced back from a rough first period but were still unsatisfied despite emerging with a point in the standings.

They had a chance to win in overtime on Chuck Kobasew's wraparound shot with 39 seconds left, but Fernandez alertly pounced on it.

"I don't know if the goalie or the d-man got a stick on it, but I've got to bury that," Kobasew said.

This was the first of eight matchups between these Northwest Division foes, a tight bunch in which six points separate first-place Edmonton and last-place Colorado.

Calgary and Minnesota have been heading in opposite directions since early November, with the Wild going just 5-9-2 in their last 16 games. But they've been missing several key players, and coach Jacques Lemaire has been pleased by their recent performance - three straight shootouts, two of them wins.

Of course, there are no shootouts in the playoffs, should Minnesota qualify.

"We'll try to win before that, so there won't be any," Lemaire said, smiling.

Among all NHL teams with winning records, the Flames have the worst mark away from home, 3-7-3. Despite 10 wins in their last 13 games, they reverted to their recently shoddy road ways in the first period.

The biggest problem was taking penalties, six of them in the first 16 1/2 minutes, that helped the Wild snap out of their power-play slump.

After assisting on Koivu's goal, Rolston showed off his rifle-like slap shot - putting enough strength on the puck so that it trickled through Kiprusoff's legs and gave the Wild a 2-0 edge. They nearly got another one seconds later, during a 5-on-3, when a shot by Pascal Dupuis popped off the right post.

That was the break Calgary needed to climb back in it. Warrener scored short-handed barely four minutes into the second period, and then Iginla scored his 300th career goal about two minutes later by muscling past Martin Skoula on a power play and sneaking the puck through Fernandez's legs. Iginla's display was made more impressive by the holding penalty simultaneously called on Skoula.

Notes: Fernandez had two second-period penalties, for delay of game and high-sticking. The last time he had two penalties in a game was nearly four years ago. . . . Iginla has scored in four straight games. . . . The Wild got enforcer Derek Boogaard (ankle) back from an eight-game absence, but their lines are still banged up. Centre Pavol Demitra missed his eighth straight game with a concussion, and star right wing Marian Gaborik has been out since Oct. 20 because of a strained groin. Centre Wes Walz (hip) also sat out for the eighth consecutive game.


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