ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Wild poured it on in the third period against the Calgary Flames.
Thomas Vanek and Mikko Koivu scored early in a three-goal third period and the Wild pulled away to beat the Flames 4-2 on Friday night.
Matt Dumba and Zach Parise also scored for Minnesota, which has won four in a row and six of seven. The Wild moved within one point of Chicago for third place in the Central Division and are three points ahead of Winnipeg for the top wild-card spot. The Blackhawks, who lost 5-2 to Columbus, have a game in hand.
”We’ve got a really hard schedule ahead of us and I know we play them one more time, but for us we’re worried about ourselves,” Parise said. ”We can’t control the other stuff but we can control how we’re playing and getting better.”
Devan Dubnyk stopped 23 shots. He made his 33rd consecutive start since joining Minnesota and 34th overall, tying Antti Niemi for the most consecutive starts in the NHL since 2010-11.
Josh Jooris and Markus Granlund scored for Calgary, 2-3-2 in its past seven. Karri Ramo stopped 31 shots before being pulled in the third period.
”From the first drop of the puck they dominated us,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. ”That’s quite a performance for the Wild.”
Early in the third period, Calgary center Joe Colborne laid out Minnesota’s Justin Fontaine. The Minnesota bench erupted, looking for a penalty that never came.
That only lit a fire under the league’s hottest team.
Since Jan. 15, Minnesota is 25-6-2 and leads the league with a plus-44 goal differential in that span. The New York Rangers are second at plus-29.
”I think it just got us a little, I don’t know, (ticked) off,” Vanek said. ”We played good hockey to that point and even though we were frustrated with not scoring we stuck with the game plan to get pucks deep.”
Doing so paid off shortly thereafter.
With the game tied at 1 in the third period, Fontaine circled behind the Calgary net and lost the puck briefly. He quickly gathered it in the left circle and backhanded a pass across to Vanek alone at the edge of the crease. His second whack knocked the puck in at 3:36 for his seventh goal in 10 games.
”Didn’t think it was the cleanest hit, but sometimes you come back, those motivate you and kind of get you going,” Fontaine said.
Less than 4 minutes later, Koivu tipped a Stewart centering pass into the Calgary net.
Parise scored unassisted on a breakaway nearly 5 minutes later for his 30th goal of the season to make it 4-1. Granlund scored on a tip with 4:43 to play for the Flames.
Calgary entered the game with an NHL-best plus-36 goal differential in the third period.
The Flames remain a point behind Los Angeles in the Pacific Division and are three points behind Winnipeg for the second wild-card playoff spot. Calgary has played one more game than the Kings.
Los Angeles – whose gear was in the building Friday – plays in Minnesota Saturday night. The Wild are then off until Thursday against the Rangers as part of a five-game homestand.
This was the first of five straight on the road for Calgary. The Flames are in Nashville Sunday to be followed by games in Dallas, St. Louis and Edmonton.
”There’s seven games left and if we don’t win five or six it’ll probably hurt our chance to make it, but we’ve got to take it game-by-game,” said Calgary center Mikael Backlund. ”We got to play with some desperation now.”
Jooris gave the Flames a 1-0 lead early in the first off a scramble in front, but Dumba tied the game less than 5 minutes later following his shot and tucking a loose puck behind Ramo.
Minnesota had the better scoring chances in the second, but Ramo stopped all 15 shots, including a mask save of a Chris Stewart shot and a quick glove to thwart a tip by Erik Haula.
”This would have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for our goalie,” Jooris said. ”They beat us to pucks and they seemed like they wanted it a little bit more tonight.”
NOTES: Calgary C Paul Byron returned after missing 16 games with a lower-body injury. He had an assist. … Minnesota activated C Ryan Carter off injured reserve. He took part in warmups but did not play. Carter missed 22 games with an upper-body injury. … There were just three penalties in the game, two on Minnesota.