ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild had seen a 2-0 lead slip away to the Phoenix Coyotes, who had entered Wednesday’s game losers of six straight.
Phoenix took a 3-2 lead early in the third period trying to snap Minnesota’s six-game streak of its own, but the Wild were winners in their past six and eight of the last 10. Their season-long streak appeared to be over.
But Minnesota’s stars wouldn’t let it end.
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Defenseman Ryan Suter scored with 55 seconds left in the third and Mikko Koivu’s individual effort in overtime beat Phoenix goaltender Jason LaBarbera to give the Wild a 4-3 win and stretched their win streak to seven games.
“Pretty simple story, we had a few individuals that said we’re not going to lose that game tonight,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said.
Koivu made a big pass to get the puck out to the point on Suter’s goal, where Jared Spurgeon fed Suter for his third goal of the season on a shot from the right circle and then corralled the puck in overtime to the left of LaBarbera as a penalty was expiring and drove the net hard, slipping it by the left side of the goaltender for his ninth goal of the season and third in four games.
Torrey Mitchell scored his third of the year and Matt Cullen added his sixth in Minnesota’s win. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom, starting for the 16th time in 17 games, made 24 saves and is 15-3-1 in his last 19 games.
“To get up 2-0 and certainly letting it slip away and losing the lead in the third period, I don’t know that we would have handled that as well earlier in the year,” Yeo said. “I think its sort of another good indication of the fact that we’re a different team right now. The bench was still up. The bench still believed and guys went out and I thought we raised our game at that level.”
The Wild have climbed into the thick of the playoff race with a 16-5-1 run that has given the team a confidence not seen in Minnesota in years. The Wild has received production from all four of its lines, has been strong defensively and has been able to rely on Backstrom on the back end.
It was the team’s leaders that pulled Minnesota out of its rut Wednesday though. Suter scored his first goal at the Xcel Energy Center as a member of the Wild and Minnesota dominated the overtime period, controlling the puck during a power-play and Koivu scored just as the penalty expired.
“You just got to stick with it and be patient with it,” said Koivu, who has a five-game point streak. “You can’t always be at your best. That’s what I mean by just trying to find that way.”
The Wild have talked about how this team is different than year’s past and after an adjustment period earlier in the year, they’ve demonstrated the difference. Minnesota has ended long losing streaks in Vancouver, Detroit and Dallas in recent weeks.
Wednesday’s come-from-behind win, after giving up a two-goal lead, demonstrated how far the Wild have come and the confidence they are playing with now.
With Wednesday’s win, Minnesota is now 21-3-1 at home and is 10-3-0 in March, the fourth time in team history it’s finished a single calendar month with at least 10 wins.
“It says a lot about good teams, you have to find ways to win when you’re not at your best,” said Suter, who has points in 12 of the past 15 games. “We weren’t at our best tonight and we knew that. And we were able to come out in the third period and get the win. So I think it says a lot about us in regards to, we knew we weren’t at our best and we were able to come back.”