Minnesota refuse-to-lose approach pays off with OT win

Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild hadn't needed to play with desperation in a long time, but when they did, it meant another win.
Down 3-2 in the final minute of regulation, the Wild pulled their goalie and got a game-tying goal from Ryan Suter. Then in overtime, Mikko Koivu scored the game-winner as the Wild rallied to beat the slumping Phoenix Coyotes, 4-3.
It was the seventh consecutive win for the Wild, and the seventh consecutive loss for the Coyotes, who haven't tasted victory since March 12 against the Kings in Arizona.
Michael Stone, Rob Klinkhammer and Boyd Gordon scored for Phoenix, while Torrey Mitchell and Matt Cullen tallied goals for the Wild.
"Pretty simple story," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We had a few individuals who said, 'we're not going to lose that game' tonight."
In the final minute of the third, with an extra attacker on the ice, Suter blasted a rising shot from 40 feet out to tie the game. It was his first goal at Xcel Energy Center in a Wild uniform.
"You have to find ways to win when you're not at your best. 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," said Suter -- one of the two marquee free agents Minnesota signed to a 13-year, $98 million deal last summer. "I think that says a lot about us. We stuck with it, we didn't cheat, and we were able to get one there at the end."
Mitchell gave the Wild a one-goal lead after 20 minutes, slipping the rebound of a Mike Rupp shot past Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera. It was the third goal of the season for Mitchell, who signed with Minnesota after playing the previous five seasons with San Jose.
A mistake by LaBarbera allowed the Wild to double their lead early in the second. The goalie tried to clear the puck from behind the net, but inadvertently turned it over to Cullen. Before LaBarbera could scramble back into position, Cullen shot it into the empty net.
"I had to redeem myself after that dumb play and I knew from that point on I had to shut the door, and the guys responded," LaBarbera said. "Down 2-0 we were struggling a bit, but the guys hung in there."
The Coyotes finally answered near the midway point of the game.
Klinkhammer, playing in just his eighth game of the season for Phoenix after spending January and February with the team's minor league affiliate in Portland, Maine, sent a rising shot at the net from close range to make it 2-1.
Phoenix knotted the game a few minutes later when defenseman Keith Yandle's shot from the left circle was tipped by Gordon in front of Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. It was Gordon's first goal of the season, snapping a 34-game drought.
"That's desperation hockey right there," said a frustrated Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. "You've just got to find a way to get that done. That just seems to be a trademark of our team lately. We just can't get that done."
LaBarbera finished with 33 saves for the Coyotes, who play in Nashville on Thursday night. For the Wild, Backstrom made 24 saves.
Minnesota plays in Dallas, for the second time this week, on Friday.
NOTES: The Coyotes were without the services of left wing Lauri Korpikoski for the first time this season on Wednesday due to an upper body injury. Korpikoski has six goals and five assists in 32 games this season. ... Although he has not scored a goal in nearly a year, Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner has had a hot hand recently. His assist on Minnesota's first period goal was his third helper in the past two games. He last scored on April 1, 2012, versus the Blackhawks. ... Coyotes left wing Steve Sullivan left the game just seconds into the middle period. Wild wing Charlie Coyle stumbled when the puck was dropped for the opening faceoff and his skate flew up, nicking Sullivan on the chin. Sullivan dropped to the ice immediately, and was helped off by a trainer. He returned later in the second period. ... Wild defenseman Justin Falk skated in his 100th career NHL game on Wednesday.

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