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Wild teammates in awe of Fleury’s play in goalie’s 551st win

Marcus Johansson was in the offensive zone as goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and the Columbus Blue Jackets' Justin Danforth started racing toward the Wild's vacant net.

"From where I was, I thought they were scoring," Johansson said.

Fleury was trying to get to the Wild bench so the team could add an extra attacker while vying for the tying goal late in the third period Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio. But he had to abandon that plan when Columbus cleared the puck out of its end up the boards and Danforth went sprinting after it.

"That was a tricky one," Wild coach John Hynes said.

Brock Faber chased Danforth, the defenseman falling to the ice as Danforth readied for a shot.

"I just dove to try to get the puck," Faber said.

As Danforth aimed at the net, Fleury made his own diving attempt, his stick stretched out in front of him.

"I was on the bench," winger Matt Boldy recalled. "I trust in Flower."

Fleury didn't end up saving Danforth's shot.

"I wish," he said. "That would have been a good one."

But Danforth didn't score. His wind-up went wide of the empty net, and what happened next felt straight out of a Hollywood script.

The puck landed on Johansson's stick, and his shot trickled — literally crawled — over the goal line. Then Marco Rossi's first career overtime game-winner completed a 4-3 comeback for the Wild at Nationwide Arena that ended the team's four-game losing streak.

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And Fleury? He picked up his 551st win to move into a tie with Patrick Roy for the second-most victories of all time after making a game-saving glove stop on Yegor Chinakhov the shift before Rossi scored.

"He makes the big save when it matters," Boldy said. "That game's over if he doesn't make that save. It's incredible. He deserves it, and all respect to him."

Fleury is scheduled to compete for his 552nd win that would seal sole possession of second place Monday night at Xcel Energy Center in the beginning of a home-and-home against the Dallas Stars, a Central Division rival and the team that knocked the Wild out of the playoffs last season.

Based on how the first meeting went in November, an 8-3 shellacking by the Stars, the rematches will be challenging, especially since Jonas Brodin, Gustavsson, Kirill Kaprizov and Jared Spurgeon are still injured; Marcus Foligno (lower body) will be evaluated for a return.

But on the heels of such a significant win and with history on deck, momentum and motivation could help the Wild.

"A lot of us will never be around someone that's going to have that type of a career and these type of milestones," Hynes said. "So to be able to do it together is certainly special for the guys."

Although he was recently practicing with a cane and Wild winger Brandon Duhaime called him 50 years old in a TV interview last month, Fleury isn't limping through the record book.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion and former Vezina Trophy recipient as the NHL's top goalie caught up to Roy and on Dec. 31 became only the fourth goaltender to play 1,000 games. Fleury, 39, has taken over the crease while Gustavsson heals and the team tries to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race. Zane McIntyre had been backing up Fleury, but on Sunday the team sent McIntyre to the minors and recalled Jesper Wallstedt from Iowa of the American Hockey League.

Fleury's 25 stops vs. Columbus came in a season-high fourth consecutive start.

"Just a fun hockey game," said Fleury, who won't decide whether he will retire until after the season. "Guys played hard and being down that late in the game, there's ups and downs of emotion. Them scoring, them missing the open net. We scored then making a save. As a goalie, to me I love making saves like that that are fun. I feel like a kid a bit still."

Throwing his body toward the empty net was typical Fleury, that tenacious style his calling card throughout his 20-year NHL career, but the effort also emphasized what's at stake.

The Wild are desperate for points, and Fleury is playing with that urgency.

"It helps us a lot as a team when you have a goalie like that back there," Rossi said. "You can trust him a lot. Just unbelievable. I know [Duhaime] says he's 50. But for me, he looks like 25."

Hynes has a points target mapped out for a specific segment of games, and the Wild needed to win on Saturday to stay on track.

Rossi and Johansson delivered clutch goals, while Boldy scored twice and Faber racked up three assists. Winger Mats Zuccarello also made a difference in his return from injury.

But Fleury was just as impactful, and what better way for the future Hall-of-Famer to tie his childhood idol in victories than to be vital to the outcome?

"He's still got it, no matter what Duhaime says," Boldy said. "He's still got it, for sure."