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Wild goalie Josh Harding stopped a scoring attempt by New Jersey star Ilya Kovalchuk during the third period Friday. Harding stopped all 22 shots he faced after replacing an injured Niklas Backstrom.

Jim Mone, Associated Press

WILD 4, NEW JERSEY 2 Up next: 7 p.m. Sunday at Anaheim • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

Goals and goalies aplenty in wild Wild win

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • December 3, 2011 - 12:34 AM

If Jacques Lemaire was watching at home with his feet up in western Florida (not bloody likely), you can bet the defensive whiz's reaction was his famous, "Oh ... my ... Lord."

The first Wild-Devils game in history without Lemaire on one of the two benches began as a crazy, up-and-down, atypical offensive affair for two normally non-offensive teams.

There were five first-period goals -- four in the first 8 minutes, 17 seconds -- before things predictably settled down on the way to a 4-2 Wild victory at Xcel Energy Center.

"I think both teams were kind of surprised the way that started, and good thing we were on top," said Dany Heatley, whose goal 20 seconds after Zach Parise opened the scoring was the first of three Wild goals in a span of 5:03.

The Wild, which got another two big goals from blue-collar forward Kyle Brodziak, won for a 13th time in 17 games and leapfrogged Pittsburgh again for the top spot in the NHL. Minnesota now owns a six-point lead in the Northwest Division, its largest of the season.

New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer called time after Casey Wellman chased Martin Brodeur from the net for the second-shortest outing of his future Hall of Fame career (8:17). From there, though, it was all Devils, all the time.

But the Wild could especially thank Josh Harding, who relieved starter Niklas Backstrom to open the second period because of a "lower body injury." The Wild looked disjointed the last 40 minutes. It executed poorly, was pinned in its zone and was outshot 31-16 for the game (22-10 the last two periods).

But Harding stopped all 22 shots he faced. Coach Mike Yeo doesn't believe Backstrom's injury is "extremely serious," but with the Wild leaving Saturday for a five-game trip, Harding could be seeing a lot more action.

"You've got to be ready as a backup goalie whenever they give you the chance," said Harding, who wasn't credited with the victory because the Wild led 3-2 when he entered the game. "Backy's put the bar pretty high that I've got to step in there and do the job."

Backstrom was beaten on two deflections -- one by Parise, one when Ilya Kovalchuk's shot ricocheted off defenseman Mike Lundin's stick.

Between those goals, Heatley tied it right away. Then, after Kovalchuk fell and coughed the puck up to Brodziak, the center drove wide of Anton Volchenkov, cut to the net and scored on his own rebound.

"There's second and third efforts on that goal all over the place," Yeo said. "He doesn't score on the first one, he's falling down, he's still whacking at it."

Only 82 seconds later, Matt Cullen's shot deflected in off Wellman's toe after he crashed the net. Brodeur is 39. He has played 18 years. He has played 1,145 games. He has only been chased quicker once.

"We earned that," Yeo said.

Backstrom played the rest of the first, but he had been hurting since Parise's goal 2:54 in. It didn't help when David Clarkson fell on him late.

Between periods, Harding was being his typical self -- fooling around in the trainer's room -- when goalie coach Bob Mason entered to tell him to get ready.

His face "instantly changed," said Heatley, laughing.

But Harding entered coolly, played on "adrenaline," he said, and stoned the Devils at every turn.

"I'm not a goalie, but coming in cold like that, that's got to be an unbelievably tough job," said Brodziak, who iced the game late in the third with a breakaway goal. "It was awesome how he came in and really held fort for us."

It wasn't a pretty win by any means, but as usual, Greg Zanon said, "We keep finding a way to get the job done. ... We'll just keep riding this wave as long as we can."

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