Postgame: Christensen, Koivu spark Wild's unexpected rally

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  • March 29, 2012 - 11:56 PM

In a game where there was a whole lot of nothingness going on for 2 ½ periods, the Wild put forth an unexpected last-minute comeback tonight to beat Florida 3-2 in overtime.
Read the gamer for details, but Erik Christensen, using a big reach, found Tom Gilbert’s deflected shot off Brian Campbell’s skate by the post and tied the game with 30.3 secs left for his fifth goal in nine games. Then, just 15 seconds into overtime, Gilbert headmanned a pass to Mikko Koivu just in front of the blue line.
Koivu turned, was able to generate some speed, split flat-footed defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver and beat Jose Theodore on a breakaway as he fell.
It was Koivu’s second career overtime winner, the first coming in San Jose on March 5, 2009, off a Brent Burns setup, if I remember correctly. In fact, that was the last time we saw Burns that season. We went down to L.A. and Burns was pulled from warmup and Kurtis Foster played, if I remember correctly.
Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t happy with the Wild’s game early, saying the Wild was too easy to play against and turned the puck over and over and over and over.
But the Wild overcame a bad call (Wojtek Wolski high-sticked himself) in the second en route to Scottie Upshall’s power-play goal, then overcame a Warren Peters’ PK clear hitting a linesman’s skate before Tomas Fleischmann’s 4-on-3 goal with 6:44 left with Kyle Brodziak and Koivu in the box.
Brodziak also scored tonight for his fourth goal and ninth point in seven games. He tied Dany Heatley for the team lead with his 21st goal.
Gilbert was great in the end and Yeo raved about his execution, especially passing. That is something several of the Wild’s defensemen continue to have major problems with. Tonight was the first time we've really seen Gilbert make plays offensively, although, as Yeo said, "we're not really built" offensively.

"What he’s been really good at as far as I’m concerned is his execution, especially his first pass or making small outlet plays out of the defensive zone," Yeo said. "That’s what he's here for. He’s not here to rush the puck end to end. He’s not here to singlehandedly make us one of the best offensive teams in the league. But he is here to help us execute and help us get to our game."
Gilbert also was high-sticked by Kris Versteeg. The dead giveaway was Versteeg’s stick getting stuck in Gilbert’s earhole.
Jason Zucker made his NHL debut, becoming the first Nevada-produced player in NHL history. He logged 10:55 of ice time, had three shots and got better as the game grew old. He admitted to feeling his way through the first period and just being cognizant that he didn’t goof up.
But Yeo liked his game and he definitely started to flash some stuff late.
Great moment in the pregame when the Wild pranked him and had him lead the team onto the ice for warmups. Niklas Backstrom, making his first start since March 1 (25 saves), stopped, and Zucker did more than a lap all alone on the ice.
Zucker felt it was coming. He wasn’t born yesterday. He knows the goalie should be front of the line, but, “I wasn’t going to tell [Dany] Heatley, ‘No.’”
Here is the link of the prank.
That’s it for moi. Kent Youngblood has practice Friday as I work on my Sunday column and work ahead on some stuff for next week. Kent also has the game vs. L.A. on Saturday. I’ll talk to you next from Chicago on Sunday.

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