With point at stake, Wild's OT loss stings

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 7, 2011 - 10:17 AM

A goal from newcomer Warren Peters was a plus, but a Buffalo score early in OT made Minnesota's rally from an early two-goal deficit seem moot.

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Warren Peters learns quickly.

One point is better than none in the standings, but the Wild no longer is in a position to take glee from a 3-2 overtime loss even when it rallies from two goals down to get that point.

Drew Stafford's winner less than a minute into OT for the Buffalo Sabres provided a painful finish on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center after a sluggish start from a Wild team that is below that postseason threshold.

"It's all about points right now," said Peters, a minor league journeyman who helped spark the Wild's rally with his third career goal. "Moral victories, there's no room for those anymore, I don't think. I've gotten that feeling from the short time I've been here. We need wins."

The Wild has 75 points with 16 games remaining. If 95 points is the playoff barometer, it will take 10 victories for the Wild to make the playoffs, 11 to be safe.

That's a tall chore for a team playing without captain Mikko Koivu and power forward Guillaume Latendresse and is now facing an indeterminate amount of time without its ignition on many nights -- Cal Clutterbuck.

Clutterbuck missed Sunday's game because of an "upper body" injury.

"That was our game to win," the Wild's John Madden said.

Still, the Wild moved from 11th to ninth in the conference -- one point behind Los Angeles.

With scores of family and friends in the crowd, Stafford, who lives in Prior Lake and went to school at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault and the University of North Dakota, won it 46 seconds into the extra session.

Late in a shift, he took Andrej Sekera's pass, drove wide of Brent Burns, then cut to the net after brushing off Burns' check and whipping a beauty behind Jose Theodore.

"[Burns] is a big, strong guy, but if you can get an angle on him, he can kind of push you off," said Stafford, who has 26 goals. "I was happy to see a lane and get by him."

With the Wild looking down and out after Jason Pominville's goal 1:23 in and Rob Niedermayer's first goal with Buffalo 2:04 into the second, the Wild finally found some life with two goals in a 3:20 span late in the second.

Burns had a tough first period. He was responsible for Pominville's goal due to a turnover and his subsequent scramble. But Burns was much better in the second and eventually kicked the puck up ice into the Sabres' zone.

Brad Staubitz caught up to it and directed a bullet from the wall through the crease for a crashing Peters. It was Peters' first goal since Nov. 21, 2009, when he played for Dallas.

"It was a bit of a sleeper game at the start. It was pretty dull," Staubitz said. "Anytime you get a point from the grind lines like that, it's definitely a spark."

Less than two minutes later, Pierre-Marc Bouchard drew a hooking penalty from 6-8 giant Tyler Myers, then set up Marek Zidlicky's tying goal on the power play with a tremendous pass to the top of the circles. Zidlicky, who drew the ire of the crowd for tumbling over on a one-time try on the delayed penalty 90 seconds earlier, snapped a one-timer for his first goal since Dec. 12.

But the Wild could never get that go-ahead goal and at times in the third seemed to be hanging on just to secure one point. The Wild's best chance came with 5 1/2 minutes left, but Buffalo's young Swedish goalie, Jhonas Enroth, taking over for the resting Ryan Miller, denied Andrew Brunette's backhanded stab on a breakaway.

"Those are chances late in the game you'd like to obviously score, but I tried and he made a good save," Brunette said. "We left a point on the board."

  • BUFFALO 3, WILD 2 (OT) Up next: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. Colorado • Xcel Energy Center • TV: VS. (830-AM)

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