Comeback falls short as Wild's skid grows

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 15, 2011 - 1:00 AM

The return of Mikko Koivu helped, but it wasn't enough to overcome a Canucks team that built a 3-0 first-period lead.

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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Mikko Koivu returned to the Wild's lineup Monday night, and even though he made an immediate contribution, any hope of saving the season might be too late.

The Wild's playoff push suddenly doesn't have enough force to move a piece of lint.

In fact, the only thing the Wild accomplished during the first three games of its road trip was perhaps destroy the chance of hockey being played in Minnesota past April 10.

Koivu had a goal and an assist in his first game back after missing 11 because of a broken finger to spark a late rally, but the powerhouse Canucks reached the 100-point mark for the seventh time in franchise history by hanging on for a 4-2 victory at Rogers Arena.

The Wild, which has 77 points, lost its third in a row and remains four points out of a playoff spot with 12 games left. If 95 or 96 points is the likely postseason benchmark, the math has become extremely problematic for a team that could only get 101 points if it ran the table.

The Canucks, coming off a 5-0 road trip and boasting the deepest lineup in the NHL, built a 3-0 first-period lead and then hung on as the Wild futilely tried to push back.

"You give up three goals in the first 10 minutes of a game, you can't do that in the NHL, let alone to the Canucks," Wild center John Madden said.

Koivu set up Andrew Brunette's late second-period goal to end the Wild's team-record road scoreless streak at 168 minutes, 48 seconds, then found a loose puck in the slot before scoring a pretty back-handed roofer 4:32 into the third.

"It was a solid 60-minute game," Koivu said. "We came up short in the end. We did a lot of good things tonight. That's what we've got to take out of it."

But Vancouver survived, thanks in large part to its second-ranked penalty kill. The Canucks killed six Wild power plays, including an 89-second 5-on-3 and two meager power plays in the waning minutes.

"You really need to score there," Wild coach Todd Richards said of the 5-on-3.

The Canucks faithful loved the show, especially early.

Ryan Kesler scored two goals and Raffi Torres and Daniel Sedin the others. Roberto Luongo made 33 saves as the Wild outshot the Canucks 35-22. And the loudest roar might have come when Cal Clutterbuck, back after missing four games because of a concussion, flew headfirst into the Vancouver bench when Alex Burrows dodged Clutterbuck's big first-period run.

Part of the sellout crowd included Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who sat with little security in the lower bowl next to Canucks legend Trevor Linden.

The Wild paid direly for a poor first period as Vancouver racked up a 3-0 lead, meaning by the end of one, the Wild had been outscored 11-0 in the first seven periods of the road trip.

Less than two minutes in, Torres took a harmless-looking shot from just over the blue line that somehow got by Niklas Backstrom. "Not a good way to start," Richards said.

Things quickly went from bad to worse.

Clayton Stoner returned to the lineup after missing three games because of an abdominal injury. He made his presence known by being called for two first-period penalties.

Six seconds into the first power play, Sedin, the NHL's leading scorer and second-leading goal scorer, fired through Kesler's screen for his 38th goal and 90th point. Kesler stood stationary in front like a statue with Marek Zidlicky admiring from afar.

Seventy seconds into the next power play, Kesler backhanded Mikael Samuelsson's rebound by Backstrom for his 35th goal.

  • related content

  • Koivu's back, and so is line's production

    Tuesday March 15, 2011

    Maybe the two most excited Wild players to see Mikko Koivu back in the lineup Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks were Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen.

  • Wild-Vancouver game recap

    Tuesday March 15, 2011

    1. Ryan Kesler, Canucks: Winning goal and empty-netter give him 36; he also screened Niklas Backstrom on Daniel Sedin's goal.

  • Ryan Kesler (left), Niklas Backstrom

  • VANCOUVER 4, WILD 2

    Up next: 9:30 p.m. Thursday at San Jose • TV: FSN

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