Wild: Better extremely late than never

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 21, 2011 - 2:50 PM

Dany Heatley tied the game with 1.2 seconds left in the third period, and the Oilers couldn't beat Niklas Backstrom in a shootout.

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EDMONTON, ALBERTA - As if Dany Heatley wasn't Public Enemy No. 1 already in these parts, the man who snubbed Edmonton ruined Nikolai Khabibulin's masterful shutout bid with 1.2 seconds left in regulation Thursday night.

Heatley, who wouldn't waive his no-trade clause to come to Edmonton after asking out of Ottawa two years ago, scored a stunning goal to somehow lift the Wild out of the doldrums before it prevailed in the shootout by a 2-1 score over the Oilers.

"To snag two points from the jaws of defeat there, it was a pretty good feeling," coach Mike Yeo said after the latest overtime-forcing game in Wild history.

Matt Cullen, the Wild's best forward all night, scored his third shootout goal of the season, and three Oilers couldn't beat Niklas Backstrom after a 30-save effort through overtime.

In a snap, the Wild went from a certain-looking loss to a ninth straight victory over its favorite foe.

"We made some mistakes, but I thought we really took over the game in the second and third," said Heatley, who had a season-high seven shots. "I think we felt it was just a matter of time before we would tie it up, and this time we did."

Heatley, standing at the side of the net, took Pierre-Marc Bouchard's pass from behind the cage and appeared to bank it between Khabibulin's pad and the post. The puck dropped a few inches from the goal line and rolled in.

"I knew time was going down. Just trying to get it to the net," said Heatley, who credited a late Oilers timeout for giving the Wild a chance to regroup and draw up a play. "Usually those plays don't really work, but we had a lot of time in their end. Just kind of scrambling and buzzing and finally found a way to pull it in."

Maybe it was destined because the Wild hadn't been shut out in Edmonton since its first visit Nov. 3, 2000. The Wild's rally was impressive considering it played the final 21 minutes without defenseman Greg Zanon, who aggravated his groin injury, and the final 17 minutes without captain Mikko Koivu, who suffered a terrifying gash to his chin and neck.

At 8:17 of the third, Heatley was tripped by Shawn Horcoff. His skate came up and sliced Koivu, who had stitches from the left side of his chin and neck area all the way to the right side.

But Koivu is OK.

"He's tough," Heatley said.

"As a team, we seemed to use that as a rallying point, like let's go get her done," Yeo said of playing without Zanon and Koivu.

In the first half of the game, the Wild had to overcome own-zone turnovers, faceoff futility, little traffic in front of Khabibulin and a poor power play.

The power play, which is 3-for-27 this season and 0-for-14 the past four games, started off fine. But Khabibulin picked up where he left off a week before during a 34-save effort in St. Paul.

He robbed Heatley twice early. But the Wild's next three power plays were hideous, especially late in the second when the Oilers outchanced the Wild 2-0. Eric Belanger hit the post on a breakaway, and Backstrom stopped Anton Lander on a 2-on-1.

The Oilers jumped out to a 1-0 lead late in the first on Ryan Jones' tap-in after Zanon handed the puck to Ryan Smyth. But the Wild found its game, especially in the third.

"It was such a huge goal [by Heatley] for us to stay with it and stick with it and keep fighting and battling," Cullen said. "By no means was it pretty, but it felt like we turned the tide in the second half of the game and got to our game."

Said Yeo of Heatley, "It was like he was refusing to lose that game tonight."

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  • Niklas Backstrom (left), Ryan Smyth


    Up next: 3 p.m. Saturday at Vancouver • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

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