The Wild season was crashing to a merciful end at this time last year.
But at least fans didn’t have to wear winter coats to games. The weather made it seem as if summer was already here.
The chillier walkup this season at Xcel Energy Center has been made quite bearable by a team that is making an impassioned playoff push in a lingering winter.
Mikko Koivu was the latest hero, pushing the Wild’s win streak to seven games by scoring 2:43 into overtime on Wednesday night to lift his team to a 4-3 victory over Phoenix.
Koivu come out of the left corner as a 4-on-3 power play was expiring and jammed a shot past Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera.
The Wild needed a goal with 54 seconds remaining in the third period to force overtime. Defenseman Ryan Suter, with goalie Niklas Backstrom pulled, converted on a shot from the top of the left circle to tie the game at three.
Backstrom had 24 saves, and LaBarbera stopped 33 shots as Phoenix lost its seventh in a row.
Defenseman Michael Stone gave Phoenix, which rallied from two goals down, a 3-2 lead two minutes into the third period. Coyotes captain Shane Doan charged the net and had his right-side attempt stopped by Backstrom, but the rebound was cleared to the right point and Stone found Backstrom out of position with well-aimed shot.
In addition to his rough finish, Barbera had a rough start. The Wild took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when he foolishly tried to clear the puck from behind his net through the right circle. Wild center Matt Cullen had the good stick and picked the puck out of midair before hitting the yawning net.
LaBarbera, playing because regular goalie Mike Smith went on injured reserve, redeemed his gaffe by stopping Pierre-Marc Bouchard on a breakaway minutes later, and revived Phoenix tied it before the period ended.
First Rob Klinkhammer, falling while being checked by Wild defenseman Justin Falk, got off a high shot to beat Backstrom from 20 feet out at 11:13. Boyd Gordon, who assisted on Klinkhammer’s goal, tied it at 2 when he tipped in Keith Yandle’s bad-angle drive from the left side at 14:28. It was Gordon’s first goal of the season, in his 34th game.
Phoenix had the better of play in a well-paced first period. Backstrom stood up to point-blank shots by Doan, on a rebound; and Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker, on 12-footers.
The Wild went ahead 1-0 on the period’s only goal, from its fourth line. Mike Rupp fired from the lower part of the right circle into a crowd, including his center Zenon Konopka, that was bothering LaBarbera. Torrey Mitchell tucked in the rebound from the right edge for his third goal of the season. Clayton Stoner got the second assist, the sixth in nine games for the stay-at-home defenseman.
Backstrom started his 12th consecutive game, a combination of necessity (with backup Josh Harding sidelined because of symptoms related to multiple sclerosis) and success (the Wild has the sixth-best goals-against average in the NHL at 2.35).
Darcy Kuemper might get a start either Friday at Dallas or Saturday at home against Los Angeles. But coach Mike Yeo hinted, before the game, that Backstrom would start as much as possible.
“We have to make sure we get him rest, and not wear him down,” Yeo said. “But [starting Backstrom] is an important message to the team, that every game is meaningful. So you want to put the best team on the ice, you want to give yourself the best chance to win.”