There are learning lessons throughout every 82-game season. The key is to limit the painful ones.
Friday night, the Wild coughed up a two-goal lead for the first time this season. Instead of caving though, the same five guys responsible for the tying goal got the lead back for Minnesota on their very next shift.
Captain Mikko Koivu set up Charlie Coyle for his third career winning goal, and the Wild skated to a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers for its fifth win in a row at home and ninth in its past 10 home games.
“It’s good to learn lessons in games that you win, but you have to learn them,” coach Mike Yeo said after the Wild improved to 9-1-2 in its past 12 overall.
The Wild jumped out to a two-goal first period lead on goals by Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. But the Panthers tightened up in the second, the Wild began to get sloppy with the puck and by the 8½-minute mark of the third, Tomas Kopecky and Jonathan Huberdeau turned a 2-0 deficit into a tie.
It was Koivu who turned the puck over before former Gopher Nick Bjugstad assisted on Huberdeau’s goal. Koivu wanted to redeem himself immediately, and he certainly did.
An overpowering pressuring forecheck by Coyle and Koivu resulted in a Florida turnover. Ryan Suter popped the puck down low, Koivu made a power move away from Erik Gudbranson and set up Coyle, Huberdeau’s former Saint John teammate, at the goalmouth with 8:22 left.
“I have to be smart with the puck, but the good thing is we got it back the next shift,” said Koivu, who also assisted on Parise’s power-play goal. “Mistakes are part of the game. When you recognize it’s on you … you want to get that goal back.”
The Wild escaped to improve to 6-0-1 in November. Josh Harding, who has given up 19 goals in 16 games, made 22 saves to improve to 11-2-2. He is 9-0 at home this season and hasn’t lost in regulation since Oct. 17 (8-0-2 since).
“We controlled play early,” said Pominville, who recorded his 118th career multipoint game. “It’s kind of unfortunate that we weren’t able to have that killer instinct to put them away. But I think you learn a lesson from things like that. Even on the bench, there was never panic.”
Yeo loved the Wild’s start. His team moved the puck better than it had during its recent hot stretch, dictated play, jumped out to a 10-3 shot lead and 2-0 lead on the scoreboard.
But in the second, while Yeo felt the Wild defended well, it turned pucks over. Yeo called time at one point to settle his troops down, but Jonas Brodin’s turnover early in the third led to Kopecky’s goal. Huberdeau scored 5:28 later.
“I was kind of wishing I had that timeout back,” Yeo joked.
The Wild struck first 40 seconds into its first power play on a beautiful Pominville to Koivu to Parise tick-tack-toe tally. Parise popped home Koivu’s slap pass for his 10th goal and sixth in 11 games.
The Wild made it 2-0 on Pominville’s team-leading 12th goal. Pominville started the play in the neutral zone with a pass into space for defenseman Jared Spurgeon to catch up.
Spurgeon did, and a few seconds later, Spurgeon took Nino Niederreiter’s drop pass and sent a seeing-eye pass across the slot for a driving Pominville. He buried his ninth goal in 11 games past veteran Tim Thomas.
“When Pominville’s in a place like that, you give it to him and he’s going to bury it most of the time,” Spurgeon said.