ANN ARBOR, MICH. – Having made a habit out of finding ways to win in the third period, in a turn of events Minnesota found itself on the losing side Friday.
Michigan erased a pair of deficits at home as the Gophers went from feeling good to quietly leaving Yost Arena after losing 5-3 and giving up three goals in the final 3 minutes, 38 seconds of regulation to the fifth-place team in the Big Ten.
"It just goes to show that the game is never over until it's over," Rem Pitlick said.
"We really need to bring that mentality tomorrow and make sure that if we have a lead, we're really hard to play against."
Senior forward Vinni Lettieri put Minnesota (21-10-2, 12-5 Big Ten) ahead 3-2 with just over six minutes left on his 18th goal of the season.
The Gophers had come back to win after either trailing or being tied in four of the past five games. Friday appeared to be another before Wolverines forwards Jake Slaker, on a power play, and Evan Allen scored goals 1:27 apart.
Allen's goal came with 2:11 left in the game to give Michigan (11-17-3, 4-11-2) its first lead of the game. Will Lockwood added an empty-netter.
"Credit Michigan. I thought they played a good game tonight. They made us work for everything," Gophers coach Don Lucia said.
"They played with good energy and have four home games to end the season to try to get momentum."
With Wisconsin defeating Penn State 7-4, Minnesota's three-point cushion in the Big Ten standings was erased. Both teams have 36 points entering the final three conference games.
The Gophers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals by Taylor Cammarata and Pitlick, who batted a deflection out of midair with 29.3 seconds remaining.
Michigan put 14 first-period shots on goaltender Eric Schierhorn and 40 overall. And the Wolverines and captain Alex Kile's persistence paid off. Kile played a role in the first two goals, scoring one and setting up Tony Calderone to tie the game in the second period.
Over the last three games Minnesota has been outscored 7-0 in the second period.
"We came out and got that lead," Lucia said, "and we were in good shape to play with that lead, but again the second period has been an issue."
Michigan nearly tied the score a second time 30 seconds after Lettieri's shot beat goalie Zach Nagelvoort, who had 35 saves. The Wolverines did two minutes later on the power play when Slaker got a second chance to shoot.
His goal was initially waved off, but the Wolverines successfully challenged the offsides call.
Minnesota ended the game going 2-for-4 on the penalty kill.
"The third period we went into thinking it was a 0-0 game," said Cammarata, who has points in nine of his past 11 games.
"I thought we had been winning the whole period up until the power play they had with the semi-breakaway. They got a power play. After that it was a mess."