RALEIGH, N.C. – SLOPPY!
If Mike Yeo were a schoolteacher and the Wild turned in Saturday night’s game as homework, the Wild coach could have handed it back with that word printed on top in red marker.
But when a team plays so well in Washington two nights earlier and loses in a shootout, maybe justice prevailed when the Wild overcame a messy performance by rallying for a 3-2 shootout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
“I thought we were kind of slow,” said defenseman Ryan Suter, who assisted on Jason Pominville’s breakaway goal and logged 35½ minutes. “We were lucky to get it to overtime and win. We were pretty fortunate with how we played.”
But the Wild learned early in the season that style points don’t get recorded in the standings.
Justin Fontaine’s second-period goal forced overtime and then a shootout, one in which the Wild went from being 0-for-7 in three previous shootouts to 3-for-10 after this one.
Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Pominville were all money against Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters to help the Wild improve to 7-1-1 in its past nine.
“We’ve played some games that we’ve played great and lost,” Parise said. “Tonight was pretty uneventful, but we managed to win, so that’s all that matters.”
Josh Harding improved to 9-2-2 with 27 saves, including two during a 67-second Hurricanes power play to end overtime.
“Getting that huge kill at the end of the game, you start to think maybe this is our night,” Yeo said before the Wild won for the first time in five all-time visits to Raleigh.
The Wild was sloppy much of the night, especially in its own end. It threw pucks away persistently, from Harding to an erratic Matt Dumba to even normally reliable forwards such as Charlie Coyle.
There were iced pucks, bad line changes and chaotic moments. Parise, Pominville and several others said the ice was atrocious, which made life even more difficult.
“It was a frustrating game for us, but we stuck with it,” Koivu said.
The Wild jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Pominville’s 200th career goal and team-leading 11th of the season. Pominville read the fact that Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison didn’t get all of his shot, so he took off in the neutral zone and got behind Carolina’s defense, hoping it would be blocked. It was.
“I put my head up and saw it was Suts, so I was pretty happy,” said Pominville, who caught Suter’s perfect headman pass. “Those kind of breakaways don’t happen too often where you have that much time.”
Eighty seconds later, Ryan Murphy tied it, and Jiri Tlusty made it 2-1 early in the second. But with Carolina having all the momentum, Fontaine redirected Marco Scandella’s shot for his sixth goal and fifth in nine games.
“It’s always a big goal when you can tie the game up and get some life back on the bench,” Fontaine said.
Scandella was outstanding. He shot five pucks, made tape-to-tape passes, was strong in his own end and single-handedly skated the puck through bodies before Fontaine’s tally. In 12 games since he was scratched for three, Scandella is plus-7 with only one minus-1 game.
“He’s playing at the highest level that I’ve seen him play,” Yeo said. “What’s great is you’re seeing all his tools come into play.”