Players’ legs in the first home game after long road trips often feel like mush. Tuesday night, as the Wild returned to St. Paul for one game before leaving again for four, coach Mike Yeo spotted the “residue” from its recent trip.
Mikko Koivu said the first two periods against Vancouver Canucks were “just like slow motion.” Zach Parise said the Wild “were missing a lot of energy. We couldn’t generate much and when we did, we were just not executing. Passes were bobbling, we were losing pucks.”
But whether it was a combination of sports drinks, power bars and bags of saline or whether it was Yeo throwing a second-intermission fit about players not shooting pucks, something energized the Wild during its come-from-behind 3-2 shootout victory that cracked the Canucks’ seven-game winning streak.
“Down by a goal, we kind of got a sense of urgency,” said forward Charlie Coyle, who scored the tying goal 8 minutes, 47 seconds into the third period to force a frantic, exciting overtime.
Jason Pominville scored the lone shootout goal and Josh Harding wasn’t beaten by three Canucks shooters as the goaltender with an 18-5-3 record followed a 29-save, 65-minute performance with a second consecutive shootout victory.
“Our guys dig deep,” Yeo said. “Characteristic of our group, they’re going to keep fighting. It helps when you’re down by a goal and Josh makes a couple of the saves he did.”
Roberto Luongo got the rare Xcel Energy Center start. Former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault didn’t give him a start the past three years because of a 3.56 goals-against average in St. Paul and three consecutive early exits.
New coach John Tortorella didn’t care. He said Luongo would “exorcise that demon.” Luongo played well, making 30 saves, but he wasn’t happy with Coyle’s game-tying goal through his wickets.
“I’ve got to make that save there. Bottom line,” Luongo said. “I thought I had it sealed up, but he found the hole.”
It came after one of the first clean breakouts by the Wild in the third period. Jonas Brodin crossed a pass through the neutral zone that cheating Chris Higgins couldn’t intercept. That created a 3-on-2, and Koivu hit Coyle for his fourth goal of the season and second in the past 16 games.
The goal seemed to spark not only Coyle (he was dominant the rest of the period), but the Wild. Minnesota began firing pucks and pressuring like it wasn’t able to in the first two periods. The Wild outshot the Canucks 16-8 in the final 25 minutes.
“We were a little more physical, shot pucks, moved our feet and the fans got into it, and that gave us energy,” Pominville said.
The Canucks struck first for the eighth consecutive game on Jannik Hansen’s first-period goal, but Koivu hit Parise for his 15th goal and eighth on the power play three minutes later. Vancouver had killed off all 20 power plays it faced during its winning streak.
But in the second period, defenseman Ryan Suter, a minus-2, didn’t tie up David Booth on a rebound and Booth scored the go-ahead goal.
Suter has had some tough games lately. He clearly is banged up, yet he logged 32 minutes, 34 seconds Tuesday, topping 30 minutes for the 12th time in 21 games and 17th time this season.
With second defense pair Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon playing well, Yeo was asked if he should cut back on Suter’s ice time.
“I would say yes, but look at his third period, look at his overtime,” Yeo said. “He played an awful lot tonight, but that said, when the game’s on the line, he looked great. But we have to keep an eye on it.”