DETROIT – Finally, the Wild felt justice prevailed Sunday night.
Only the Wild can dominate a period the way it did in the first 20 minutes against the Detroit Red Wings and find itself trailing 2-zip at the buzzer.
Only the Wild can expend that much energy, drip that much sweat, generate that many scoring chances, hold a team to 10 shots through two periods and find itself chasing an entire game.
But the Wild stuck with it, put forth a 60-plus-minute effort highlighted by impressive puck possession and a suffocating forecheck to pull off the comeback of its season by winning 4-3 in overtime at Joe Louis Arena.
Matt Moulson, acquired March 5 from Buffalo, scored his second career overtime winner 2:15 into the extra session. He deflected Jonas Brodin’s point shot for his fourth goal with the Wild.
“We needed the two points,” said Moulson, referring to a team that had won two of its previous nine games, suffering three shootout losses and one loss in overtime. “We showed a lot of character sticking with it. It’s good to end one before the shootout.”
Jason Pominville’s power-play goal in the second period pulled the Wild within one, then Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise scored third-period goals 1 minute, 45 seconds apart. Captain Mikko Koivu stole the puck that led to Coyle’s goal, had two assists and won 12 of 15 faceoffs on a night the Wild won 34 of 54 and had the puck for most the game.
“Mikko was a horse all over the ice,” coach Mike Yeo said. “He was emotional, he was engaged. You could tell he was feeling it right from the start.”
The Wild held the Red Wings to 16 shots, Detroit’s second-lowest shot total at home since 1991. Ilya Bryzgalov made 13 saves.
The victory was huge. The Wild regained a six-point cushion on eighth-place Phoenix in the Western Conference playoff race and eight-point lead on ninth-place Dallas. The Coyotes have played one fewer game, the Stars two fewer.
“It feels really good,” Parise said. “We didn’t want to walk out of here playing a good game and losing another one-goal game or losing one in overtime. That’s the way it’s been going for us. It’s nice for us to wind up on the other side of it.”
Jimmy Howard made 12 of his 21 saves in a first period in which the Wild had the puck 70 percent of the time. Unfortunately for Minnesota, two of the times it didn’t have the puck, the NHL’s hottest goal scorer, Gustav Nyquist, grabbed hold of it. Nyquist, who scored the winning goal Saturday against the Wild, scored twice — once on a power play, once on a breakaway for a 2-0 Detroit lead. Nyquist has scored 18 goals in 23 games since Jan. 20.
But trailing 2-0 in the second, the Wild scored 10 seconds into a power play. Koivu won a faceoff to Ryan Suter, and Pominville beat Howard with a one-time laser for his 27th goal.
The Wild tied the score 2-2 on Coyle’s ninth goal and second in two nights. Koivu stole Brendan Smith’s outlet pass and then went to work in dominant fashion. Moments after Suter’s shot found the net, the Wild crashed and Coyle popped home Moulson’s rebound.
“That’s what we need to do every shift,” Coyle said of the aggressive forecheck.
A few shifts later, Parise scored his 24th goal and first in six games when he crashed the net following a big shift by his line.
But 5 ½ minutes later, the Red Wings tied it at 3-3. Tomas Tatar stole a puck from Parise, sped into the Wild end, pulled a nice move on Suter, cut inside and whipped a shot by Bryzgalov’s blocker.
But just like the Wild recovered from a disappointing first period, players continued to apply pressure.
“I was really impressed with their ability to stay with it,” Yeo said. “It would be easy to get frustrated and get off your game. And they didn’t.”