Harding made five saves in a thrilling end-to-end overtime and two more in the shootout and Brian Rolston scored the winner to lift the Wild to a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.
"It's a great feeling," said Harding, who made 22 saves. "It's pretty much indescribable."
After allowing a goal by Keith Tkachuk in the first round of the shootout, Harding stopped shots by Dean McAmmond and Petr Cajanek to set up Rolston's game winner.
Minnesota's leading point scorer took the puck at center ice, skated in on the right side and slid the puck through goaltender Reinhard Divis' five-hole. The play had to be reviewed before officials ultimately ruled that the puck crossed the goal line.
Divis allowed goals by Mikko Koivu and Rolston in the shootout, which would have ended a round sooner had Minnesota's Marian Gaborik not hit the post with his attempt.
Mike Glumac had a goal and an assist and McAmmond added two assists for the Blues, who haven't won in their last 11 games, since a 3-2 victory over Columbus on March 13.
"The offense was there," Kitchen said. "Four goals is enough to win. We just made a few errors we shouldn't have made."
It was quite a debut for the 21-year-old Harding, who had not played in a game since being called up from Houston of the AHL on March 8.
He said he had about 45 minutes sleep between the time he found out he would start on Monday afternoon and when the puck dropped Tuesday night.
The Blues certainly didn't make it easy on him.
"To handle a shootout in your first game, you'll remember that one," Blues coach Mike Kitchen said.
Wild coach Jacques Lemaire thought he was doing the 21-year-old Harding a favor by giving him his first start at home against one of the league's worst teams. Lemaire rested No. 1 goalie Manny Fernandez for the first time in 14 games, since the Wild traded Dwayne Roloson to Edmonton.
But Minnesota's defense didn't do much to help their young goalie, constantly allowing Blues attackers to sneak in on the back side for open shots, especially on the power play.
Fernandez still played a role in this one.
After giving up four goals on 17 shots in the first two periods, Harding said he came to the dressing room "pretty disappointed."
"I went outside and talked to Manny a bit," Harding said. "He said that every goalie has to go through it. It meant a lot for me that he was there."
Harding rebounded with four saves in the third period and five more in overtime to stave off the Blues.
"I know we didn't help him at the start, but he hung in there and got a little more confidence," Lemaire said. "He was great in the shootout."
The Wild's top-ranked penalty kill unit continued to struggle Tuesday, two days after allowing Detroit to go 2-for-4 in a 3-2 loss.
Lee Stempniak and Glumac scored nearly identical power-play goals in the first and second period to help St. Louis to a 2-1 lead.
Both were able to sneak behind the Wild defense and get wide open on the back door, taking pinpoint passes across the crease from McAmmond and Jay McClement, respectively.
Glumac's goal made it 2-1 midway through the second, a period that finished with a flurry of four goals in the final five minutes.
Mattias Weinhandl and Marc Chouinard scored for the Wild, while Jamal Mayers scored on a breakaway for the Blues and Timofei Shishkanov made it 4-3 St. Louis going into the final period.
"Only one of (the first four) goals was stoppable," Lemaire said.
Wes Walz's 18th goal of the season, on an assist from Gaborik, tied the game with 14:37 to play, setting up a back-and-forth overtime.
Divis, starting for the injured Patrick Lalime, made 32 saves.
Notes: Blues forward Jeff Hoggan was held out again Tuesday night. Hoggan hasn't played since breaking his collarbone on Jan. 26, but has been practicing and could return Thursday against Nashville. ... Walz's 18 goals this season ties a career high.
|PPG - Lee Stempniak (13) ASST: Dean McAmmond (21), Jay McClement (17)|
1 - 0 STL
|Stephane Veilleux (5) ASST: Pascal Dupuis (15), Brent Burns (12)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Mike Glumac (7) ASST: Jay McClement (18), Dean McAmmond (22)|
2 - 1 STL
|Mattias Weinhandl (3) ASST: Marian Gaborik (25), Filip Kuba (19)|
2 - 2 Tie
|SHG - Jamal Mayers (12) ASST: NONE|
3 - 2 STL
|PPG - Marc Chouinard (14) ASST: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (41), Stephane Veilleux (9)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Timofei Shishkanov (2) ASST: Mike Glumac (4), Trent Whitfield (3)|
4 - 3 STL
|Wes Walz (18) ASST: Marian Gaborik (26), Nick Schultz (11)|
4 - 4 Tie
|1||K. Tkachuk||M. Koivu|
|2||D. McAmmond||M. Gaborik|
|3||P. Cajanek||B. Rolston|
|Power Play %||18.7%||20.0%|
|% on Road||25.7%||16.7%|
|% at Home||12.5%||23.1%|
|Derek Boogaard Interference on goalkeeper against Reinhard Divis|
|Christian Backman Holding against Marian Gaborik|
|Marian Gaborik Tripping against Matt Walker|
|Petr Cajanek Hooking against Stephane Veilleux|
|Marc Chouinard Tripping against Mark Rycroft|
|Brent Burns Interference against Jay McClement|