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Canucks win in OT, clinch Northwest

by Brian Compton
It wasn't pretty, but the Vancouver Canucks repeated as Northwest Division champions on Sunday night.

After watching a two-goal lead slip away in the final minute of regulation, Sami Salo scored on the power play 2:15 into overtime as the Canucks clinched the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with a 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild at GM Place.

"We set out at the beginning of the season to get into the playoffs and if we could, to win our division, and that's what we did," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "The game should have been put away earlier. It's unfortunate what happened at the end there."

A large portion of Vancouver's 300th consecutive capacity crowd left the building when Alexander Edler scored an empty-net goal to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead with 55 seconds remaining.

But Cody Almond redirected Casey Wellman's feed past Roberto Luongo with 41.5 seconds left, and Antti Miettinen tied the game with 18.8 seconds to go to stun what was left of the crowd.

"Obviously we got the win, and that's all that matters," Luongo said after his 24-save performance.

Ryan Kesler scored the lone goal of the first period, which came shorthanded at 5:02. After defenseman Kevin Bieksa was whistled for interference, Kesler came down on a 2-on-1 rush with Edler and fired the latter's feed past Niklas Backstrom for his 24th goal of the season.

"The important thing is we got it done," Kesler said. "Giving up two goals in the final minute was not something we envisioned, but we regrouped as a team and got it done on the power play."

Minnesota struggled mightily early, as it nearly took half of the first period to record a shot on goal. It wasn't until Cam Barker fired a wrister into Luongo's pads at 9:16 when the Wild tested the Vancouver captain.

Kyle Wellwood doubled the Canucks' lead when he redirected Bieksa's wrister past Backstrom -- who made 36 saves -- during a power play at 10:25 of the second, but Andrew Brunette answered with a power-play goal of his own midway through the third.

"He was great in the nets, he gave us a chance,'' Minnesota coach Todd Richards said of Backstrom.

Vancouver was 2-for-7 on the power play while Minnesota went 1-for-8.  

"They're a good team at home, and we probably didn't get out of the gate the way we wanted to and it took the wind out of our sails," Brunette said.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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