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Koivu's overtime winner sinks Coyotes

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After watching their two-goal lead evaporate in about 10 minutes, the Minnesota Wild prolonged their night in the final minute of regulation against the Phoenix Coyotes, then saved it in overtime.

Minnesota jumped ahead 2-0, fell behind 3-2 in the third period but forced overtime on a goal by Ryan Suter with 54.3 seconds remaining in regulation before Mikko Koivu's game-winner at 2:43 of OT, eight seconds after a Wild power play expired, gave the Wild a 4-3 victory.

The victory extended Minnesota's franchise-best winning streak to seven games; Phoenix has lost seven in a row.

"That's about as big a kick to the [groin] as you're going to get," Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbera said. "I felt like we were going to win that game. I don't know what to say. We were there … I don't know."

"We took a poor penalty in overtime, we didn't have the desperation to block a shot in the last minute or the desperation to take a passing lane away," coach Dave Tippett said. "We find ourselves in the same predicament, which is very frustrating for our group."

Trailing 2-0 midway through the second period, the Coyotes faced a dire situation, with Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard racing in on a breakaway that would have put Phoenix in a three-goal hole. But LaBarbera made the save to keep it a two-goal game -- and give his team some momentum.

LaBarbera said he needed to pay his teammates back for an error he made earlier in the period in which Wild forward Matt Cullen whacked a LaBarbera clearing attempt out of midair and scored into an open net to make it 2-0 at 5:29.

"I needed to redeem myself after the dumb mistake on that second goal," LaBarbera said. "I knew from that point on I had to shut the door. And the guys responded."

For the next 29 minutes, LaBarbera did just that.

Less than a minute after LaBarbera's big save, Phoenix's Rob Klinkhammer scored a greasy goal, fighting off a body check in front of Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom to snap home his fourth goal in eight games this season.

Just over three minutes later, Boyd Gordon tipped Keith Yandle's shot from the half wall through Backstrom's armpit, tying the game at 2-2.

Phoenix went ahead 1:52 into the third period after Backstrom robbed Shane Doan with a skate save on a chance in-tight. The rebound squirted free to Michael Stone in the right circle, and the defenseman rifled a shot through a swarm of bodies and past a still recovering Backstrom for his third of the season.

"There were some areas of our game I thought were pretty good," Tippett said. "In the end, we didn't do enough to win.

Minnesota led 1-0 after one period on a goal by Torrey Mitchell and grabbed the two-goal edge on Cullen's sixth of the season early in the second.

The feeling in the Wild room after was one of relief.

"It's nice to win a hockey game when you don't play your best," coach Mike Yeo said. "But at the same time, I think our guys know we weren't at our best and we're going to have to be better.

"We had a few individuals that said we're not going to lose that game tonight."

Backstrom made 24 saves to improve to 18-7-2. LaBarbera, playing in place of injured starter Mike Smith, stopped 33 shots.

For Suter, his third goal of the season extended a sizzling March in which the defenseman has had at least one point in all but three games. After an unusually slow start to the season, especially in his own zone, his plus-2 effort Wednesday made him a plus player for the first time this season. His 27 points are second among all NHL defensemen.

"Mikko made a good play to get the puck back to [Jared Spurgeon], and he made a great pass over to me. I had a lot of time," Suter said. "Zach [Parise] was in front taking away his eyes… you can't really ask for anything more than that."

Minnesota will head to Dallas on Friday for the front half of back-to-back games this weekend. The Wild defeated the Stars at the American Airlines Center on Monday night for their first victory in Texas in a decade. They return home Saturday to host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

The Coyotes continue their three-game road trip Thursday against the Nashville Predators before finishing their trip Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.

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