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Parise scores late; Wild top Maple Leafs in shootout

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For much of the night, the Minnesota Wild seemed destined to repeat recent history.

Nearly one month to the day after outshooting the Toronto Maple Leafs 37-14 and losing at Air Canada Center, the Wild needed a late rally Wednesday to avoid the same fate, and got it.

Zach Parise tied the game with under five minutes to play and scored the deciding goal in the shootout as the Wild won 2-1 against the Maple Leafs at Xcel Energy Center.

Parise's shootout tally, the 34th of his career, is tops among all NHL players.

"Like the game in Toronto … the one difference is that this was a one-goal deficit we were chasing," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "In Toronto, we didn't have many opportunities when we were only down by a goal. I think we had little bit more of a feeling that this game was there for us if we could keep going."

Toronto looked poised to win after shutting down nine minutes of Wild power-play time in the third period, including a five-minute match penalty called on Nazem Kadri at 8:41. During the man-advantage, the Maple Leafs had as many shots on goal as the Wild. Minnesota went 0-for-5 on the power play in the game.

But a Maple Leafs turnover in their zone allowed the Wild to tie the game with 4:17 remaining in the third. A mistake by Toronto forward Phil Kessel ended up on the stick of Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle in the right circle. He passed to Parise, who deflected in his ninth of the season off a Toronto skate.

Until that point, Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier was on cruise control, attempting for his fourth career shutout against the Wild. He stopped six shots in the first period, 14 in the second and the first eight in the third; finishing the night with 33 saves.

"It's frustrating when you get the number of penalties that we had called against us tonight, a major penalty. Kill that off and think we get momentum," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We have the puck under control in our zone, we cough it up and it ends up in our net."

Just minutes before, Toronto was machine-like in its penalty kill execution, holding the Wild to just one shot on their five-minute man-advantage as the 17,897 in attendance showered the home team with boos on several occasions.

"It was frustrating not being able to come through on those power plays that we had," Parise said. "I thought we had some OK looks at it, tried to force a couple plays through. They've got a good penalty kill. We just couldn't quite get the opportunities that we were looking for."

The Maple Leafs got the best chance in overtime and nearly won it with less than a minute remaining when Morgan Reilly got a point-blank look at the goal line. But Josh Harding, who entered the game in the first period after Niklas Backstrom was injured, made a sprawling glove save.

Harding made 19 saves, several of them spectacular, to earn his 10th victory of the season and improve to 8-0-0 at home. He has allowed one goal or less in 11 of 15 appearances this season and leads the NHL with a 1.21 goals against average and .948 save percentage.

"A tough spot when you’re not supposed to start and you come in, probably not warm and haven't seen a shot since warmups," Wild forward Jason Pominville said. "Even in warmups the starting goalie gets most of the shots. It was supposed to be a night off and he comes in. He once again was impressive and made some big saves and gave us a chance."

Yeo said earlier Wednesday that Harding was out of the lineup because he was feeling "under the weather."

"There's always something that maybe you're not 100 percent," Harding said. "But at the end of the day, you have to go out there and perform."

Backstrom was injured a little more than seven minutes into the game when he was interfered with by Kadri, who appeared to elbow Backstrom in the head. The goaltender lay motionless for several seconds before being treated on the ice and staying in the game. He played two more minutes before giving way to Harding.

Yeo said Backstrom suffered an upper-body injury on the play, but would not elaborate further.

"Obviously, you're never a fan of that," Yeo said. "The League's done a good job of addressing those things, so we'll just leave it at that."

Mason Raymond scored for Toronto at 7:32 of the second period, off a rebound in front of Harding for his sixth of the season.

Bernier took over from there, acting as the team's best player and most importantly, best penalty killer in the third period. Jay McClement and Jerred Smithson committed penalties early in the third before Kadri's match penalty.

"We had spells where we were good, but there were times when we weren't. Special teams played well for most of the game," Raymond said. "[Bernier] was huge. He made some great saves and we were outshot again, but those are the tough ones to lose."

"He was lights out," Harding said. "It was one of the better goaltending performances I've seen this year. I thought without him in the net there, I thought it could have got out of control."

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who skated a game-high 36 minutes Wednesday, has now skated 108:19 over the past three games, the most by an NHL player since time on ice started being tracked by the Elias Sports Bureau in 2000. Since 2007-08, there have been 10 performances of 35 minutes or more; Suter has three of them in the past seven days.

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