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Setoguchi's OT winner lifts Wild over Predators

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Devin Setoguchi picked a heck of a time to score his first goal of the season.

The winger scored off a one-timer with 38.2 seconds left in overtime to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

Setoguchi's goal-scoring pedigree is no secret. Despite the fact he turned 26 just over a month ago and has only four full seasons in the National Hockey League, Setoguchi already has one 30-goal and two other 20-goal seasons under his belt. It's why the Wild traded all-star defenseman Brent Burns to San Jose two summers ago to land his services.

In each of his four full campaigns, Setoguchi has scored his first goal of the season in either his team's first or second game. So when Minnesota suited up Saturday for its 11th game of the season, and Setoguchi was still goal-less, one can understand the kind of pressure he was feeling.

What made things even more frustrating for Setoguchi was how snake-bitten he was. After a poor start to the season, Wild coach Mike Yeo sent him a message, demoting the veteran to the fourth line. He responded by playing his strongest two games of the season. Yeo rewarded him by moving him back to the second line and inserting him on the power play in overtime.

"It feels nice, obviously," Setoguchi said. "But now I need to keep doing the same things and keep getting those chances to score and I know the puck will keep going in."

Scoring the winner was also especially rewarding, because it was Setoguchi who nearly wore the goat horns in regulation.

With the game tied 1-1 approaching the midway point of the third period, Setoguchi was whistled for a double-minor high sticking penalty after Nashville captain Shea Weber lifted Setoguchi's stick into Weber's face. It was a bad break, and one that sent him to the penalty box for four minutes with the game in the balance.

"It's just one of those unlucky plays. Credit the [penalty kill] and to [Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom] for holding us in there," Setoguchi said. "It's a long four minutes, it probably felt like 12 sitting in the penalty box."

For Backstrom, who was pulled after two periods in a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night, it was a great response. Entering the night, Backstrom was 18-2-4 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in games after being pulled. Yeo bet on history and his gamble paid off in spades.

His sprawling save with under three minutes to play in overtime denied Nashville defender Ryan Ellis of a sure game-winner and allowed Minnesota to snap its three-game losing streak.

After fighting the puck for 40 minutes Thursday, Backstrom was calm and collected all night, limiting rebound chances. He and the team responded well after Paul Gaustad's goal just over 10 minutes into the contest gave the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Gaustad's first of the season was the only one the Predators could get past the veteran Finn all night. He made 25 saves to improve to 4-4-1 on the season.

"You want to get a chance to get back to help the team," Backstrom said. "Every time you get pulled, it's not fun. You take it pretty personal and you want to go out there and know you're not letting your teammates down."

Chris Mason was nearly as stellar on the other side, stopping 30 of 32 shots in just his second start of the season -- ironically both in this building. After allowing just one goal in a 3-1 win over the Wild almost three weeks ago, Mason nearly stole another one for his team.

Mason was especially stellar in the extra frame, stoning Dany Heatley on a pair of chances down low in the opening seconds of overtime. He also robbed Mikko Koivu on an open net and made a nice pad save on Setoguchi a few seconds before his winner.

"I thought Mase was real sharp, made some big saves when we needed it," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Predators.

Following the game, Trotz was more concerned about the penalty called on his team that allowed Minnesota the power play that led to the game-winner.

With 2:12 remaining, on a faceoff to Mason's right, the puck hit the ice and bounced in the air, appearing to land on Gaustad's hand, which was still on his stick. The referee called Gaustad for playing a faceoff with his hand, a new rule instituted just this season.

Trotz, who was on the rules committee that approved the rule change, said the spirit of the rule was not enforced correctly and he would "need an explanation from the League."

"Basically, the rule states you cannot win a faceoff with your hand," Trotz said. "Everything we talked about was, tying someone up, and winning it with your free hand and pushing it back. If you look at it, the puck bounces three feet in the air and lands on top of his hand. It's a natural reaction. There were two hands on his stick, it's not like he was using a free hand.

"For me, it was a poor call; a real questionable call at an important time in the game. I mean, c'mon… I don't agree with that at all."

Yeo insisted however, that his team was not the beneficiary of a questionable call. Even if they were, he was in no mood to argue the result.

"Nothing came easy to us tonight," Yeo said. "I don't think we got a break with [Setoguchi's penalty]. We had to kill more penalties than we got. It's not like we shot one from below the goal line and it bounced off a couple people. We had to fight for our goals and fight to keep the puck out of our net."

The Wild also got a goal from winger Cal Clutterbuck, who tipped a Ryan Suter shot from the point at 12:59 of the second period. The tally was his second of the season and tied the game at one.

Nashville outshot Minnesota 12-8 in the third period, with many of those shots coming on the power play after Setoguchi's double-minor. Until that point, at 6:18 of the third, the Wild had allowed just 13 shots to Backstrom all night.

Despite the loss, Trotz was pleased his team was able to grab a key point on the road.

"It was a good point for us, we came in here against a very desperate team. They had a big push, they're trying to right the ship if you will, and we'll take the points on the road," Trotz said.

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