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Surging Wild hold off Panthers

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. --- The Minnesota Wild's penalty kill is a big reason they've gone 7-0-1 since the All-Star break.

It won the game for them on Thursday.

Minnesota killed all five of the Florida Panthers' power plays, including three in the third period, in a 2-1 win at Xcel Energy Center.

The Panthers trailed by a goal early in the third period and had a chance to tie the score after Ryan Suter was assessed a high-sticking double minor at 3:54. The Wild killed most of the first minor before drawing a penalty of their own.

With Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo off for an extra attacker, Nino Niederreiter was called for tripping with 1:19 to play. Florida skated 6-on-4 for the remainder of the game but was limited to two perimeter shots against Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

Minnesota, which has won seven of its past eight and earned a point in nine consecutive games, has killed all 22 power plays against since returning from the All-Star break on Jan. 27.

"The [penalty kill] was outstanding tonight," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It started with some great clears and it doesn't sound like a lot, but when you show some poise and you're able to get one of those pucks down ice, you're killing 15 seconds.

"I keep saying this, but your best penalty-killer is your goalie and [Dubnyk] was doing a great job back there, making the first save and controlling the rebounds."

Dubnyk was good at even strength too. He allowed a second-period goal to Nick Bjugstad but made 26 saves and is 9-1-1 since being acquired in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14.

Even the goal that beat him took a perfect shot; Bjugstad found just enough space between Dubnyk's shoulder and the crossbar with a snap shot for his team-leading 19th goal at 9:53.

"I don't usually say that I wish I was a few inches taller but I wish I was a few inches taller there," said the 6-foot-6 Dubnyk. "Great shot. That's kind of one you tip your cap and move on."

Dubnyk made every save after that, including eight in the final period for his 18th win of the season.

The Wild (27-20-7) opened the scoring 4:12 into the game on a goal by Jason Pominville. The Wild cruised into the zone with Mikko Koivu controlling the puck along the left wall. His centering pass hit a crashing Pominville's skate and went past Luongo. The play was ruled a goal on the ice, and the call was upheld after a short review.

Pominville has 12 goals this season and has scored in three straight games.

"It was kind of a classic trap game," Yeo said. "I challenged the guys and they responded. Not to say we were at our best, but we found a way to win and did a lot of good things along the way."

The Wild made it 2-0 at 6:52 of the second period when Zach Parise jammed home a loose puck in the crease following a shot by Thomas Vanek for a power-play goal. Koivu assisted on each goal for his 113th career multiple-point game, one shy of Marian Gaborik's franchise record.

"Close game, we had our chances on the power play, they scored on their power play," Bjugstad said. "A lot of times in tight games like this, it turns into a special teams battle and we didn't capitalize."

Luongo made 21 saves and is 3-10-3 in his career in St. Paul. The Panthers have never won a game in regulation at Xcel Energy Center.

"You don't get a whole lot against Minnesota," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "They're a tough defensive team and they play a real good defensive game. I thought both teams played well defensively and there weren't a lot of great scoring chances either way."

Florida finished a quick two-game road trip Friday with the second half of back-to-back games against the Dallas Stars. Minnesota hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday before hitting the road for a three-game trip to Western Canada.

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