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Vanek, Dubnyk help Wild defeat Hurricanes

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With a potentially season-defining road trip to Western Canada on the horizon, the Minnesota Wild first needed to take care of business against an Eastern Conference team near the bottom of the standings.

The Wild did, scoring two goals in the third period of a 6-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

Minnesota (28-20-7) is 8-0-1 since the All-Star break. It has at least one point in its past 10 games, equaling the Wild record.

"It's tough to get up for these Eastern Conference games," said Wild defenseman Nate Prosser, who ended a 41-game goal drought with the game-winner. "I think the leaders really stepped up and said, 'Hey, these are still four big points.'"

The Wild got contributions from three former University of Minnesota players: Thomas Vanek, Jordan Schroeder and Erik Haula scored four of their goals.

Vanek scored the first two, his first multigoal game with the Wild. He also had the primary assist on Prosser's goal early in the second period for his second three-point game this season.

"We made some plays and scored some goals early," Vanek said. "I think we were kind of, hoping, waiting, a little bit of both, for the fourth and fifth goal. That's a team that plays pretty loose over there. They have some skill and they showed they could come back."

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves and is 10-1-1 since being acquired in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14. Justin Fontaine and Mikael Granlund each had two assists.

The Wild went ahead 1:15 into the game, taking advantage of a Hurricanes turnover in their end. Justin Fontaine's forecheck forced the puck to Mikael Granlund near the right faceoff dot, where he passed to Vanek, who hit a wide-open net at the left hash.

Vanek crashed the net and tapped in a pass from Fontaine at the back door to make it 2-0 at 8:17. Schroeder made it 3-0 with a snap shot from the right dot, firing it under goalie Anton Khudobin's arm at 15:31.

"You play from behind against anybody and you're in trouble," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "Doesn't matter who you play, when you're behind, you're in trouble. You're asking for it.

"It was a very bizarre game. That was as bad as we've played in a long time."

The 28th-place Hurricanes made it 3-1 when they won a faceoff in the Wild zone with 15 seconds left and got the puck to the net, where Andrej Nestrasil finished a rebound with 10.3 seconds remaining.

Carolina (19-28-7) outshot Minnesota 13-4 in the second period, and other than Prosser's goal, which deflected off the stick of Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk at 2:16, much of the play was in the Hurricanes offensive zone.

A turnover by Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin found the stick of Carolina defenseman Michal Jordan. He passed to Jordan Staal at the left circle, giving the Hurricanes numbers in front, and Staal's pass across the slot to Jeff Skinner was one-timed past Dubnyk at 5:02.

Elias Lindholm deflected Faulk's point shot in front at 6:32 to make it 4-3.

The low-scoring, tight-checking game Wild coach Mike Yeo predicted following the morning skate had turned into a shootout.

"I got that one wrong," Yeo said. "The one thing I did know is that it was going to be a hard game, one way or the other. I just knew, with the way they had been playing, with the expectations you come in, knowing the importance of it, it was not going to be an easy one for us."

The Wild were able to score early in the third period to help relieve the pressure when a pass by Kyle Brodziak deflected in off the skate of Haula at 3:15.

"It's always hard coming back," Faulk said. "That goal didn't help out mindset the rest of our game."

Haula said, "Probably eases a little bit of tension, but you still have to play. We were able to play the right way most of the game, so we're happy with that."

Zach Parise scored an empty-net goal with 1:43 left.

Khudobin, a seventh-round pick of the Wild (No. 206) in the 2004 NHL Draft, stopped 18 shots in his first game against the team he debuted with on Feb. 4, 2010.

Minnesota will play its next three games on the road, beginning Monday against the Vancouver Canucks. Games against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers follow every other day after that.

Minnesota went 3-0 against those teams on a road trip coming out of the All-Star break two weeks ago.

"One game at a time," Yeo said. "One win doesn't mean we're there and one loss doesn't mean we're not there. This is all just a part of the process right now. We've been climbing back in it, we're getting ourselves closer, but there is still an awful lot of hockey left this year."

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