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Wild blow third-period lead but beat Panthers

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. - With their two-goal lead gone and the Florida Panthers taking control of the game, the Minnesota Wild's first line came up big at just the right time Friday night.

Florida scored twice in the third period to pull even at 2-2, but Charlie Coyle's goal with 8:22 remaining in regulation enabled the Wild to survive a scare and escape with a 3-2 victory against the Panthers on Friday night.

"Obviously teams are going to take advantage of that and I think we have to learn from that," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "The good thing is we got a win. So that's the good thing."

Zach Parise and Jason Pominville scored goals in the first period to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. But the Panthers stemmed the tide in the second, outshooting the Wild 9-5 and gaining momentum they carried into the third period, when they continued their push.

Florida owned the first half of the final period and took advantage of a Wild turnover at 3:31 to get on the board. Jesse Winchester gained control after an aggressive forecheck and found Tomas Kopecky in front for his first goal of the season.

Florida tied it at 8:59 when Jonathan Huberdeau gobbled up a loose puck in the slot and rifled it past Wild goaltender Josh Harding for his fourth of the season.

The play started in Minnesota's offensive zone when Koivu tried to circle into the slot and lost control of the puck to Florida's Nick Bjugstad, who raced down the rink with the puck. He lost control after entering the zone, but Huberdeau cleaned up for his first goal in 12 games.

"I think we just need to learn how to play 60 minutes because that's what kills us - we're always down, we never score the first goal," Huberdeau said. "I think the second was much better and the third was a lot better again. We've just got to start finishing and get some wins."

Koivu said it was important to him that he atone for the mistake. Less than three minutes later, he did.

With Florida still pushing, Koivu won a puck battle in the corner and found the 6-foot-3-inch Coyle powering to the front of the net. He put a pass right on the tape that Coyle pushed in for his second of the season.

"When you recognize it's on you, basically when you lose the puck in the zone that you should not lose it, you know that and obviously you want to get it back," Koivu said. "You want to get that goal back and it's a tight game at that point. So we really wanted that and it's a good thing Charlie put it in."

Coyle said the Wild missed some chances that could have put the game away earlier.

"I think we had a few chances where we could have buried [the Panthers]," Coyle said. "You could say we got a little complacent, strayed away from our system. It's something you learn from."

Florida outshot Minnesota 24-20 after being outshot 10-3 in the first period.

"The effort coming back was really good," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. "I think our guys sometimes feel like something bad is going to happen. So we're pushing that, we're talking about it, we're trying to get that out of the system."

Harding made 22 saves for the Wild, now 12-4-4 overall and off to their best start in franchise history. Minnesota is 9-1-2 at Xcel Energy Center. Tim Thomas stopped 17 shots for the Panthers (4-12-4).

"For sure, there's no question that we kind of fell into that trap a little bit after the second period, where we wanted it to be easy," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We were hoping it was going to be easy the rest of the way. When you want it to be easy and you're not ready to do the hard things, then it ends up being very difficult."

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