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Wild rebound with 3-2 win over Ducks

by Curtis Zupke
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Minnesota Wild already got their worst loss of the season out of the way. Sunday was time for redemption.

Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen and Jared Spurgeon got Minnesota off to a rare three-goal lead in the first period and the Wild righted itself with a 3-2 win against the struggling Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.

Minnesota was coming off a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday in which first-year coach Mike Yeo called "embarrassing" after he watched his team essentially fail to show up for the first two periods.

The Wild chased chased Anaheim's Jonas Hiller from the net in the first period on Sunday en route to a victory that vaulted them to first place in the Northwest Division for the first time since 2008.

Rounds of clapping could be heard outside Minnesota's locker room afterward and, of course, music.

"It was definitely gut-check time come today," Brodziak said. "It's not a fun feeling in the room – all morning. It's not a good feeling to have around when you put in an effort like we did last night. To get the reward that we have right now makes guys realize it is worth it. Just that extra effort and playing where we're supposed to play makes it all worthwhile."
Meanwhile, the Ducks have dropped two of the first three games of an extended home stand and have one victory in their past eight games (1-5-2) with more questions about a lack of production from their top line.

"On paper, you look at this team, and we should be doing a lot better than we are," said defenseman Cam Fowler, who scored both of Anaheim's goals. "It starts on Wednesday. We should be going into those two games like a Stanley Cup Game 7."

Fowler's second goal of the game pulled the Ducks to 3-2 with 48.5 seconds to go with an extra attacker before Minnesota closed it out.

"You feel bad after last night, but it feels good to come back," said goalie Niklas Backstrom, who withstood a 14-3 shot advantage by Anaheim in the third. "The win was huge."

Anaheim dominated much of the third and almost all of the second period with an abundance of chances and got only one goal out of it on Fowler's first of the season.

During 4-on-4 play, Francois Beauchemin sent a shot-pass to Fowler, and he wristed it glove side from the left dot to pull Anaheim to 3-1 just 2:15 into the second.

Despite numerous chances, Anaheim couldn't get closer. It came up empty on a 4-on-3 advantage for 1:49 and Teemu Selanne hit the post twice as Minnesota was on its heels.

But the Wild came out a three-goal first period that was actually their second such kind in eight days after they got three goals in the second period against Vancouver on Nov.5.

Yeo liked the effort all the way through.

"I saw an awful lot of pride tonight on the ice, and character and leadership," Yeo said. "Right down the line guys were doing whatever they had to do, paying a price for each other, blocking shots, winning battles."

Brodziak was left unchecked to chip in a loose puck from the crease at 6:09 after Nick Johnson's attempt from behind the goal line squirted across the blue paint.

Minnesota then recorded perhaps its prettiest goal this season. Cal Clutterbuck blew by Toni Lydman on the right side and delivered a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Cullen, and the latter snapped it high for a 2-0 lead at 16:11.

Spurgeon gave his team a 3-0 edge with 29 seconds to go in the first following an Anaheim turnover. Pierre-Marc Bouchard set up Spurgeon in the high slot and his end-over-end slap shot slipped through Hiller's left armpit.

It was precisely the kind of start that has plagued Anaheim.

"It's the start – every night," Bobby Ryan said. "You try to put your finger on it. You try different ways to prepare. We've tried different approaches and nothing's worked. Twenty-five guys in the room have to say enough is enough, and it hasn't happened yet. It's embarrassing."

Selanne had a theory on why their poor starts unfold into losses.

"I think as a group, we don't have the confidence because we have been struggling for such a long time," Selanne said. "There's no panic mode hitting right away. Instead of keep pushing forward, we're just waiting for something bad to come.

"You think L.A. just dominated them last night, and maybe we thought it was going to be an easy game. It doesn't work like that. It's frustrating because we're having a tough time right now."

Both teams played their first game without key defensemen. Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky suffered a broken finger on the closing seconds of Friday's game and Minnesota's Marco Scandella suffered a concussion Saturday night from a hit by Kings forward Ethan Moreau.

Sunday was the 11th meeting between Minnesota's Mikko Koivu and older brother Saku of Anaheim. Mikko now holds a 6-5 edge.

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