ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With both starting goalies out with injuries and clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Minnesota Wild picked a good time to play their best period of the game Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Minnesota, outplayed for much of the first 40 minutes, found its game in the third period and won a battle of goaltender attrition 3-1 at Xcel Energy Center.
The carnage in the blue paint started a little more than four minutes into the game when the Canes' Cam Ward sustained a lower-body injury while stretching to stop a 2-on-1 shot by the Wild's Mikael Granlund. The shot sailed wide, but Ward was slow to get up and left the game at the next whistle, about 15 seconds later. He was replaced by Justin Peters.
"Don't like to see that with anybody," said Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk. "But we trust [Peters] too. We're confident in any goalie we put in there."
Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding, who entered the night as the NHL's leader in goals-against average and save percentage, was injured at some point during the second period. Noticeably grimacing in the crease and slow to get up several times, Harding finished the period before giving way to Niklas Backstrom at the start of the third.
Peters entered the crease for Carolina for the first time this season and allowed goals on the first two shots he faced.
The first, a power-play goal by Minnesota's Nino Niederreiter, gave the Wild the lead at 11:39 of the first. It was Niederreiter's first career power-play goal and came off a pretty behind-the-back feed by Granlund from behind the net.
The Wild have now scored a power-play goal in eight of 11 games this season.
A little more than three minutes later, the Wild made it 2-0 when Zach Parise knocked a loose puck out of midair after a shot by Jared Spurgeon hit the post.
But the Wild struggled after that and clearly lost a bit of intensity once they gained the two-goal edge. They got sloppy too. Granlund and Dany Heatley each committed penalties in the first four minutes of the second period, and with one second remaining on Heatley's slashing minor, Alexander Semin made it 2-1 when he ripped a one-timer from the left circle past Harding at 6:01.
Carolina outshot Minnesota 12-6 in the second period and had 21 shots on goal after two -- reaching the Wild's league-leading average for shots against per game in 40 minutes.
"We definitely took our foot off the gas," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Through two periods, we weren't real pleased with our game. Luckily, we found [our game] up a goal still."
"We knew the first period was going to be hard because we hadn't played in a few days," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "In the second, I thought we took over and gave ourselves a great opportunity to go into the third period."
Peters stopped the final 19 shots he faced, keeping the Hurricanes in the game under difficult circumstances.
"I just tried to get my bearings and battle for the boys," Peters said. "Once I got into the game, I definitely felt more comfortable, just trying to prove to myself that I'm an NHL goalie and instill that trust in the team."
Backstrom entered in the third with the Hurricanes having 1:45 remaining on a power play, and he made a couple of big saves to get into a groove early.
Backstrom hadn't played in a game since he sustained a knee injury Oct. 8 against the Nashville Predators. He stopped all seven shots he saw in the period.
"You can't pick and choose what time [you enter a game]. You have to be ready no matter what happens," Backstrom said. "It's easy when you see the puck and you get to move around. Sitting a long time on bench, it's hard to get comfortable when you go out there. But the guys helped me out there and let me see a couple pucks."
With less than two minutes to play, Radek Dvorak was sent to the box for a high-sticking penalty, hindering a potential Hurricanes rally. Heatley scored an empty-netter -- his first goal of the season -- at 19:34, providing the final margin.
During the game, the Hurricanes announced Ward will miss three to four weeks. With regular backup Anton Khudobin already on the shelf with a lower-body injury of his own, Carolina announced it will call up goalie Mike Murphy from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Murphy is 1-2-0 with a 3.81 goals against average in three games this season. He will meet the team in Denver, where the Hurricanes play the second half of a back-to-back Friday against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Canes also lost forward Jeff Skinner and Ryan Murphy to injuries during the game. Muller said Skinner has an upper-body injury and will need to be evaluated.
Murphy put in one of the gutsiest shifts you'll ever see, blocking a Clayton Stoner blast from the point and then staying on the ice for another 90 seconds -- and through an icing -- as the Wild hemmed the Canes in their end. Murphy missed a couple of shifts but returned to the game.
The Wild were less certain about Harding's prognosis. Yeo said he sustained a lower-body injury, but specifics or a timetable for return were not immediately available.
"I hope it's not bad and he'll be back soon," Backstrom said.