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Wild's woes continue in loss to Ducks

by Dan Myers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For much of the first part of the season, it seemed the Anaheim Ducks found a different way to lose every night. Now, perhaps the hottest team in the National Hockey League, the Ducks are finding new ways to win.

Shutdown and stymied by Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding for 40 minutes Tuesday night, the Ducks roared back with two goals in the third period, rallying for a 2-1 win at Xcel Energy Center.

The win was Anaheim's first when trailing after two periods this season and extended Minnesota's losing streak to five games. It also pulled Anaheim to within three points of the Wild for 12th place in the Western Conference playoff race.

"Maybe it all evens out in the end, I don't know," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "It was a weird game. I thought after two periods, I thought we deserved to be ahead."

Harding had stopped all 15 shots he faced through two periods. Perhaps his most impressive save of the night came just minutes into the third, when he sprawled to rob Ryan Getzlaf's one-timer from the slot to keep the Wild in front.

For his part, Jonas Hiller was pretty good too -- although he wasn't challenged nearly as often, especially through two periods. He entered the final period with just eight saves, but stopped Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu back-to-back early in the final frame, keeping the Ducks within striking distance.

Shortly after, a bad turnover by Koivu near the left halfwall ended up on the stick of Niklas Hagman all alone in front. His initial chance was slowed by Harding, but Hagman's gutty effort in front, from his stomach, was enough to leak the puck just across the goal line, tying the game at 1 with 11:43 left in regulation.

"If they would have gotten that next one, I don't think there is a good chance we get two by him," Boudreau said. "But when we tied it up, it gave us some life."

Four minutes later, Luca Sbisa cruised through the neutral zone and dished to his right to a streaking Corey Perry at the half-wall. Perry beat Marco Scandella to the bottom of the right circle and when Harding went for the poke check, he wristed a shot that beat the goaltender short-side for his 27th of the season.

"I had planned to go across the crease," Perry said. "But as soon as he went for the poke check, I knew there were going to be some holes. So I shot quick and it found a way to go in."

Hiller took over from there, especially over the games final 90 seconds. Wild coach Mike Yeo pulled Harding for the extra skater after he called timeout with 1:35 remaining. The Wild peppered the Anaheim net with chance after chance, including a mad-scramble in front with 16 seconds remaining, but could not find the equalizer.

Afterwards, Yeo talked about missed opportunities and his team's inability of late to find a separation goal. In six games this month, the Wild have scored one goal five times and have just seven goals overall. Their record over that stretch: 1-4-1.

"You can see on the bench, when it's 1-0 and we're getting some of these 2-on-1s, we're getting some of these chances, and we don't score, guys are slamming their sticks," Yeo said. "There's a sense that, 'Oh no, not again.' That's what we have to fight through."

After surrendering a three-goal, third period lead his last time out against Nashville Jan. 31, Harding was stellar, stopping 23 shots. Hiller made 17 saves to earn his 20th victory of the season.

"Goalies are the equalizer, all the time," Boudreau said. "Right now, [Hiller] is doing everything, keeping us in every game, no matter who we play."

The Ducks will continue on their franchise-record tying eight-game road trip tomorrow in Pittsburgh. The Wild will look to regroup Thursday night, again at home, against Winnipeg. Minnesota has now lost 21 of its last 26 games, a stretch that started with a 2-1 loss to the Jets Dec. 13.
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