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Zucker's OT goal lifts Wild past Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg /

RALEIGH, N.C. -- To a man, the Minnesota Wild players panned their first-period performance against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I don't think we were ready the first 15 minutes, that was obvious," forward Jason Zucker said.

Defenseman Ryan Suter wasn't sure what he saw.

"We were shaking our heads, like, what the heck just happened?" he said.

But after erasing a two-goal deficit, the Wild pushed the game to overtime, where they killed off a penalty before Zucker scored his second goal of the game with 1:10 left to defeat Carolina 3-2 at PNC Arena on Thursday.

Suter, who took the hooking penalty that gave the Hurricanes a 4-on-3 power play, threw a shot at the net from the high slot. Zucker reached with his stick and deflected the puck past Cam Ward for his fifth goal of the season.

"Suter just made a good pass," Zucker said. "I honestly didn't do much on that."

Devan Dubnyk made 37 saves to earn his NHL-leading 10th win of the season for Minnesota (10-3-2). Ward stopped 18 shots for Carolina (6-9-1), which lost for the first time in four overtime games.

Carolina opened the scoring following a relentless forechecking shift that drew a penalty early in the first period. After a hooking call on defenseman Christian Folin, the Hurricanes scored five seconds into the power play when Justin Faulk connected on his League-leading sixth power-play goal at 4:26. Victor Rask won a faceoff to Eric Staal, who set up Faulk for a slap shot past Dubnyk.

Carolina made it 2-0 on Andrej Nestrasil's first goal of the season at 8:17. Dubnyk kicked out the rebound of Joakim Nordstrom's shot to Nestrasil below the left circle for an easy finish. The goal was originally waived off for goaltender interference on Hurricanes forward Jay McClement, but the ruling was overturned after a Carolina challenge.

Zucker cut the lead in half at 15:50 with a hard wrist shot from the left circle to the far post that beat Ward, who appeared overcommitted on the play.

Minnesota coach Mike Yeo noted that his team was coming off two big home wins, 1-0 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and 5-3 against the Winnipeg Jets. His team might have had a letdown in the opener of its four-game road trip.

"We played a few emotional games," Yeo said. "We have a lot of respect for them and how they play, but there's just not the same emotion going into the game."

The Hurricanes dominated the first period with a 19-5 advantage in shots and a 34-12 lead in shots attempted.

"We just had to get out of the first period still breathing, to be honest," Yeo said. "It was not a very pretty period at all. Dubnyk held us in there, and we were able to get that one opportunity. I would have taken being down 2-0 after one, but we needed that chance to regroup."

Dubnyk was the reason the Wild remained in striking distance. His first-period stop on Jeff Skinner, one of seven shots by the Hurricanes forward, might have preserved the game. With the Wild already down 2-0, Dubnyk came left to right as Skinner cut across the slot before going against the grain to make a left-pad save.

"That's how it goes on the road sometimes," said Dubnyk, who was making his seventh straight start. "We were kind of playing into what they wanted to do a little bit."

The Wild seized the momentum in the second period, outshooting the Hurricanes 8-3. Thomas Vanek tied the game at 2-2 at 9:41 with his seventh of the season, jumping on the rebound of Mikael Granlund's shot. Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin tried to clear the puck from the slot, but instead sent the puck to Vanek's stick.

"I don't think our second period was nearly as good as the rest of the game," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "Our intensity and our effort in the second period denied us the opportunity to get two points."

The Hurricanes pressured Dubnyk during overtime but could not convert. Kris Versteeg had the best scoring chance during the power play, but he could not settle a pass at the left post to finish the game. After making several outstanding saves in regulation, Dubnyk relied on his penalty-killers to survive in overtime before Zucker could finish it.

"I got some huge blocks from [defenseman Nate] Prosser toward the end of the PK," he said.

With three straight wins, Dubnyk is rounding into the form that Yeo was counting on this season.

"He's on his game, you can tell," Yeo said. "That why we've rolled with him for a little bit. We knew that he was close to his game and if he got some more game reps he would get there."

The Hurricanes' hopes for a big month of November are beginning to wane. Carolina is 1-3-1 in a month with nine of 13 games at home. This was the first of a five-game homestand.

"We've got to start winning and get a good streak together," Versteeg said. "Just build off that and take the confidence from having some pretty good plays and good chances."

Peters has stressed the importance of making a move in the standings. He wants the Hurricanes in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race at Thanksgiving.

"There's four games left, right?" Peters said. "It's absolutely huge. We've talked about it a million times. We know how it works, standings-wise. We understand what's at stake."

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