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Koivu finishes storybook ending in style with shootout winner

Wild captain plays in 1,000th NHL game, scores 700th point and scores deciding goal to lead Minnesota over Dallas

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- Sometimes, the endings, they simply write themselves. 

Mikko Koivu, Mr. Minnesota Wild, the only full-time captain in team history, its most tenured player, the man synonymous with the crest on the front of the sweater -- playing in his 1,000th NHL game, on home ice, scores the game-deciding goal on a shootout move he's used forever.

You can't make that stuff up. And after Sunday, you don't have to. 

With Minnesota trying to extend its points streak to nine games, it was Koivu, using his patented forehand-backhand maneuver to steer the Wild to a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center.

"We knew it was coming. It was a perfect ending with him getting his 700th and then getting the game-winner in the shootout," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "If you saw our bench after, you could see how excited the guys were for him. It was great. It was the perfect ending to a special day for him."

Video: DAL@MIN: Koivu nets SO winner in 1,000th NHL game

Cliche doesn't even begin to describe this one.

"That's the way things should end," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "Whatever it was, it was his day, it was karma, everything was going right. It had to work."

The move itself is nothing new. Fans have come to expect it, and so have opposing goaltenders. They know it's coming and they've almost always struggled to stop it. 

"I think judging by Bishop's reaction ... he knows the move and he scored. You saw him. He wanted to break his stick because he knew it was coming," said Wild goaltender Alex Stalock. "But you have to honor his shot. He gets across, but it's hard to be two spots at once. His hands are so fast he gets it right up. It's a tough move to stop."

Like Koivu, it's something Wild fans have grown accustomed to seeing. 

In playing in his 1,000th NHL contest, Koivu became the 55th player in League history to reach the milestone playing for his first team and he is the first to reach it entirely in a Wild uniform.

Koivu figures he learned the move itself back when he played for the Houston Aeros during the 2004-05 season. When the first NHL lockout ended and Koivu made his NHL debut the following season, the shootout had been adopted by the League as a way of breaking tied games.

How he learned it, who showed it to him, or why he continues to try it some 15 years after the fact, Koivu doesn't know.

Video: Mikko Koivu postgame vs Dallas

"I don't know. I just felt comfortable with it," Koivu said. "I've been trying to change it over the years, but that's about it. I'm just trying to do it as good as I can. Sometimes they get it, sometimes not. Just trying to be fast with it and get it up."

Why mess with success?

Koivu is the Wild's all-time leader in shootout goals (and just about everything else), with many of those goals coming on the forehand-backhand-roof salvo he fired at Bishop on Sunday. 

But as good as Koivu has been in the shootout over his career, he had struggled in it of late. He had just one shootout try all of last season, an unsuccessful try against Vegas on Oct. 6, 2018, where he didn't even deploy his famous move. 

He had lost so much confidence in the forehand-backhand that Koivu, one of the NHL's most prolific shootout goal scorers, had begun resorting to other moves ... and Boudreau had resorted to using other shooters. 

Sunday, Koivu went back to old reliable. And like a fine wine, the move has only gotten better with age. 

"It's just something I'm comfortable with and something I've done a lot in my career," Koivu said. "It's been awhile since I'd been in a shootout, so I went with it."

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Dallas

Stalock needed one more stop on Corey Perry to complete the storybook ending, which he got when Perry fired wide of the net. 

At once, the Wild bench emptied and mobbed its captain. 

"To be honest to me that's what hockey is all about. I try to do that each and every day," Koivu said. "I guess just try to treat the people the way you want to be treated. Sometimes as a veteran guy you have to be not the nice guy and all of that.

"I always tried to do the things that I believe is right and go with that. But I think it's probably the best feeling of the whole day to get that from the guys. I really appreciate that." 

In addition to reaching his games played milestone, Koivu also notched his 700th NHL point when he set up Kevin Fiala for a second-period power play goal. 

Video: DAL@MIN: Koivu earns 700th point on Fiala's goal

For Fiala, the Wild's best player on Sunday, it was his sixth goal of the season and extended his points streak to five games. During that stretch, Fiala has two goals and three assists.

"I love the way he's been playing, the way he's been competing to get the puck when we don't have it," Parise said. "I know going in on the forecheck that he's always going to be right there too, to get the scraps, or he'll be the first one in there and I can get the loose pucks. I think we're meshing really well from that standpoint, and then he's making good plays with the puck. He's holding onto it, he's making the right plays, and we're developing some good chemistry."

Lost in the shuffle of the hysteria surrounding Koivu was Parise's clutch goal with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.

With the Wild trailing by one, it got a late power play following a holding the stick penalty by Alexander Radulov. Just 13 seconds elapsed until Parise batted a puck out of mid-air, on his backhand, and past Bishop for his team-leading 12th goal of the season. 

It was a highlight-reel goal that was even bigger because of when it happened. 

Video: DAL@MIN: Parise bats puck in tie game on power play

"I saw the puck go up and in your mind you're waiting it seems like for a long time, you're just waiting for it to get below the crossbar, waiting and waiting. And I hit it square. I hit it pretty good," Parise said. "It just happened to find that hole. Big for us to get ourselves into overtime."

The goal sent the game to overtime, which had been a problem for the Wild this season, but Minnesota turned the tide and had, without question, its most productive extra session of the season, outshooting the Stars 3-1 in OT.

Fiala nearly ended it with a rifle of a snap shot in the final seconds but Bishop gloved it down.

Parise and Fiala scored goals in the shootout for the Wild, which were matched by goals by Dallas' Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin. 

Mats Zuccarello and Radulov were each stopped in the third round, setting up Koivu's dramatic finish. 

"To get the win was huge, no matter what happened, we all wanted to get it. We stuck with it. There was the 5 1/2 or six-minute where you could easily get down and we played for Mik and for everyone in here," said Wild forward Marcus Foligno. "We pulled together as a team and it showed. Zach with a huge, creative goal. We're happy with the win, two points. We just need to keep it going."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Stars 2 (SO)

Video: Koivu leads Wild to SO win in 1,000th NHL game

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