Minnesota clips Ottawa
OTTAWA — Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo was certain his team would bounce back from a disappointing loss the night before. It almost always does.
On the heels of a 6-2 loss in Montreal, Wild center Mikko Koivu scored with 2:57 left in the third period to give Minnesota a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at the Canadian Tire Centre.
The victory kept the Wild from what would have been just its second, two-game regulation time losing streak of the season.
Yeo found it fitting that the deciding goal was scored by Koivu, the Minnesota captain.
“I felt good going into this game and I felt confident that we were going to play really hard because of our leadership and because of the way we’ve responded in the past,” said Yeo. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in that leadership, but the one thing I was worried about was our legs after three games in four days. I thought it was a factor in the first period but I thought our guys were able to find another gear.”
While the Wild improved to 14-5-4, the Senators fell to 8-10-4 and were left wondering what they have to do to find some consistency.
“I thought we were pretty good for most of that game, but ultimately, when you’re not winning, you’re not getting the two points, and it’s hard to stay positive,” said Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who saw Koivu’s winner deflect off his stick. “A little breakdown here and there, and that cost us the game. It’s getting frustrating, for sure.”
For just the sixth time this season, the Senators outshot their opponents.
They wound up with a 37-25 edge, thanks largely to peppering 18 shots at Wild goalie Josh Harding in the first period while Minnesota managed just six on Senators goaltender Craig Anderson.
The Senators held a slim 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, as center Kyle Turris and winger Mika Zibanejad sandwiched goals around a power-play marker by Wild winger Jason Pominville.
“We came out and had our best first period of the year,” said Turris, whose short-handed goal was set up by a between-the-legs, full-flight pass from winger Clarke MacArthur. “We played a pretty solid game but again, there’s one or two mistakes that we let happen and they capitalized on.”
Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and winger Dany Heatley scored the only two goals of the second period to give the visitors a 3-2 edge heading into the third. The Senators responded with a power-play goal by winger Milan Michalek 8:57 into the final frame.
Koivu’s second game-winner of the season saw him break down the right wing then cut into the middle of some soft Ottawa coverage before releasing a wrist shot that found its way past Anderson on the stick side.
“It was a huge answer from our club,” said Harding, who was pulled after giving up three goals on 19 shots in Montreal. “It was a big goal by Mikko and it’s a couple of times he’s done that now. It’s always nice to win in regulation and we’re happy with our effort.”
The Senators were searching for positives of their own after the game.
“We look at the stat sheet and the balance (shots on goal) is starting to go the other way,” said coach Paul MacLean. “So that’s a positive for us. We only gave up 25 shots on our net. The scoring chances are unofficially in our favor, we gave up a lot less. Are we going in the right direction? We believe so, but we won’t know until our next game.”
That will be Saturday in Detroit, where the Senators beat the Red Wings 6-1 earlier this season.
“I think it’s a game we competed right to the end,” MacArthur said of a loss that puts the Senators home record at 4-5-2. “You’ve got to find a way to take a positive out of that. It’s really hard to right now, but we’ve got to keep this ship moving in the right direction. I think we’re getting closer.”
The Wild continue on with the third of a four-game road trip when they visit Winnipeg on Saturday.
“We needed to come back with a big win and we did,” said Heatley. “Our young guys are playing prominent roles on our team and then you have our core group that’s as good as anybody, so it works good.”
Notes: Senators C Kyle Turris’ goal was the team’s first while short-handed this season. Entering the night, Ottawa was one of just seven clubs without a short-handed goal. It was also the first short-handed goal of Turris’ career. ... Wild LW Jason Zucker was recalled before the game and placed on the team’s second line with C Mikael Granlund and RW Jason Pominville. It was the second NHL game this season for Zucker, who had four goals and four assists in 12 games for the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa. Zucker took the spot of W Torrey Mitchell, who was injured in Tuesday’s game against Montreal and is listed as day-to-day. ... Senators coach Paul MacLean brought a 1-0-0 record against the Wild into the game. MacLean picked up his first win as an NHL head coach against Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2011. ... Wild C Zenon Konopka and RW Dany Heatley, both former Senators who now play on Minnesota’s fourth line, received completely different receptions from the fans. Heatley, a former two-time 50 goal scorer for Ottawa, was booed by those who still haven’t forgiven him for demanding a trade in the summer of 2009. Konopka, who had 193 penalty minutes in 55 games for the Senators in 2011-12, was cheered when shown on the center ice scoreboard.