Devin Setoguchi scores in shootout as shorthanded Wild rally to win
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Playing hockey short-handed isn't easy, whether it's the kind of short-handed that comes from injuries, or the "too many guys in the penalty box" variety.
The Minnesota Wild suffered from both on Thursday, and still came away with a win. Devin Setoguchi scored the only goal by either team in the shootout as the Wild rallied from 2-0 down to beat the Calgary Flames 3-2.
And the Wild did it by first surviving penalty trouble that had them in a two-goal hole early, then surviving a rash of injuries to the defense that had head coach Mike Yeo shuffling lines and players into unfamiliar territory.
"There were some real good performances on the back end," Yeo said, singling out Tom Gilbert for taking extra shifts when they were down to four defensemen.
The night started with good news, as captain Mikko Koivu returned to the ice after being missing from the lineup on most nights since before the All-Star Game. But early on, it didn't look to be a happy reunion.
Down 1-0 via a Calgary power play goal, the Wild got into bigger trouble early in the second when Tom Gilbert was assessed a four-minute penalty for high sticking Calgary's Olli Jokinen. Just 30 seconds later, Nate Prosser grabbed a loose puck out of the air and threw it out of the zone, but was given a minor penalty for closing his hand on the puck.
The resulting two minutes of 5-on-3 power play allowed the Flames to double their lead. And the with Wild playing just four defensemen at times, and moving forward Matt Cullen to the blue line at other times, the chances for a comeback seemed slim.
But Dany Heatley got them on the board with a power play goal of his own, as the momentum switched squarely to the Wild side of the ice. Frustrated again and again by the Calgary goalie, they finally got a puck past him in the third, and forced overtime. Cullen joked later about his abrupt switch to playing defense with the game on the line.
"What are you going to do? You know how to play hockey, so you just figure it out a little bit," said Cullen, who often takes a position on the blue line on the power play. "Fortunately I wasn't put in a lot of tough spots."
The tough spot was reserved for the Flames, who are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and could ill afford to let a potential two-point night slip away. The loss left Calgary head coach Brent Sutter so upset that he was spotted kicking a garbage can while unleashing a stream of profanity, and later he refused to meet with the media, leaving that duty to assistant coach Craig Hartsburg.
"In the second period I thought we got sloppy, stopped skating and took some penalties," Hartsburg said. "In the third period we really looked like we played not to lose rather than playing to win, and that's something that caught up to us here in this hockey game."
In this season of so much discontent and so many missed opportunities for the Wild, it must have at least been satisfying to see someone else shaking their head about a loss.
Darroll Powe's fifth goal of the season almost wasn't but eventually it stood as the game-tying marker. Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff scrambled to cover the puck at the top of the crease, only to have Powe dig it loose and shovel the puck toward the net. In the blink of an eye, the puck appeared to go across the goal line just as Calgary's Matt Stajan swatted it away. After a stoppage, replays revealed that by less than the width of a dime, the puck had cleared the goal line, and Powe was awarded the goal.
Yeo said almost as big as the goal was the long delay for the video review, which worked like a timeout for the tired Wild.
"When you're as short on D as we were, it helps," Yeo said. "A review like that obviously helps us because we have a pretty good idea that the result is going to be in our favor."
• 1,500: Career NHL games worked by Wild equipment manager Tony DaCosta, who was honored by the team in the first period.
• 9 million: All-time tickets sold by the Wild at home, after Thursday's crowd of 17,002 put them over that mark.
• 7-9: The Wild's record in shootouts this season. The Flames are just 3-9.
• 26-12: Shots on goal advantage for the Wild after the game's first 20 minutes.
The good news about Koivu's return to the lineup was tempered less than eight minutes into the first period, when defenseman Jared Spurgeon took a hard elbow from Alex Tanguay of the Flames. Spurgeon left the game and did not return, and Yeo suspects he might have a concussion. Marco Scandella and Steven Kampfer also missed time during the game, although the severity of their ailments is not known.
Warren Peters left the Wild bench for a time in the third period as well, after a clearing attempt by Blake Comeau hit Peters in the face while he was waiting to go onto the ice. After the game Peters had a nasty red gash on the chin, but said his teeth were fine.
Flames - Lee Stempniak 13 (Butler, Bouwmeester), 18:54, PPG
Flames - Anton Babchuk 1 (unassisted), 1:38, PPG
Wild - Dany Heatley 21 (Setoguchi, Cullen), 8:36, PPG
Wild - Darroll Powe 5 (Johnson, Brodziak), 12:23
Wild: Christiansen - O; Cullen - O; Koivu - O; Setoguchi - X
Flames: Stajan - O; Stempniak - O; Jones - O; Comeau - O
Shots: Wild 4-12-12-2-30; Flames 17-9-3-0-29. Saves: Wild, Josh Harding (27-29); Flames, Miikka Kiprusoff (28-30). Power plays: Wild 1-for-6, Flames 2-6.
After a rough go of things, the Wild are going to try life on the road and see how that goes. They leave on a two-game road trip, with games in Buffalo on Saturday and in Washington on Sunday.