Happy OT in the OC: Bouchard breakaway lifts Wild to 3-2 win
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When all is going poorly for your team and you're a long way from home before a hostile audience and your goalie is getting shelled and an unhappy ending seems inevitable, it never hurts to throw the puck on net a little bit.
That was seemingly the game plan on Friday night in Orange County, as the Minnesota Wild survived an offensive onslaught by the Anaheim Ducks, and collected two vital points with a 3-2 overtime win.
New Ducks goalie Dan Ellis, making his first start for Anaheim, wasn't overly busy in regulation, but the Wild gave him plenty to handle in the five-minute extra session. Ellis stopped a Cal Clutterbuck breakway, and Martin Havlat's rebound to keep the game tied, for a time. But later on the same shift, Brent Burns found Pierre-Marc Bouchard with a long pass, springing Bouchard on a breakaway.
In alone from the blue line, Bouchard flipped a soft shot between Ellis' pads for the game-winner with just 6.3 seconds left in overtime.
The Wild never trailed though 60 minutes, taking a 1-0 lead in the first period when John Madden capped off a 2-on-1 break by ripping a shot past the glove hand of Ellis. After Jonas Hiller was injured and Curtis McElhinney struggled mightily in goal for the Ducks (notably in last week's 4-1 Wild win in St. Paul), Anaheim pulled off a true goalie trade earlier in the week. They shipped McElhinney to Tampa Bay in exchange for Ellis.
Clayton Stoner gave the Wild a 2-1 lead late in the third period, scoring just his second goal of the season by slapping a shot from the blue line that beat Ellis low. But the lead would not hold, as Anaheim tied the game with two minutes left in regulation. Antti Miettinen assisted on all three Wild goals, marking just the second time in his career that the Finn has notched a trio of assists in a game.
The offensive outbursts by the Wild were the exception, not the rule, on a night when starting goalie Jose Theodore made 46 saves (just one shy of his career best) and was often peppered throughout the night.
"It started with our goaltending," said a beaming Wild coach Todd Richards. "Theo was great. He was the difference in the game."
With a regulation loss, the Wild could've dropped to as low as seventh place in the Western Conference. Instead, the two-point night moved them into sixth place, and would have the Wild facing Detroit in the opening round if the playoffs began today.
They do not, of course. But with 20 games left in the regular season, the Wild get the next chance to improve the playoff position on Monday, in a home game with the Chicago Blackhawks.