Coyle's late goal sends Wild past Panthers
By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Once again, the Florida Panthers played a solid 40 minutes of hockey. And once again, it wasn't quite enough.
Down 2-0 against the Minnesota Wild, the Panthers rallied to force a third-period tie on Friday night before Wild right winger Charlie Coyle's hot streak continued. Coyle's goal late in the third period broke a 2-2 deadlock and lifted Minnesota to a 3-2 win over the Panthers.
Left winger Zach Parise scored and right winger Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist for the Wild (12-4-4), who have lost just once in regulation at home this season.
"If you're going to have success, then you're going to have to win games different ways and you're going to need to have different people contributing at different times," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We talk about this a lot: if we're doing the right things, and we're doing the right things more often than not, everybody's going to get their turn to be in the spotlight, to wear the cape, whatever you want to say."
Right winger Tomas Kopecky and center Jonathan Huberdeau scored third-period goals for the Panthers (4-12-4), who got 17 saves from goalie Tim Thomas but fell to 1-8-1 on the road.
"That's a commonality for our team. We put together two good periods. You can't be sleeping for one period, and that's what we did," Panthers rookie center Nick Bjugstad said. "A lot of times we almost get angry and come out better in the second and third. We've got to find a way to play all three periods."
With Florida right winger Brad Boyes in the penalty box early in the first period, Parise completed a tic-tac-toe passing play in front of the Panthers net, redirecting a feed from center Mikko Kiovu past Thomas. It was the fourth goal in the past five games for Parise.
A few minutes later, Boyes just missed a chance to redeem himself. After a Wild turnover, Boyes found himself all alone with the puck in front of Minnesota goalie Harding but clanked the right goal post with his shot.
Pominville doubled Minnesota's lead before the first period was over, taking a long lead pass from defenseman Jared Spurgeon and snapping a rising shot past Thomas. It was the team-leading 12th goal of the season for Pominville and his second in Minnesota's past three games.
Held to three shots on goal in the first period, the Panthers seemed to wake up in the second and third. They outshot Minnesota 9-5 in the second period and dominated for long stretches but could not solve Harding and trailed 2-0 heading into the third period.
"It seems like there's the same picture coming back over and over again," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said.
His team has been out-scored 47-19 in the first 40 minutes of games this season. "This is definitely a project for us to get over that mental part of the game," Horachek said.
That's when Florida capitalized on a Wild turnover. Center Jesse Winchester secured a loose puck and was able to fire a quick pass to Kopecky, who slipped the puck under the sliding goalie for his first goal of the season.
Huberdeau tied the score before the period was half over, picking up a loose puck that center Nick Bjugstad had carried into the Minnesota zone and firing a high shot beyond the reach of Harding.
Coyle, who missed 12 games in October and early November because of a knee injury, produced his third point in the last four outings with less than nine minutes to play as Minnesota ran its current streak to 6-0-1.
"Definitely, my first few (games) were a struggle, I think, just kind of getting my legs back and be able to keep up with the pace," Coyle said. "But in practice, I'm just trying to get my legs back there, so hopefully it transfers over to the games. Each game I can kind of step up a gear or two."
Harding finished with 22 saves, running his record to 11-2-2.
NOTES: Wild G Niklas Backstrom missed Friday's game with a concussion after Wednesday's collision in the crease with Toronto Maple Leafs F Nazem Kadri. On Thursday, the NHL hit Kadri with a three-game suspension without pay for the collision, in which Kadri delivered a forearm to Backstrom's head. Minnesota called up G Johan Gustafsson from their Iowa AHL club on Friday to serve as G Josh Harding's backup. ... RW Jimmy Hayes was in uniform for the Panthers on Friday, in his first game with Florida since coming over in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks a day earlier. Florida sent F Kris Versteeg and minor league F Philippe Lefebvre to Chicago in exchange for Hayes and minor league D Dylan Olsen. ... The Wild complete their three-game homestand Sunday, hosting the Winnipeg Jets. Florida, currently in the midst of a five-game western road trip, will face the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Saturday. The Panthers will face all of the former Northwest Division teams on the trip, also visiting Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary before their next home game.