Wild rally in third period to defeat Lightning

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By Brian Hall

PA SportsTicker Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- Facing a one-goal deficit and

having lost three of four games on the current homestand, the

Minnesota Wild needed a spark. It came in an unlikely way.

Mikko Koivu's sliding goal six minutes into the third period

gave the Wild a come-from-behind 4-2 victory against the Tampa

Bay Lightning on Friday in a rare afternoon contest.

"We were not happy with the first two periods," Minnesota

goaltender Niklas Backstrom said. "Everyone wanted to step up. I

want to step up and play big. You just try to go out there, do

your best and stay focused. We got a good period and we got a

win."

Koivu's highlight goal - his sixth of the season - capped the

rally as the Wild entered the third period trailing, 2-1.

The Finn slid across the slot and was tripped by a pair of Tampa

Bay defenders. As he was falling to the ice, Koivu was able to

slip the puck under the left pad of 6-4 goaltender Mike Smith,

who had dropped to block the shot.

"Right now, we are just a little step behind," said Smith, who

stopped 29 shots. "For 40 minutes, we were great. Mentally, I

don't know if we get tired. We just have those lapses during

games and we've got to find a way to get out of those."

Owen Nolan scored in the first period for the Wild before James

Sheppard tallied 2:10 into the third to tie the contest. Eric

Belanger added an empty-netter with 23 seconds remaining.

Minnesota won for the first time since December 29 when trailing

after two periods.

"I think we played a little soft in the second period," Wild

coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I know the guys were talking about

it between periods. In the third, I think we came out more

solid. Everyone was skating hard, a lot more than in the

second."

Marc-Andre Bergeron and Antti Miettinen had two assists for the

Wild while Sheppard also picked up an assist for his first

two-point game since January 10.

Sheppard notched his second goal of the season, deflecting

Bergeron's slap shot from the point past Smith.

Tampa Bay failed to convert a 5-on-3 late in the third period,

despite peppering Backstrom with six shots during the two-man

advantage.

Backstrom recorded 19 of his 35 saves in the third period. He

is 3-0-0 all-time against the Lightning, having allowed just

four goals in the three games.

"I think it was good for us to get some emotion out there and

play with heart," Backstrom added. "We showed that we are here

and that we really care about each other in the locker room and

that we want to win."

Ryan Malone and Radim Vrbata scored for Tampa Bay, which has one

win in its past nine games.

Smith stopped 29 shots, but it was not enough to prevent the

Lightning from falling to 1-2-3 since Rick Tocchet replaced

Barry Melrose as coach on November 14.

"It's disappointing because we had a really good second,"

Tocchet said. "It's just seems like we are waiting for

something bad to happen instead of just sticking to what we are

trying to do. A couple of guys with the deer-in-the-headlights

look, we can't have that. We have to keep attacking."

Malone's controversial goal gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead 9:51

into the second.

Standing alone in front of Backstrom, Malone missed the puck on

a centering pass.

But as Backstrom tried to clear the puck out of the crease,

captain Vincent Lecavalier came crashing into Backstrom and

cleared an opening for Malone, who flipped the puck into the

open net for his sixth of the season.

"Vinny kind of cleared everyone out of there for me and I just

put it into the open net," Malone said. "We're putting pucks on

net and trying to get those dirty goals like that. I think

tonight, the power play, the big 5-on-3 at the end, has got to

get the job done. It didn't."

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