Haula scores in third period as Wild beat Panthers 3-1
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) For the first time since the holiday season, the Xcel Energy Center was a sweet place to be for the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
Erik Haula scored midway through the third period to lead the Wild to a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers and end a nine-game skid in their home arena.
Charlie Coyle and Jason Pominville also scored for Minnesota, which hadn't won at their own rink since Dec. 28. The Wild technically won a home game last Sunday when they beat Chicago in a Stadium Series contest at TCF Bank Stadium.
''We want to feel good playing in this building,'' Coyle said. ''It's our home and we want to play good in front of these fans. And for us personally, too, just to feel good, playing comfortable and being aggressive here.''
Devan Dubnyk stopped 17 shots and Minnesota ended a three-game losing streak to move two points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild-card playoff spot. The teams meet Tuesday in Minnesota.
''We can't worry about 20 games from now, just our next game,'' Wild interim coach John Torchetti said.
Aaron Ekblad scored for Atlantic Division-leading Florida, which lost in regulation for the first time in six games.
Roberto Luongo finished with 21 saves. He replaced starter Al Montoya early in the game after Montoya suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Minnesota's Marco Scandella. He did not return.
''He should be ready to go next game whether he plays or not,'' Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.
Minnesota won its first four games after Torchetti took over two weeks ago, scoring at least five goals in each contest. Since then, the Wild have eight goals in four games.
''I think we can play a lot better,'' Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. ''I don't think that was our best. You need to win those games, too, even if you're not feeling great and things aren't necessarily going the way you want.''
On the winner, Haula blocked a neutral-zone dump-in attempt by Reilly Smith and picked up the loose puck just outside the Florida blue line. Haula beat Erik Gudbranson to the net and lifted a shot over Luongo for his career-high eighth goal of the season.
Haula's burst didn't surprise Florida center Nick Bjugstad - the two were teammates for three years at the University of Minnesota.
''The kid can score on breakaways. He's fast,'' Bjugstad said. ''We knew that coming in. Lou held us in there, but we had a few lapses like that. We just didn't bring enough offensively.''
Luongo fell to 3-11-3 in Minnesota.
Pominville added an empty-net goal with 39 seconds left.
Coyle scored his team-leading 19th goal early in the first period for a 1-0 Wild lead, redirecting a pass from Zach Parise, who was back in the Wild lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury.
Ekblad tied the game during a second-period power play.
Wild defenseman Nate Prosser turned the puck over in the right corner, which ultimately led to a pass from Jussi Jokinen to Ekblad alone in the left slot. Dubnyk got a piece of Ekblad's shot, but it still ended up in Minnesota's net.
The Wild penalty-kill has allowed five goals in its past eight chances over four games.
NOTES: Koivu established a franchise record by playing in his 744th game with the team, surpassing former D Nick Schultz. He ranks first for the franchise in assists (386), points (543), shots (1,764) and multipoint games (122). ... Florida placed C Derek MacKenzie on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. He leads the team with 137 hits. ... Florida C Quinton Howden returned after missing five games with a concussion. ... Three players the Panthers acquired in Saturday trades, RW Jiri Hudler, RW Teddy Purcell and D Jakub Kindl, did not play. ... Minnesota LW Chris Porter played on the second line. He cleared waivers three hours before puck drop.