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Koivu, resilient Wild clip Canucks in shootout

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- From blowing a third-period
lead to regaining it and blowing it again, there was nothing
characteristic about the Minnesota Wild's 5-4 shootout win over the
Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.

Still, most of the Wild players were calling it a character
builder.

"We had the lead and they got the lead and that's what made it
a good game," said Mikko Koivu after scoring the winning goal in a
shootout. "But it's also a good sign for us when you're down and
come back, especially on the road. It's not that easy and it's a
good sign for this team."

It's also not usually easy to come back against Minnesota.

The Wild improved to 24-0-1 this season -- and 50-1-1 the past
two seasons -- when leading after two periods, but it's a safe bet
few came in this fashion.

Ryan Kesler and Alexander Edler scored 16 seconds apart early in the third period to actually give the Canucks a 3-2 lead. Kurtis Foster tied it on the power play and Marian Gaborik made it 4-3 with a great individual effort 2½ minutes later, but Edler tied it again for the Canucks with 2:44 left to play.

After Trevor Linden matched Brent Burns' goal to keep the
shootout alive, Koivu got Roberto Luongo moving to his right, then
tucked a backhand into the open net on the other side, finally
ending an unexpectedly crazy finish.

"It always matters how you play but I think both teams played
good," Koivu said. "You play a lot against these teams so once in
a while you get more scoring."

Stephane Veilleux scored the other two goals -- his first in 34
games -- and Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves through overtime, and
two of three in the shootout, as the Wild moved six points ahead of
the ninth-place Canucks in the Northwest Division.

"Sometimes you get lucky," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We
got lucky on a couple goals, and that's why you get so many goals.
Sometimes the goalies will make the great saves, and other nights
they're not as sharp and the puck goes in. There are a lot of
chances in a game and goalies today they've got to be great."

Luongo finished with 26 saves through overtime as the Canucks
failed in their bid to win consecutive games for the first time in
a month, but did move within a point of Colorado for the final
playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Like his Minnesota counterpart, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
was looking at the positives despite watching his team blow a
third-period lead.

"To battle back against a team that plays so well defensively
is a very positive sign," he said, pointing to Vancouver's 2-1-3
record the past six games as a good thing. "We've gotten points in
five of our last six games so I think we're slowly but surely
turning the corner here. We're right there I believe."

The usually tight-checking teams combined for 20 shots and one
goal the first half before a wild final 30 minutes featuring seven
goals and three blown leads.

After blowing their first lead, Foster tied it again with an
unscreened power-play point shot that was deflected perfectly over
Luongo by his own player. Gaborik then celebrated his 26th birthday
with his 30th goal, cutting between Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo
in the slot off a rush and snapping a low shot past Luongo's
blocker. But Edler tied it again, sneaking down and snapping the
loose puck over the glove of Backstrom after Henrik Sedin tied up a
faceoff in the Wild end.

"Two points, that's the biggest thing," Backstrom said.
"Usually the third period is our strength, we know how to play and
what to do with the puck. They got a power play and scored right
away and got momentum and turned it around."

Minnesota led 2-0 after Veilleux scored his second of the game
with 7:15 left in the second period, but Brad Isbister closed the
gap with 4:23 left in the second and Burns took a roughing penalty
as the period expired.

Kesler walked into the slot and snapped a puck over Backstrom's
glove just as Burns stepped back on the ice, and Edler blew a slap
shot in off the goalie's glove on the next shift to give the
Canucks their first lead.

Veilleux ended a 33-game goal drought with 6:14 left in the
first period after a bad pinch by Edler led to a 3-on-2 break. The
puck was thrown back to Veilleux trailing the rush and he walked
down the middle, faked a slap shot, deked around a challenging
Luongo as he went down and tucked it in on the backhand as three
Canucks tumbled comically into the crease.

Notes
These two teams meet again in Minnesota on Tuesday.
Mitchell returned after missing 10 games with a stress fracture in
a vertebra. Wild D Kim Johnsson was back after missing Tuesday's
loss in Edmonton with the flu. The Canucks started the season 9-0-2
within the Northwest Division they won last season, but were 1-5-1
in the past seven coming into this game.