St. Paul, MN – Erik Christensen forced overtime with a last- minute goal and Mikko Koivu scored 15 seconds into OT to lift the Minnesota Wild over the Florida Panthers, 3-2, at Xcel Energy Center.
Kyle Brodziak also lit the lamp for Minnesota, while Niklas Backstrom made his first start since suffering a lower-body injury on March 1 and stopped 25 shots as the Wild snapped a three-game slide.
"Wins are what matters," Koivu said. "Sometimes I don't care how you play if you just win the game."
Scottie Upshall and Tomas Fleischmann scored for the Panthers, who sit four points ahead of Washington for first place in the Southeast Division after the Capitals earned a shootout win on Thursday.
Jose Theodore made 22 saves in the loss.
Minnesota trailed by a mark of 1-0 entering the third period, but managed to tie the game just 1:03 into the frame when Brodziak gathered his own rebound in front of the net and slipped a backhander through Theodore's legs.
A Kris Versteeg high sticking penalty later negated a 5-on-3 power play by the Panthers just three seconds into the two-man advantage, but Florida was able to capitalize on the 4-on-3 power play to regain the lead.
After setting up in the offensive zone, Fleischmann found his way behind the defense, received a pass to the right of net and lifted a wrister over Backstrom from a sharp angle.
The Wild, though, would battle back again, tying the game with 30.3 seconds left in regulation when Tom Gilbert's snap shot from the right point deflected off the leg of Christensen and then off the left post before Christensen gathered the rebound and stuffed it home.
Then, just 15 seconds into overtime, Koivu split the Panthers' defense after receiving a home-run pass from Gilbert at the Panthers blue line and raced towards Theodore on a breakaway.
He first faked right before deking to the left and beating the goaltender with a backhander to the stick side for the game-deciding goal.
"It's deflating," said Upshall. "It really takes the wind out of your sails when someone gets a big goal to tie it up late and then scores on the first shift of overtime."
Upshall netted the game's first goal at the 13:27 mark of the second period while on the power play with a quick wrister from the left of the net that slipped in between Backstrom's legs.
Minnesota improved to 18-16-4 at home this season...Florida fell to 17-16-5 on the road...The Wild are 9-2-1 all-time against the Panthers...Minnesota went 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Panthers went 2-for-5 on the man advantage.