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Published September 13, 2015
Nino Niederreiter tapped in the go-ahead goal with 4:33 left and capped a furious comeback by the Minnesota Wild in a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders 5-4 on Tuesday night.
The Wild trailed 3-0 after the first period and 4-1 at the second intermission, but they were fired up midway through the game. Defenseman Keith Ballard was sent to a hospital after his head bounced hard on the ice, following a hit from Matt Martin.
Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Erik Haula and Thomas Vanek scored for the Wild, and Niederreiter followed with the most dramatic goal against the team that chose him No. 5 in the 2010 draft.
Chad Johnson, who made 25 saves for the Islanders, whacked his stick against the boards near the bench at the next whistle.
New York lost its second straight after leading 3-0 in the first.
Johnson got the surprise start over Jaroslav Halak, who had an 11-game winning streak stopped on Saturday when he gave up six goals to St. Louis after being given a big lead.
Michael Grabner, Brock Nelson and Martin scored early for the Islanders, and Josh Bailey gave them a 4-1 lead on their lone shot of the second period. The Islanders became the first NHL team this season to score on its only shot in a period.
But the Wild weren't deterred. Haula's shot off Thomas Hickey's skate brought them within 4-3. Just 45 seconds later, Vanek tied it in a pile of bodies in front when he found the puck underneath Nelson and knocked onto Johnson's chest as the goalie fell backward into the net.
Niklas Backstrom made 15 saves for the Wild, who outshot the Islanders 27-8 over the final two periods.
The Wild were listless in the first period, booed by the crowd as they left the ice.
Grabner scored for the second straight game, just his third appearance of the season following his hernia surgery, with a wrist shot the glanced off Ballard's stick while Anders Lee screened Backstrom.
Nelson tacked another goal during a power play, ending a streak of 15 straight penalties killed by the Wild over five games, with his team-leading 13th goal that was set up by Nick Leddy's slap shot. Just 32 seconds later, Martin jumped to try to avoid Hickey's rebound shot, but the puck nicked his skate and trickled across the line.
The Wild and their fans were riled up midway through the second after Ballard's injury. Those boos came back, but for the officials when no penalty was called on Martin. Koivu yelled at them, too, as they prepared to restart the game.
Mikael Granlund immediately hit Kyle Okposo, who drew a slashing penalty for angrily hitting Granlund in the leg in response.
Pominville scored on the first of three assists by Ryan Suter, making his return following a two-game absence to the mumps. Then Kyle Brodziak dropped the gloves with Martin as he re-entered the game.
Most NHL teams typically have at least one native Minnesotan playing in front of family and friends against the Wild, but the Islanders generated more extra ticket sales than usual with Okposo (St. Paul), Nelson (Warroad), Leddy (Eden Prairie) and Lee (Edina). Okposo and Leddy, who was the Wild's first-round draft pick in 2009, also played briefly for the University of Minnesota before turning pro.
NOTES: Lee was fined $2,286.29 for elbowing St. Louis defenseman Carl Gunnarsson on Saturday. ... Zach Parise skated with Vanek on a line for the first time this season, with Granlund centering. Pominville joined Koivu and Jason Zucker on the second line. ... The last NHL team to score on its lone shot of a period, according to STATS research, was Buffalo in the second period on April 10, 2014. ... The Wild have outshot opponents in 23 of 26 games this season. ... The Islanders kept their injured list at five, taking defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (upper body) off before the game and placing center Casey Cizikas (upper body) on it. Cizikas was hurt on Saturday.