Jason Zucker scored twice to lead the Minnesota Wild to a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers Monday at the BB&T Center. The Wild finished a three-game road trip through the east came to end with the team gaining four of a possible six points in the standings.
Both of Zucker’s goal came at opportune times. The first was the first goal of the game off a cross-ice pass from Mikko Koivu. His shot got between Roberto Luongo’s legs as the goaltender slid across the crease.
The second goal came after the Panthers got to within a goal in the second period. He perfectly placed a backhand shot off the post and into the net from in tight. Koivu recorded the only assist on both goals.
Nino Niederreiter gave the Wild their first two-goal lead late in the first period. He picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and sped past Colby Robak for the breakaway. Niederreiter lifted a backhand under the arm of Luongo and the cross bar.
The Wild (12-8-0) controlled the game early with a large shot and puck possession advantage. They held off a third period charge by the Panthers to close out the road trip on a positive note.
Niklas Backstrom may have had his best game of the season. He did not make any highlight reel save, but he was always in position and on his marks.
The Panthers (7-6-6) got on the board five minutes and 34 seconds into the second period to cut the deficit to one. Shawn Thornton scored his first goal of the season by deflecting a Dmitry Kulikov shot past Niklas Backstrom.
Zach Parise added an empty-net goal with one minute and 29 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory. Ryan Suter started the play with a stretch to Jason Pominville to set up the rush.
The Wild return to action Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings at the Xcel Energy Center.
No. 3 – Niklas Backstroke. The Wild goaltender stopped 29 shots.
No. 2 – Mikko Koivu. The Wild forward recorded two assists.
No. 1 – Jason Zucker. The Wild forward scored two goals.
Minnesota……2 1 1 – 4
Florida……..…0 1 0 – 1
First Period – 1, Minnesota, Zucker 7 (Koivu), 5:58. 2, Minnesota, Niederreiter 10 (unassisted), 17:43. Penalties – Ballard, MIN (slashing), 1:40; Hayes, FLA (cross checking), 1:40; Hubardeau, FLA (hooking), 10:11; Ballard, MIN (hooking), 12:58; Upshall, FLA (tripping), 18:47.
Second Period – 3, Florida, Thornton 1 (Kulikov), 5:34. 4, Minnesota, Zucker 8 (Koivu), 17:19. Penalties – Pominville, MIN (tripping), 2:51; Pirri, FLA (slashing), 8:20.
Third Period – 5, Minnesota, Parise 8 (Pominville, Suter), 18:31 (en). Penalties – Ballard, MIN (high sticking), 4:30.
Shots on goal – Minnesota 13-16-8 38. Florida 5-9-16 30.
Goalies – Minnesota, Backstrom (29-30). Florida, Luongo (34-37). Referees – Ghislain Hebert, Tom Kowal. Linesmen – Steve Barton, Scott Cherrey.