by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Independent Correspondent
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kevin Fiala scored twice, including the go-ahead goal at 12:17 of the third period, for the Minnesota Wild in a 6-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.
“[Fiala’s] playing right, that’s for sure,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “He’s got a lot of confidence, obviously. Again, what we like is he’s been a great teammate through it all and he’s done a lot of things defensively, verbally on the bench, penalty kill, in all areas of the game. I guess it’s one thing to be on a heater individually scoring goals, but you still have to do a lot of things to allow your team to have success. He’s doing a lot of those as well.”
Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello each had a goal and two assists, and Ryan Hartman had a goal and an assist for Minnesota (49-21-7), which extended its point streak to eight (6-0-2) and remained tied with the St. Louis Blues for second in the Central Division.
The Wild will play the Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I mean, (I have) a lot of confidence in us all, to be honest,” Fiala said. “Personally, it’s nice to have a peak now instead of in the first few games. So I’d rather have it now, (but there’s) still five more games. Very important five more games for us, and personally for everybody to just play good, feel good and just have the good feeling to go into playoffs.”
Cam Talbot, who was making his second straight start, made 21 saves for his 200th NHL win. He is 12-0-3 in his past 15 starts.
“I’d be lying if I said [that milestone] didn’t (mean something to me),” Talbot said. “The road that I took, the perseverance, the dedication, a lot went into making it this far. These milestones, you kind of have a chance to look back and reflect on stuff like that and the journey along the way.
“Like you said, the biggest part tonight was the big two points for our group. It’s just another big win for us.”
Elias Pettersson scored twice, and Conor Garland had two assists for Vancouver (38-29-11), which has lost two straight and remained four points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild card from the Western Conference. Demko made 26 saves.
“It’s obviously tough. We understand what that [loss] means,” Garland said. “Tough to be tied against probably one of the top two, three teams in the Western Conference in the third period, and we just couldn’t find a way to get it done. It [stinks], but they’re a great team. They played real well. We just couldn’t find a way to get that fourth one.”
Fiala gave the Wild a 1-0 lead at 4:53 of the second period, one-timing a return pass from Frederick Gaudreau in the right circle.
Pettersson scored 38 seconds later to tie it 1-1 when he converted his own one-timer off a pass from Garland from below the goal line.
Jared Spurgeon put Minnesota ahead 2-1 at 7:10, skating to the top of the right circle and shooting through a screen, but Matthew Highmore tied it 2-2 at 9:22 when he took advantage of a mishandled puck by Spurgeon and scored on a partial breakaway.
Pettersson then gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead at 16:09. Garland skated down the right side and cut to the slot for the initial shot before Pettersson cleaned up the rebound in front.
It was the 31st goal of the season for Pettersson, who topped the 30-goal mark for the first time in his four NHL seasons.
“Of course, I’m happy with that personally, but I’d rather trade it for a win today,” Pettersson said.
Zuccarello tied the game 3-3 at 18:36 of the second. Jon Merrill, who was playing his first game after missing 10 with an upper-body injury, made a stretch pass to Kaprizov, who dropped the puck for Zuccarello at the top of the left circle.
After Fiala put Minnesota in front, Kaprizov extended the lead 5-3 at 18:05 with his 44th goal of the season.
Ryan Hartman shot into the empty net at 18:47 for the 6-3 final.
“They give it everything they have,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You look at tonight, for example. (J.T.) Miller’s blocking a shot, he’s got a couple ice bags on. (Brad) Richardson breaks his nose and still wants to play. That’s the kind of effort and character that these guys have. I’m very proud of them. They never quit. They never die. So obviously tonight was very disappointing at the end, but the fact that they could have given up a long time ago, the odds were so against us. But they believed, and they still believe. They’ll believe again tomorrow. Until it shows that we’re eliminated, I’m sure these guys are going to keep pushing right to the end.”
NOTES: Pettersson has scored 13 goals in his past 12 games. … Vancouver has three 30-goal scorers for the first time since 1995-96 (Bo Horvat, 31; J.T. Miller, 30). … Wild forward Matt Boldy had an assist to extend his personal point streak to nine games (three goals, nine assists).