Minnesota Wild\'s Nate Prosser, left, and Carolina Hurricanes\' Brandon Sutter exchange punches during a fight in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Long out of playoff contention, the Carolina Hurricanes are determined to get something out of a lost season.
Tim Brent and Brandon Sutter scored in a 48-second span of the third period and the Hurricanes rallied to beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3 on Saturday.
Drayson Bowman scored twice and added an assist for the first three-point game of his career, and Brian Boucher made 21 saves for his first win of the season.
"Before Christmas, we weren't finding ways to win and finding ways to lose," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "Now the team seems to find a way—whether it's a good game or not—to find a tie or a win. We struggled today with a lot of stuff, but we found a way to win the game and that's what's important this time of the year."
Muller mixed up his lines the first and second periods, trying more combinations during the game than at any point since being hired earlier this season. In the third period, things finally clicked.
Trailing 3-2, Carolina quickly changed the direction of the game in the third. With the teams playing 4-on-4, Bowman made a perfect pass to Sutter for a breakaway. Sutter made a nice move and his backhander beat Matt Hackett on the stick side to tie it at 7:16.
"Sutter has huge speed and it looked like he had their D-man in trouble there," Bowman said. "All I had to do was get it to him and he was gone. It was a great move."
Less than a minute later, Tim Brent launched a shot from just inside the blue line that got past Hackett and gave the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead. The goal came just as a Minnesota penalty expired and took the life out of the Wild, who have found a way to lose a number of games late.
"The message is pretty simple," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "We all have to hate losing a lot more than we do. You can never accept this. I don't care who we've got out of the lineup, you cannot accept this. ... We're in hell. It's not fun."
Boucher, out of action since early December, is 1-4-1 this season. Boucher, a veteran who previously won 119 NHL games for six teams, missed 36 games earlier this season with a lower-body injury.
"It's been a long time, it feels good to be back out there," Boucher said. "When you haven't played, the game seems a bit fast for you. It's nice to get that game out of the way and get a win out of it is doubly nice. I said to (Carolina's top goalie Cam Ward), 'At least I'm not going to get shut out in the wins category this year.' I was running out of time."
Bowman got credit for Carolina's second goal at 17:14 of the second period that cut the lead to 3-2. He passed the puck to Sutter in the slot, but the puck went off of the skate of Minnesota's Devin Setoguchi and into the net before Sutter could touch it.
Bowman opened his second two-goal game of the season by picking off a bad pass from Clayton Stoner and firing the puck past Hackett at 1:02 of the first period.
Minnesota, which has lost eight of nine games, was in control for much of the first two-plus periods.
Nick Johnson gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead at 12:33 of the second period when he knocked his own rebound up and over Boucher. Three minutes later, Kyle Brodziak made a perfect centring pass to a streaking Erik Christensen—who scored for the third time in three games—and the Wild led 3-1.
"We just gave it away, threw it away in the third," Brodziak said. "The desperation level wasn't at the level it needed to be. We turned too many pucks over. We just weren't swarming them like we were in the first two periods. ... Everyone in here is sick of losing. It's not a fun feeling, getting booed in your own rink. We know we deserve it and we've got to find a way give fans something to cheer about."
While the Minnesota players were disappointed about blowing the lead, the Hurricanes were happy with their resolve and their ability to win despite not playing their best.
"We weren't overly happy with where were at (after two periods)," Sutter said. "We had another level to go and this time of the year, it's important to find that level, especially in the second half of games. Fortunately for us we were able come back and get that win."
NOTES: Minnesota C Mikko Koivu was not activated despite practicing each of the past two days. The Wild's captain has now missed 14 games with a shoulder injury. ... Wild G Niklas Backstrom has missed seven with a groin injury. ... Muller started D Justin Faulk. Faulk was last on the Xcel Energy Center ice last April when he helped Minnesota-Duluth win the NCAA title. ... With three points, Brodziak tied his career high of 37 points in a season, set a year ago with Minnesota. He has five points in the past four games for the Wild. ... With a first-period fight, an assist and a goal, Sutter recorded his first "Gordie Howe hat trick" in the NHL. ... Tom Gilbert, acquired by the Wild from Edmonton at the trade deadline, had his second point for Minnesota with a first-period assist. He has two points in nine games.