ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Nino Niederreiter had his first career three-goal game and backup goalie Niklas Backstrom stopped 25 shots on Thursday night as the Minnesota Wild broke out of a scoring slump for a 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres to snap a four-game skid.
The Wild have been missing leading scorer Zach Parise since Nov. 4. He’s out with a concussion and Minnesota scored two goals in three straight losses without him.
But the Wild regained their scoring touch early Thursday, notching four goals and 20 shots in the first period.
After Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first of the season just 1:03 in for Buffalo, the teams combined for three goals in a 17-second span midway through the period.
First Minnesota’s Ryan Carter tied it when he batted a puck out of midair with the shaft of his stick behind Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth. Seven seconds later, Charlie Coyle carried the puck into the Sabres’ zone and straight up the slot before dumping it to Niederreiter, who made a move and slipped it past Enroth.
But that lead lasted just 10 seconds. Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons took a pass from Tyler Ennis in the neutral zone, sped past the Wild defense and beat Darcy Kuemper high to tie the game at 2.
Wild coach Mike Yeo then pulled Kuemper, who had given up two goals on two shots. Backstrom came on in relief and held Buffalo in check the rest of the way as the Wild took control of the game.
First, Kyle Brodziak converted a pass from Justin Fontaine from behind the net to put Minnesota back on top 3-2. Then Niederreiter scored a rare power-play goal for Minnesota with 2:08 to go in the first. Camped out in front of the net, Niederreiter deflected Mikael Granlund’s pass behind Enroth, making the Wild 3 for 46 with the man advantage this year.
Jared Spurgeon got Minnesota’s second power-play goal of the night in the second period off a nice pass from Jason Pominville to expand the Wild lead to 5-2.
Former Wild center Torrey Mitchell beat his ex-teammate Backstrom to pull Buffalo to within two goals at 12:56 of the third. But Niederreiter sealed it with his third of the game to complete the hat trick and team-high seventh of the season, scoring into an empty net with 2:28 to play.
NOTES: The Wild played without two key defensemen, Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin. Both players were missing due to illness. . Minnesota put Parise on injured reserve Thursday and replaced him on the active roster with Spurgeon. . Backstrom made his first appearance at home since Jan. 11. He missed the final four months of last season due to injuries. … Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta played in his first NHL game since Oct. 10, 2013 on Thursday. He missed most of last year with a knee injury and missed Buffalo’s first 17 games this season after taking a puck to the face in preseason.
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