ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise scored for Minnesota with the first two shots of the season against Carolina fill-in goalie Justin Peters, and the Wild beat the Hurricanes 3-1 on Thursday night despite losing their own starting goalie to injury.
Cam Ward was hurt just 4:07 into the game, an unspecified lower-body injury that forced the Hurricanes to send Peters in cold. He stopped 19 shots after settling in, but his rough start was costly.
Alexander Semin’s power-play goal in the second period pulled the Hurricanes within one, but they couldn’t muster any more in the final frame against Niklas Backstrom, who relieved starter Josh Harding in net.
Dany Heatley got his first goal of the season in the closing seconds, an empty-netter on a power play, to clinch the Wild’s second straight win. They are 4-0-2 at home.
Ward started eight of Carolina’s 10 games, and Anton Khudobin took the other two. Peters played in 47 games for the Hurricanes over the previous four years, but this was his first action of the season, having been summoned from the AHL 10 days earlier when Khudobin, a former Wild prospect, sustained a lower-body injury.
Peters and the Hurricanes fell behind 2-0 less than 8 minutes into his first action of the season. The only two on-target shots he saw got by him. After Semin was whistled for interference, the Wild took immediate advantage of the power play when Mikael Granlund plucked the puck off the end boards and set up Niederreiter in the slot for a wrist shot following a slick back-hand move.
About 3½ minutes later, Jared Spurgeon sent a slap shot pinging off the pipe. Parise beat defenseman Ryan Murphy to the deflection, and the rebound goal made it 2-0.
The Wild played a sloppy second period, letting the Hurricanes climb back in the game, and then they lost Harding at the second intermission. The team had no immediate update on his condition.
Backstrom came out for the third, his first appearance since an unspecified lower-body injury led to his early exit from the Wild’s third game of the season. Harding took all but one start since, and he has been shining.
The NHL’s Masterton Award winner for perseverance and dedication for overcoming multiple sclerosis last season and playing an entire playoff series for the Wild, Harding entered the night with the second-best goals against average in the NHL at 0.96. He stopped 20 of 21 shots before leaving. Backstrom was 7 for 7.
The Wild played without young star defenseman Jonas Brodin, who broke his right cheekbone in the last game after taking a puck to the face. They gave up 28 shots, their third-highest total of the season, and were outshot at home for the first time in six games, but Harding and Backstrom formed an effective though unexpected duo.
NOTES: Ward stopped all five shots he faced. … Wild coach Mike Yeo said he anticipated Brodin being cleared to skate Friday, with a full mask. … Wild C Charlie Coyle, who has been on the injured list for nine games due to a knee injury, skated with the team in the morning for the first time since he was hurt. There is no timetable for his return. … The Wild are the only team in the league allowing an average of less than 1 goal per game in 5-on-5 play. They have given up five in 11 games this season. … Of 15 meetings between these teams, 12 have been decided by one goal.
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