VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Alex Biega never doubted he had the ability to play in the NHL. All he needed was a chance — one he certainly took advantage of Monday night.
The 26-year-old defenseman scored the winning goal in his first career game, and the Vancouver Canucks held on during a chaotic final 30 seconds for a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
A veteran of more than 300 games in the American Hockey League, Biega was recalled from the Utica Comets last weekend, but didn’t arrive in Vancouver until 6 a.m. Monday. He was told about 3 hours before the opening faceoff that he would be playing after Christopher Tanev was a late scratch.
“I just had the belief that if I got the opportunity, I would seize it,” said Biega, still in his jersey and clutching the souvenir puck. “I had a great support system with my parents and my wife, people like that pushing you to keep playing and keep pursuing your dream. It’s indescribable the emotions that are running through my head.”
Part of a patchwork Canucks defense that also was without Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa, Biega scored to make it 3-1 with 8:06 left in the third period. Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter scored his second of the game and 18th of the season at 13:35 to get the Wild back within one.
Minnesota stormed the Vancouver crease in the waning moments, but couldn’t get anything else past Canucks goalie Eddie Lack.
“He’s waited a long time for this,” Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said of Biega. “He has a passion for it. It’s a great story when you have that passion and you get the winner.”
Henrik Sedin had a goal and an assist, and Bo Horvat also scored for Vancouver.
Minnesota got 26 saves from Devan Dubnyk.
“I knew it was going to be a real tight-checking game,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “I don’t think we were strong enough on the puck in the offensive zone. In a lot of ways that’s the place we needed to win that game tonight and we didn’t do enough in there.”
Former Canucks forward Jordan Schroeder had two assists for the Wild, who entered 8-0-1 in their past nine games and lost in regulation for the first time since Jan. 19.
“There’s a lot of hockey left,” Yeo said. “I said this before: If we won this game it doesn’t mean we’re in the playoffs, if we lose it doesn’t mean we are out of it.”
Vancouver broke a 1-all tie at 1:33 of the third on the seventh goal of Horvat’s impressive rookie season. Dubnyk stopped Jannik Hansen’s shot from the high slot, but the puck spilled into the crease for Horvat, who tapped it home with a diving effort.
Niederreiter opened the scoring midway through the first for Minnesota — which already had two wins over Vancouver this month — but Sedin tied it 42 seconds into the second with his 10th of the season on a 3-on-1 rush.
“We played hard,” Desjardins said. “We were missing some guys, but the guys that stepped in were excited about playing. I thought they brought us some energy.”
NOTES: Dubnyk dropped to 10-2-1 since the Wild acquired him from Arizona. … Vancouver starts a five-game road trip Thursday against the New York Rangers.
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