ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)Kevin Fiala scored twice, including the go-ahead goal in the third period, and the Minnesota Wild beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3 on Thursday night.
The Wild ensured they will finish either second or third in the Central Division and locked in a first-round playoff matchup with St. Louis, which is two points behind in the standings. Minnesota lost all three games against the Blues this season, including two in overtime.
”We haven’t played (St. Louis) in here yet. We’re very strong here,” Fiala said. ”I have very much belief that we’re strong at home. And we have showed that, so it’s going to be a good series.”
Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello each had a goal and two assists for the Wild, who also got goals from Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Hartman.
Elias Pettersson scored twice for the Canucks and Matthew Highmore had Vancouver’s other goal.
Minnesota’s Cam Talbot stopped 21 shots, including a big pad save late in the first period to keep the game scoreless, and earned his 200th career win.
”The road that I took, the perseverance, the dedication, a lot went into making it this far,” said Talbot, who’s in his second season with the Wild. ”The biggest part tonight was the big two points for our group.”
Thatcher Demko stopped 25 shots for Vancouver.
Fiala’s second goal of the night and 32nd of the season broke a 3-3 tie with 7:43 remaining in the third period. The forward circled the zone and skated from behind the net, firing a wrap-around shot that beat Demko.
Fiala has 16 points during his current eight-game point streak.
”He’s playing right, that’s for sure,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. ”I guess it’s one thing to be on a heater where you’re individually scoring goals, but you still have to do a lot of things to allow your team to have success, and he’s doing a lot of those as well.”
A scoreless first period was followed by a flurry of activity in the six-goal second. Fiala opened the scoring at 4:53. Pettersson tied it less than a minute later.
The teams again traded goals a bit later in the first. Spurgeon fired a shot that found its way through traffic to put Minnesota up 2-1. Highmore then capitalized on a turnover by Spurgeon and beat Talbot to tie it.
Vancouver took its first lead on Pettersson’s second goal of the night and 31st of the season. He rebounded a shot by Conor Garland and snuck it past Talbot.
Zuccarello tied the game 2 1/2 minutes later as he took a pass from Kaprizov and beat Demko. Kaprizov’s assist came after the star forward took a big hit from Luke Schenn earlier in the period.
”I thought their third goal was a little bit of a backbreaker,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”If we get into the third period with a lead, we at least usually get a point out of it. That hurt a little bit.”
Kapirzov scored late in the third, his 44th goal of the season. Hartman added an empty-netter, his 32nd.
NOTES: Pettersson became the third Canucks player with 30 goals this season, joining Bo Horvat (31) and J.T. Miller (30). It’s the first time since 1995-96 that three Vancouver players topped 30. … Wild defenseman Dmitry Kulikov played in his 800th game. The 31-year-old has 23 points in 75 games this season. … Spurgeon has 39 points, a career high.
Canucks: At Calgary on Saturday.
Wild: Host Seattle on Friday.
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