Wild's Spending Spree Paying Dividends

Wednesday, October 11th 2006, 8:49 am
By: News On 6

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The Minnesota Wild's big investment is paying off early in the season.

After spending millions in the free agent market, the Wild are 3-0 for the first time in franchise history, with their latest victory coming in thrilling fashion.

Manny Fernandez saved 30 shots in a duel with Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, who was beaten on a nifty double-move backhander by Petteri Nummelin in the shootout that gave Minnesota a 2-1 win over the Canucks on Tuesday night.

``We added a lot of talent, a lot of veterans,'' Minnesota forward Brian Rolston said. ``It immediately gave us the confidence we need.''

The Wild added free agents Mark Parrish, Keith Carney, Kim Johnsson and Nummelin and traded for center Pavol Demitra in an uncharacteristic spending spree this offseason.

The Canucks made a hefty investment of their own, and they're not complaining either. They traded the embattled Todd Bertuzzi to Florida for Luongo, one of the NHL's premier goaltenders, and signed him to a four-year, $27 million contract.

Luongo, who made 35 saves before faltering in the shootout, has a .941 save percentage in his first four games.

In other NHL games on Tuesday, it was: Philadelphia 4, the New York Rangers 2, and Los Angeles 4, the New York Islanders 2.

After dominating for the first three periods and overtime, allowing only a fluke goal to Rolston in the third that bounced off Vancouver defenseman Lukas Krajicek's skate and into the net, Luongo gave up three goals in four shots in the shootout.

Nummelin was the unlikely hero, chosen over the offensively gifted Marian Gaborik.

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said he spoke with assistants Mario Tremblay and Mike Ramsey before announcing the shootout lineup, and discussed Gaborik's troubles in those situations last season.

``Mario was saying Johnsson and Mike was saying Nummelin. Then I was really mixed up,'' Lemaire said with his trademark wry grin. ``Nummelin was standing up and looking at me ... and he had a big smile on his face.''

The smile was even bigger moments later.

After Fernandez stuffed Jan Bulis, Nummelin skated in on Luongo's left, slowly, faked a forehand, then lifted a backhander top shelf over Luongo's glove to win it.

``I've just got to be a little more patient on those fakes,'' Luongo said.

Fernandez stopped two of the four shots in the shootout _ allowing goals to Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund _ to bounce back from a rough outing against Nashville on Saturday.

The Predators scored three goals on their first six shots against Fernandez, prompting Lemaire to yank him after the first period in a game the Wild would eventually win 6-5.

``It's a long season,'' Fernandez said. ``It's not a sprint off the bat. Team-wise, it's definitely where we want to be at this point. There shouldn't be any shame in it.''

Taylor Pyatt scored the only goal before the tiebreaker for Vancouver, which finished a season-opening four-game road trip 2-2.

``Overall it was a decent trip for us,'' Naslund said. ``I think it was a little more than an OK trip. With a little luck we could have snuck another point in Colorado and maybe one more here tonight.''

Flyers 4, Rangers 2

Peter Forsberg had a goal and two assists to lead Philadelphia (1-1-1) to its first victory of the season.

New York, which won a 13-round shootout in Philadelphia on Saturday, lost for the first time (2-1). Antero Niittymaki bounced back from the weekend loss and made 25 saves for the Flyers.

Brendan Shanahan scored his third goal of the season _ all in New York's two home games _ and it was the first power-play goal of the season for the Rangers.

Kings 4, Islanders 2

Brent Sopel scored the go-ahead goal on a power play with 6 seconds left in the second period for Los Angeles and Alexander Frolov added a power-play goal with 17 seconds remaining in the game.

Michael Cammalleri and Tom Kostopoulos scored first-period goals and Dan Cloutier made 23 saves for the Kings.

Richard Park and Alexei Yashin scored for the Islanders, who are off to a franchise-worst 0-3 start.