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Wild stops Islanders’ streak and extends its own

Minnesota Wild's Erik Haula, left, of Finland celebrates

Minnesota Wild's Erik Haula, left, of Finland celebrates his go-ahead goal off New York Islanders goalie Jean-Francois Berube, second from right, during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016, in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 6-4. Credit: AP / Jim Mone

St. PAUL, Minnesota — It took 80 seconds for the Wild to take charge of Thursday’s game. Then it took 42 seconds for Brock Nelson to pull the Isles even.

But the comeback was for naught when Nino Niederreiter’s shot deflected off teammate Erik Haula’s leg and over J-F Berube’s glove with 9:30 to go, the 6-4 final snapping the Islanders’ three-game win streak while extending the Wild’s winning run to 12 games. Mikael Granlund scored into an empty net with 1:41 to play.

Starting the third period four on four after the Wild’s late second-period blitz, the Isles quickly got back to a tie game thanks to Minnesota native Nelson.

He converted a nice feed from Shane Prince 55 seconds into the third to cut it to a 4-3 deficit, then snapped a screened wrist shot from the high slot over Devan Dubnyk’s glove at 1:37 to knot the score and surprise the sellout Wild crowd which seemed pretty sure of a 12th consecutive win.

The Wild scored three times in a 1:20 stretch late in the second to send Jaroslav Halak to the bench and turn an Islanders lead into a possible rout.

Things were going the Islanders’ way in the second, in fact. Nick Leddy’s point shot squeezed through Devan Dubnyk and crawled over the goal line on the power play at 6:15 to put the Islanders in front, a place few have been against the Wild in the past month.

The Isles earned another power play soon after and were playing a capable game, nearly making it a two-goal lead when Ryan Strome chose to pass to Jason Chimera on a two on one rather than shoot with room and a good angle on Dubnyk.

And as the clock got down inside of six minutes left in the second, the game completely flipped. Halak had been sharp after allowing a soft, short-side goal to Wild defenseman Marco Scandella at 12:34 of the first, but he could not get over to the stick-side post fast enough to keep Chris Stewart’s sharp-angle shot from banking in off his shoulder at 14:20 for a 2-2 game.

Just 15 seconds later the Wild set up shop and Jared Spurgeon toe-dragged the puck into a good shooting lane and snapped a low shot under Halak.

And Jordan Schroeder had a breakaway chance that was thwarted by Alan Quine’s back check just 35 seconds after that. But the Wild kept the puck in and a deflected point shot bounced down to Schroeder, who snapped one by Halak at 15:40.

That brought Berube into the game. It was the third time in Halak’s last 11 starts that he was pulled. It was a surprise that Halak started against the Capitals on Tuesday after Thomas Greiss had two strong outings the week before and Halak made 31 saves in a 4-3 win over Washington in Barclays Center.

Jack Capuano went back to Halak, appearing to go with a “hot hand” theory. If that holds, Halak may get a rest for a while. The Islanders play in Winnipeg on Saturday and then have a five-day break that all 30 teams get this season.

The Islanders answered Scandella’s first-period goal quickly, with Jason Chimera snapping a wrist shot past Dubnyk off a cross-ice feed from Andrew Ladd. That line, with Alan Quine in the middle, has produced five even-strength goals in the last three games.

New York Sports