Canucks survive in OT after blowing late two-goal lead, clinch division title

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks clinched the Northwest Division just by getting to overtime. But after blowing a two-goal lead in the final minute, they still needed something to celebrate.

Defenseman Sami Salo delivered the exclamation point on a wild finish, scoring on a power-play one-timer at 2:15 of overtime as the Canucks bounced back from the late meltdown to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Sunday night.

"A little lapse there at the end and it didn't feel really good going into overtime," Salo said. "So it was nice to get the win."

Most of the crowd of 18,810 -- the 300th consecutive sellout -- was headed for the exits after Alex Edler scored into an empty net with 55 seconds left to make it 3-1. But Cody Almond tipped in his first NHL goal with 41.5 seconds left, and Antti Miettinen tied it with 18.8 seconds left, parking at the side of the net to snap Andrew Brunette's pass from behind the goal past Roberto Luongo.

"[Almond's goal] gave us a little life," said Brunette, who broke Luongo's shutout bid on a power play midway through the third period. "The third period was obviously our best period and we didn't quit and it was a good sign."

But the dramatic comeback ended after Greg Zanon took a high-sticking penalty. A broken Wild stick allowed Salo to slide down to the high slot and walk into a pass from Henrik Sedin, who recorded his 106th point and increased his lead atop the NHL scoring race to four points over Washington's Alex Ovechkin.

"Hank gave me a good pass and it was like I as on the ladies tees so I just tried to shoot it in one of the corners," said Salo, who also had an assist.

Ryan Kesler, short-handed, and Kyle Wellwood, on a power play, also scored, and Luongo made 24 saves as Vancouver won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks to secure its third Northwest Division title in four seasons.

It wasn't all good news for the Canucks. Christian Ehrhoff, their top-scoring defenseman with 43 points, left 7 minutes into the third period.

"He tweaked his knee and will be re-evaluated [Monday]," coach Alain Vigneault said. "I'm not really concerned. I don't think it's anything major."

Niklas Backstrom made 36 saves to keep the Wild in its first game since being officially eliminated from the playoffs Saturday.

"He was great in the nets, he gave us a chance," coach Todd Richards said.

Luongo wasn't as busy, but was good when he needed to be before the late collapse. He celebrated his 31st birthday by bouncing back after a career-worst eight goals in Los Angeles on Thursday night, part of a post-Olympic slump that included a .888 save percentage since backstopping Canada to gold.

"I won't let a bad game affect me," Luongo said. "Sometimes you have a bad game and get into a slump but I've always been able to come back strong."

Pulled from his last two starts against Minnesota, Luongo wasn't tested early, but made a great glove save off Martin Havlat from close range with 1:14 left in the first period, and some solid short-handed stops late in the second period.

Luongo slid across his crease to deny Brent Burns on a one-timer and robbed Owen Nolan on the rebound just the first penalty of a lengthy Minnesota two-man advantage expired with 30 seconds left in the period. He got some help from Sedin, who blocked Guillaume Latendresse's shot at an empty net on a rebound just after the second penalty expired early in the third period. But a couple of defensive mistakes led to the two goals in the final minute.

"I'm not going to focus on anything else but stopping the puck and getting wins so we got the win and that's all that matters," Luongo said.

In addition to opening the scoring on short-handed 2-on-1 5 minutes in, the Canucks killed off Minnesota's first six power plays, including 1:16 of 5-on-3 time, before Brunette scored with 5 seconds left in the seventh advantage.

Despite three early power plays, Minnesota only had five shots when Wellwood made it 2-0 on a Canucks man advantage midway through the second period. But the Wild seemed to get energy from all the power play time heading into the third.

"We got into penalty trouble and gave them some momentum," said Burrows, who set up Kesler's goal for his NHL-leading seventh short-handed point.

Game notes
Vancouver RW Mikael Samuelsson, who has 30 goals and 53 points, returned after missing eight games with a shoulder injury. ... Vancouver's sellout streak dates back to 2002 and is the fourth-longest streak in NHL history. Minnesota's active 401-game streak is the third. ... Canucks D Shane O'Brien's exile ended after six days as he returned to practice Sunday morning, but did not play against the Wild. O'Brien, who hasn't traveled or skated with the team since being late to practice last Monday, made a public apology for both the tardiness and gaining too much weight during the Olympic break.