ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- Just two minutes away from evening the series, the Minnesota Wild now find themselves on the brink of elimination.
Brent Sopel scored a power-play goal 15:52 into overtime after fellow defenseman Ed Jovanovski's game-tying tally late in the third period, giving the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 victory over the Wild and a three games to one lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
With Minnesota holding a 2-1 lead, Jovanovski deflected Sopel's one-timer from just above the left faceoff circle past goaltender Manny Fernandez with 2:06 remaining in the third to draw the Canucks even.
From nearly the same spot, Sopel one-timed a pass from captain Markus Naslund past a screened Fernandez for his second goal of the postseason and the Canucks' 12th postseason tally with the man advantage.
"We were moving the puck around down low," Sopel said. "Nassie threw it down to (Brendan) Morrison, and Morrison gave it back to Naslund. He just gave it across to me for a one-timer. Bertuzzi did a great job screening in front and it just found its way through."
"Any team that trails 3-1, it's hard to come back," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "No matter if they're physical, if they're big, if they're small or if they're ugly, it's tough to come back, no doubt."
Marian Gaborik scored both goals for Minnesota, which will begin its bid for a second straight series comeback when down three games to one in Game Five on Monday in Vancouver.
"They're down 3-1, but look what they did against Colorado," Sopel said. "They can play. They're a great team, they work hard."
"It's a long way back," said Minnesota defenseman Brad Bombardir, who returned from a back injury to make his first appearance of the postseason. "But everyone in this locker room is confident we can do it."
After scoring just seven goals in the final 44 games of the regular season, Gaborik continued his playoff resurgence by extending his points streak to six games with 38 seconds left in the first period.
Darby Hendrickson nearly gave the Wild a two-goal advantage 80 seconds into the second, but Cloutier was able to stop his wraparound attempt at the right goalpost.
Midway through the period, former Canuck Cliff Ronning lured Cloutier out of the net while on a power play. But after a mad scramble on the doorstep, Cloutier managed to corral the bouncing puck to force a faceoff.
Gaborik had several chances late in the second to increase Minnesota's lead. With an open right side of the net on a power play, he wound up for a one-timer in the faceoff circle. Before Cloutier could slide across the crease, Gaborik broke his stick on the shot, sending the puck wide.
Just two minutes later, Vancouver defenseman Mattias Ohlund could not handle a pass in his own zone, giving Gaborik a wide open shot from the slot that Cloutier stopped.
The Canucks evened the fast-paced game early in the third.
Trevor Letowski picked up a loose puck in his own zone and carried down the right side. After getting into the faceoff circle, he slid a pass across the slot to Matt Cooke, who swept it past Fernandez at 2:09 for his second postseason goal.
Just 65 seconds later, Gaborik posted his first career playoff multi-goal game to regain the lead for the Wild.
Stevenson caused Ohlund to cough up the puck in the neutral zone and sent Wes Walz on the attack. Spotting Gaborik at the bottom of the right circle, Walz fed the speedy right wing, who put a one-timer between Cloutier's pads at 3:14 for his NHL-leading eighth playoff goal.
"The first goal, (Nick Schultz) set it up and Wes made a nice pass to Stevenson," Gaborik said. "Stevie slid it and I just tried to go up. The next play, again, they turned it over and we came back and again, a great pass by Walzie."
"Gaborik's an outstanding player," Cloutier said. "He's got great hands, great speed. It hasn't changed in the playoffs, he's still their best player."
With the teams skating four aside, Jovanovski extended his goal-scoring streak to four games at 17:54 with his sixth of the postseason.
"I was just playing in front of the net and had my stick off to the side, and Sopie just shot it in the right spot," Jovanovski said. "It hit my blade and went in."
But after being the hero of the moment, Jovanovski nearly became the goat.
With six minutes to go in overtime, the Vancouver defenseman lost control of the puck at the blue line, giving Hendrickson a shorthanded breakaway. As defenseman Sami Salo was hooking him from behind, the former Canuck wristed a shot that Cloutier blocked easily.
"I didn't get as much as I wanted on the shot," Hendrickson said. "That's my goal, but it didn't happen. That's the way it goes."
"He didn't get a lot off (on the shot)," Cloutier said. "He had a guy right on him. He just tried to get as much as he could. I knew he had to go low because his stick was fully extended."
With 18 seconds remaining on Kuba's penalty, Sopel gave the Canucks a commanding lead in the series, slapping a shot past Fernandez with Bertuzzi and Wild defenseman Brad Brown screening him for Vancouver's 12th playoff goal by a defenseman.
"It's pretty tough to stop a puck, ask any goalie, if you can't see it," Sopel said. "When you've got a guy 6-4, 250 pounds in your way, it's tough. (Bertuzzi) does a great job causing that traffic."
It was the 17th overtime game of this season's playoffs, 11 shy of the all-time record set in 1993.
"Overtimes are exciting, and we were all excited to be a part of it," Vancouver coach Marc Crawford said. "Our energy level was good and improved as the game went on. We had a real good third period, we were strong at the end of the game, and that carried over into overtime."