The Wild’s offensive headliners participated in the scoring surge that fueled a 6-2 win over the Hurricanes Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.
But the depth players also contributed, a well-rounded performance that had each line chip in at least a goal.
“There’s no one line in hockey that can carry the team through any sort of playoffs,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So you need secondary scoring.”
That boost from the bottom-six hasn’t always been there this season for the Wild but with the postseason looming, this is certainly an opportunistic time for it to appear.
Center Eric Staal continues to impress, and the duo of winger Zach Parise and captain Mikko Koivu seems to have discovered chemistry; both are in the midst of five-game point streaks after Koivu set up Parise on the power play Tuesday.
But winger Daniel Winnik had a hand in the fastest four goals in franchise history when the Wild scored that many in just 3 minutes, 28 seconds in the second period. And center Matt Cullen converted Goal No. 6 on the night when he demolished a bouncing puck late in the third.
Overall, 13 players tallied at least a point against Carolina.
“When you’re getting it from up and down your lineup, it makes you tough to stop,” Staal said. “Tonight we were that.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s win over the Hurricanes.
- Can Staal maintain this torrid scoring pace?
After a two-goal outburst Tuesday to put Staal at 36 goals, he’s certainly within striking distance of being the league leader.
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin is at the front of the pack with 40, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine is next at 38 and Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin rounds out the top three (37).
Either way, it’s been enjoyable for his teammates to watch his tear.
“Oh yeah, he's been terrific,” winger Nino Niederreiter said. “He finds a way to get it going every night. He's definitely an elite player, so it's great to have him here."
Winnik might have been able to predict the performance Tuesday based on Staal’s showing in practice.
“We did some scoring drills at the end of practice, and stuff was going in that probably shouldn't go in,” Winnik said “It's just going great for him. He's played very well for us.”
- Perhaps this game will be a turning point for Niederreiter after he snapped a nine-game goalless drought.
“I would buy a goal if I could have, said Niederreiter, explaining that he even changed his stick to try to climb out of his funk. “I'm glad it finally went in and it doesn't matter how. I'm happy.”
Despite missing stretches of the season due to injury and still not skating on a left leg that’s 100 percent, Niederreiter is fourth on the team in goals (16) and is approaching a significant benchmark at 20.
“Starting to trust my leg more and more,” he said. “It's definitely feeling more and more comfortable."
-The power play has been in a groove of late, registering at least a goal in four of the last five games after going a perfect 2-for-2 against the Hurricanes.
“I keep switching it up,” Boudreau said. “We don't have a No. 1 unit. Staal's unit went on first and scored. Mikko's unit went on second and scored. They are both a little bit different, so it's probably a little harder to cover than normal.”