DETROIT – If the Wild’s not careful, it’s going to start making believers out of everyone.
Just like Rogers Arena in Vancouver hadn’t been friendly to the Wild, neither has Joe Louis Arena. In 23 games at the Joe, the Wild had been outscored 90-50, outshot 852-500. It hadn’t won in regulation along the Detroit River since 2006.
But Wednesday night, two nights after breaking an 11-game winless streak in Vancouver, the Northwest Division-leading Wild knocked off the Red Wings 4-2 on national TV, capping a convincing 3-for-3 road trip.
“I give our guys a ton of credit. I felt tired today,” coach Mike Yeo said. “That was difficult travel [Tuesday], that was a long trip, and they put a lot into the game. It was very impressive.
“I think we’re confident going into any building now. I think we’re a different team right now.”
Wild players have such a strut in their step, perhaps they’ll even soon exorcise the demons that lurk in Dallas, where the Wild has lost 16 in a row since 2003. It has two cracks there next week.
The Wild, 13-5-1 since Feb. 9, has won four in a row and nine of its past 12 and continues to march up the standings with the hope of ending a four-year playoff drought.
“We expect to win now,” said Ryan Suter, the second-leading scoring defenseman in the NHL with 24 points. “Early on we might not have expected it. Now we expect to win.”
After Niklas Backstrom supplied a 17-for-17 backbone in the first period, the Wild erupted in a three-goal second. Blazing-hot Devin Setoguchi scored his second of the game, and Mikko Koivu and Kyle Brodziak each scored goals.
Setoguchi didn’t score a goal in the first 10 games. He was scrutinized to pieces. Trade rumors swirled. All of that has disappeared now that he has 11 goals in the past 19 games and shares the goal-scoring lead with Zach Parise.
“It’s just nice to keep going, keep contributing,” Setoguchi said. “But it’s everyone.”
Backstrom, starting his ninth consecutive game, made a season-high 36 saves. He is 12-3-1 in his past 16 starts and is tied with Montreal’s Carey Price for second in the NHL with 15 wins.
“Maybe in the beginning, we looked at the scoreboard too much,” Backstrom said. “Now it doesn’t matter. We score, they score. We just keep playing our game, doing our thing, doing the details right, doing the small things right. When you do that, everything falls into place.”
For the eighth time in nine games, the Wild scored first, engineered again by the Setoguchi-Matt Cullen tandem with Pierre-Marc Bouchard as the bookend.
Quick transition, great wall play and Cullen’s setup in the slot resulted in Setoguchi’s goal.
The Wild then killed two minors and caught a break when referee Dave Jackson waved off a Red Wings goal — ruling Drew Miller first played the puck with a high stick.
It was all Minnesota in the second. Niklas Kronwall caught Charlie Coyle with his head down and was assessed four minutes for high-sticking on a play that looked more like a check to the head that may be subject to league discipline.
“Woke me right up,” Coyle said.
On the second power play, Jared Spurgeon set up Brodziak’s fifth goal. Then, 1:40 after Gustav Nyquist cut the Wild’s lead in half, Koivu made it 3-1 with his seventh goal after Coyle triggered a 2-on-1 between Jonas Brodin and Parise.
Late in the period on another power play, Setoguchi read Bouchard, drove the net and was in perfect position to pop in Dany Heatley’s rebound for his 18th point in 19 games. Bouchard has three multi-point games in a row.
“Right now we’ve got our identity filled out, and we know what we’re doing and we’re kind of riding it,” Setoguchi said.