Wild coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t sure this outcome was possible.
His team was faced with a pair of back-to-backs, at the start and end of the week, and the second games of each test worried him.
“It was really daunting,” he said.
But when the team wrapped the four-game, six-night crunch Saturday, it had pocketed six out of a possible eight points after a feel-good 5-4 overtime win over the Lightning at Xcel Energy Center.
“You look at the schedule at the beginning of the week, and there are two back-to-backs and late travel,” goalie Alex Stalock said. “To come out of it the way we did I think any team in this league would take that.”
The 2-1 rally against the Coyotes Tuesday felt methodical; same with the 3-1 comeback Friday in Dallas. But the Wild’s effort against the Lightning was resilient; it twice fell behind by a pair of goals and even after surrendering the tying goal late in the third after it finally nabbed a lead, the team persevered in overtime on a goal from winger Mikael Granlund that was helped set up by Stalock.
“He's got to be up there as one of the best in the league with how he plays the puck,” said winger Marcus Foligno, who tallied his first goal of the season. “He can rifle a puck, too. It just helps. You saw guys passing to him, too. He's just another option. It's almost like a 4-on-3, especially in our zone. That's huge. He just creates so much more opportunities to beat a team in overtime.”
Had the Wild sagged against the Lightning or slipped up in any of its other wins during the week, its upcoming four-day break in the schedule could have felt like an eternity.
Instead, the team will be able to bank some much-needed rest and prepare for another grind – with four more in six days coming up when it resumes play Thursday.
“Tough week, and we got three wins and in Nashville we played a good game,” Granlund said. “We’re on the right path here. Really impressed.”
Cutting back on penalties might be one of the messages the coaching staff reminds the players of during this upcoming pause to practice.
The Wild was dinged five times Saturday, with the Lightning capitalizing once. Two penalties were charged to center Eric Fehr.
“They were two penalties that were penalties, and it’s tough when we lose him because he goes out on the first faceoff on the penalty,” Boudreau said. “But I much prefer a guy that’s really active and engaged in the game and playing with a little chip on his shoulder than a guy who’s sort of laid back waiting for things to happen.”
Despite the penalty trouble, Fehr’s fourth line was impactful – with Foligno’s goal highlighting its contributions. The third line also delivered on a first-period tally from center Charlie Coyle.
“It was really nice to see a goal come from the other lines,” Boudreau said. “That’s paramount in my book because if you don’t have four lines that are participating in the scoring over the course of the year, then it’s really difficult to succeed.”
Before it hits the practice ice, the Wild will have two days off – the first time Boudreau has given the team consecutive days off during his tenure behind the bench in Minnesota, he said.
“It was almost cancelled,” Boudreau said. “ … [But] when they came back, I thought it’d be pretty hard not to follow through on what I wanted to do.”