BUFFALO, N.Y. – “You gotta believe in yourselves,” coach Bruce Boudreau told the Wild Tuesday. “You’re a good team. You’re a good team, and you’ve beaten some really good teams this year and you’ve been in every game the last 10 games. If you start believing in yourself, then good things are going to happen.”
This wasn’t the first time Boudreau relayed these words to a team.
He shared the same advice to the Capitals in 2007 when he took over Washington in November while the team was sputtering.
That group, which was 6-14-1 when Boudreau was brought on, went on to win its division and advance to the playoffs for the first time in five years.
A climb like the Capitals made is rare, but the Wild did respond to Boudreau’s message by pocketing one of its most impressive wins of the season – a 4-1 victory over the Sabres at KeyBank Center that improved the team to 2-0-1 over its last three games.
“Now if we can believe this … and if we can get a little lucky, hey we’re right back where we want to be,” Boudreau said.
The Wild had other talks throughout the day, though, that ended up setting the tone, as well.
During the morning meeting, a strong start – the best the team has had in a first period on the road all season – was the goal.
And the Wild delivered, scoring twice to take a cushion into the first intermission.
Both goals came courtesy of winger Zach Parise.
“We killed off a pretty lethal power play and capitalized ours, and we created plays,” said goalie Alex Stalock, who made 30 saves. “It’s a fun team to watch when we play fast. We make smart plays and we get the puck below the goal line, and we’re trending that way and it’s fun to see.”
After another goal in the second, the Wild was up 3-0 entering the third.
Buffalo finally got a puck behind Stalock that period, in the waning minutes, but the Wild didn’t waver after that – tacking on another insurance marker when winger Jason Zucker buried an empty-net goal.
“Eric [Staal] stepped up and said in the locker room, ‘Let’s play a veteran third period,’” Stalock said. “He said all the things that you need to do to win games on the road, and we did it honestly.”
Perhaps the most important message the Wild can send now is building off this effort.
After returning home to host the Avalanche, a Central Division rival, the Wild will head back east to start a three-game road trip Saturday in Boston – another challenging stretch, but one that could continue to dull the team’s rough October.
“Obviously, we’ve had a tough start,” Stalock said. “We’ve played on the road a lot. But ... we’ve had some games where just bounces aren’t going our way. I know it sounds like an excuse, but you look back at a lot of games and not only bounces that are costing us goals but like Zach tonight tipping pucks into the net. Maybe a week ago, that’s puck going off the bar and wide or other plays where we’re missing them by a hair they’re going in now.
“I think that’s confidence, and I think that’s a big thing. You watch the way guys are carrying themselves around the locker room and smiles on the faces, I think that goes a long way.”