Big bounceback win tonight by the Wild as it scored three in the first and held on to beat the Ducks 3-2 to move into the top spot in the Northwest Division for the first time since Dec. 4, 2008.
As coach Mike Yeo said, the Wild won't win anything at the end of the season for being first in the division on Nov. 14, but the Wild passed a very early test here in the 2011-12 campaign.
The Wild was humiliated last night up the road in L.A. It's also smarting with a bunch of injuries (the latest being Guillaume Latendresse and Marco Scandella) and banged-up bodies.
So Mike Yeo called a meeting this morning and wanted to know how the Wild would respond.
Yeo pregame: "These are the challenges we face and this is how you become a playoff team. How do you respond to games like last night? How do you respond when things aren't going well? How do you respond when you have guys out of the lineup? To me, the biggest thing is developing a winners attitude, developing a winners culture here where you don't accept last night. We can't accept this. We can't accept that of ourselves. That's not who we are. And when you start to view yourself a certain way, when you start to believe, 'we're winners,' you do the things that winners do everyday."
Also pregame: “Maybe two weeks from now, we’ll look at this and say, ‘Thank goodness we got our butts whipped in L.A. and got reminded what we have to do night in and night out to be a successful hockey team."
Yeo said 90 minutes before the game, "I absolutely can't wait to see how we're going to respond."
This guy felt the Wild would show its character and leadership tonight, and the Wild certainly showed that in the first period where it absolutely dominated the Ducks and built a 3-0 lead on goals by Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen and Jared Spurgeon.
In L.A., the Wild was beaten to every loose puck and lost nearly every battle. That was quite the different story in the first where the Brodziak set the tone with a greasy, greasy goal. As could be expected, the Ducks persistently pressured the Wild in the last two periods. The Wild's first-period adrenaline dissipated, the Ducks were the team that was showing pride after a first-period embarrassment at home and the Wild's tired legs began to show from a long road trip and having played less than 24 hours before.
But the battle level never, ever dissipated. Players were blocked shots, skating hard, forechecking and defending.
The defensemen played really well, and Clayton Stoner put forth a pretty commendable effort considering he was thrust into a shorthanded lineup despite his disgusting finger injury not being healed. How about Prosser, who has four assists in eight games?
Yeo showed his faith in Nick Schultz and Justin Falk, then Nate Prosser and Stoner on a long 3-on-4 early in the second. Again, guys diving in front of pucks. Brodziak had a huge block tonight. So did Spurgeon and Powe that I can remember off the top of my head.
Nik Backstrom had to be strong with the Ducks all over the Wild at times, and of course, the Wild did have a lot of puck luck as Teemu Selanne rang the post twice and late in the third, several Ducks shots just slid wide.
Yeo was very happy with the Setoguchi-Koivu-Heatley line and their play in the offensive zone. Three times Yeo remembered that the top line caught tired Ducks on the ice and kept them there with play in the Ducks end.
Koivu is pressing though offensively. He has one goal this year and three times got handcuffed on one-timers. Setoguchi, too, has two goals in his past 14 games (including one overtime winner at Detroit).
Matt Cullen had a great game, scoring a pretty goal off a pretty Cal Clutterbuck feed, and Brodziak sweat all over the ice, as did his linemates, Powe and Johnson, as the three set the tone for blue-collar effort by the team.
Also the fourth line of Gillies, Peters and Staubitz supplied some real good shifts in the offensive end.
So all in all, good response after an ugly Kings loss.
"No one was happy with the game yesterday," Powe said. "We showed a lot of character coming out strong in the first period and really getting back to playing the way we want to play our game. It was good to see everyone jumping on board."
Anyway, that's it for me for a few days.
The Wild has a travel day only Monday, so unless there's news, there won't be a blog. I'm planning a story for Tuesday, and then Kent Youngblood picks up the team for the game in Columbus and practice Wednesday. I'll be back with you Thursday.
The Wild has a real opportunity now to go 3-2 on the road trip (above .500 on any NHL road trip is a good road trip) before returning home for six.
--Lastly, as reported yesterday, the Wild will reassign goalie Darcy Kuemper, who was called up for one day so he could work with goalie coach Bob Mason on the Honda Center ice on Sunday. Kuemper plays for ECHL Ontario (Calif.).