For the first time in my eight seasons as the Wild beat writer, I witnessed the Wild win in Dallas.
I’m hanging up my laptop now.
Ginormous victory in the Big D tonight as the Wild three times rallied from one-goal deficits and one time surrendered its first lead in 10 games in this rink of doom only to recover. The Wild scored a season-high seven goals on a season-high 42 shots to win 7-4 and take a W out of American Airlines Center for the first time since March 21, 2003 (16 losses ago).
“Thank God it’s over,” said Kyle Brodziak, whose fourth career shorthanded goal was the Wild’s first of the season to break a 4-4 tie with 7:22 left – 20 seconds after Mike Rupp tried to lift Ray Whitney’s stick and instead clipped him for a 4-minute power play.
Then, after Brodziak gave Minnesota a 5-4 lead, the penalty kill – like it has done so much this season – went to work and extinguished both minors en route to the Wild’s sixth consecutive regulation victory – the first time in team history the Wild’s done that. The Wild has now won 11 of 14 and is 15-5-1 in its past 21 to retake the top spot in the Northwest.
Big win because the Wild figured out a way to win in a game Niklas Backstrom clearly wasn’t at his best. He gave up some cheesy ones, but hours after getting NHL Second Star of the Week honors, Backstrom found a way to leave a winner thanks to some big saves on that third-period PK.
“It was a funny game for him too I think,” said coach Mike Yeo. “At the end of the day, he won. That’s what it’s all about.”
Backstrom is 14-3-1 in his past 18 (You can read Backstrom’s quotes in the gamer, and there are some other real good ones in there as well on www.startribune.com/wild).
Frankly though, Backstrom doesn’t play well in this building. I’d start him at home Wednesday vs. Phoenix and leave him home Friday to rest up for Saturday’s home game vs. Los Angeles. Why travel him? You can start rookies Matt Hackett or Darcy Kuemper in Dallas on Friday. Backstrom deserves the rest. He’s been that good in starting 15 of 16. He is tied for the NHL lead with 17 wins. You have backups for a reason.
By the way, as an aside because that’s the way my mind works, the Wild left its road whites and a ton of equipment here in Dallas instead of bringing it back to Minnesota. (As a friend of mine would sarcastically say, good story, tell it again).
Zach Parise scored two goals and an assist and had five shots. Mikko Koivu had a goal and assist on six shots and won 10 of 16 draws. Parise, who has a team-best 14 goals, was great on their chemistry, and I’ll put that in the follow for Wednesday’s paper because the Wild isn’t practicing Tuesday. Koivu and Parise have combined for 31 points the past 14 games.
Matt Cullen became the 37th American and ninth Minnesotan to score 200 goals. The 36-year-old also had an assist. Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also had a goal and assist, Cal Clutterbuck brushed off a broken leg (kinda, sorta, OK not really) for two assists (created the Brodziak winner) and defense partners Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon each had two assists and were plus-5’s – tying Todd White’s team record and setting a team record for defensemen.
Dany Heatley iced it with a goal the way the Wild scored all night – attacking the net.
“I love the way that we’re scoring goals,” Yeo said. “Obviously there’s skill involved. But it’s matching our identity that we’re a hard team. We’re physical. We defend hard. Offensively we’re going to be hard the way we get to the net and wear on teams.”
Cue Yeo: “Just real impressed with our guys to stick with it. It was one of those feelings at least behind the bench that you were like, ‘oh man, is this not our night.’ It felt like things weren’t bouncing our way even just giving the history in here. But they found a way to win.”
Yeo ain’t kidding. Parise had one sure-looking goal bounce off Derek Roy’s stick. Before Parise’s second-period goal, it looked like Brenden Dillon put one into his own net, but video review couldn’t find evidence it went in.
“I give them credit all game long continuing to push forward and stay with it and finding way,” Yeo said.
Yeo on not having to answer questions on The Streak before Friday’s game here: “Really glad. Are we done with this?”
Koivu on the game: “Usually when it’s fun to watch, it’s not the type of game you want, especially on the road.”
But as Koivu and then Parise said, “Every time they scored, we responded.”
Love this quote on Antoine Roussel from Mike Rupp (Rupp got a misconduct after the double minor on Whitney when he came together with Roussel and he fell: “Lot of smoke and mirrors with that No. 60. Where I’m from you don’t lay on the ice unless you’re hurt.”
Heck of an effort by Clutterbuck, who couldn’t put any weight on his right leg as he skated off the ice following a violent first-period collision with the net. He returned in the second to assist on two goals. He still was limping badly after the game.
Lastly, here’s some tweets on the game from @mnwildpr (PR stalwart Ryan Stanzel):
Wild with 1st 7 goal outing since 8-4 W 4/10/09 vs NSH. Last time w 7 on road was 11/16/06 in SO win at NSH...
2nd time in team history with 7 goals in regulation on road, 3/25/04 at CHI an 8-2 win
Wild just the 4th team to score 7 goals in Dallas since 1997-98 season. Chicago did it March 16 of this season
4th all-time Wild win streak of 6-plus games. 1st time w 6 straight in regulation. Team record is 9 wins (3/8-3/24/07)
Wild has 5 straight road wins - 2 off team record. 4 straight in regulation on road ties team record
Stoner/Spurgeon join Salo/Gonchar as lone nhl players at +5 this ssn. 1st teammates at +5 in 1 game since EDM Peckham/Petry vs CHI 11/19/11
Wild had combined to score 7 goals in last 5 trips to North Texas
2nd win for Backstrom since Dec '09 when allowing 4+ goals. Other came 9 days ago in Denver
OK, that’s it for me. Wild doesn’t practice Tuesday. My editor, Chris Miller is covering Wednesday’s 8 p.m. game for moi. Treat him nice. Follow him on Twitter at @cmillstrib. Kent Youngblood has Thursday’s practice and I’ll be back with ya Friday from Dallas.
I plan to make my Sunday column another blog Q and A where you can ask me some questions and I’ll answer those selected in my Sunday column. Look for that blog to enter questions sometime Wednesday.
Anyway, crazy night. Wild win in Dallas for the first time since 2003 and James Sheppard scored his first NHL goal since 2009.
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