After a five-goal collapse in Calgary 10 days ago, the team was determined to get back on track and end a five-game winless streak.
The adage is that the worst lead in hockey is a two-goal lead.
That's not true if you're the Wild.
The worst lead in hockey is a three-goal lead to the Calgary Flames, which is why the Wild waited until the final minute Saturday night to tack that final marker on to a big bounceback 4-1 victory over the rival Flames.
In impressive style, the Wild did exactly what coach Jacques Lemaire ordered during a Friday meeting -- played 60 minutes of solid, hard-working hockey. It ended a five-game winless streak behind two goals from a heating-up Marian Gaborik.
Fans were so ecstatic in the final minutes, the Wave actually circled the jacked-up Xcel Energy Center.
"I felt pretty good, but most importantly, after five games lost, we came back and battled hard and won this game," said Gaborik, who notched the 21st three-point game of his career despite linemate Pavol Demitra being lost again in the second period because of a leg injury. "Last game in Calgary, we blew a 3-0 lead. This is kind of revenge."
Ten days ago in Calgary, the Wild lost its first regulation game in unprecedented fashion -- blowing a three-goal lead for the first time in franchise history. Niklas Backstrom was in net for all five goals, and after missing time because of a groin injury, he badly wanted back in the cage so he could make amends.
He did just that, stopping 23 shots, several with the game on the line.
"We finished the game the same way we started the game," Backstrom said. "That's a big step for us. Now we have to do that every night."
Miikka Kiprusoff entered with a 14-4-3 all-time record against the Wild. It looked as if it would be another long night when the goalie robbed Branko Radivojevic 26 seconds in off a two-on-one.
But seconds after a power play, Brian Rolston scored through a Mark Parrish screen 2:28 in after Gaborik shook off two checks.
The Wild had more scoring chances than actual shots (five) in the period, but Backstrom made nine saves, two stellar ones on a Dion Phaneuf deflected shot and an Eric Nystrom point-blanker.
In the second, seldom-used defenseman Keith Carney made a spectacular defensive play during a horrendous Wild line change.
Carney negated a four-on-two Flames rush by sliding into Kristian Huselius' path as he tried to scout out a passing option. Carney swallowed the puck, James Sheppard picked it up and, with Gaborik cherry-picking at the opposite blue line, connected as Gaborik's back was facing Kiprusoff.
With flat-footed Robyn Regehr on his tail, Gaborik turned, sped in on a breakaway and scored.
"Desperation play," Carney said. "Good play all the way around."
Lemaire didn't remember Carney's play because of a chaotic scene of scrambling players by the Wild bench.
"We made a couple changes like that and got lucky on them," Lemaire said.
Jarome Iginla, who routinely munches the Wild, scored his nightly goal on a nifty redirection with 38 seconds left in the second, but the Oct. 24 collapse never resurfaced in the third.
Gaborik scored again on a power play, and Radivojevic scored an empty-netter.
"We talked about having to come back and have a great third period, and I think we did that," Gaborik said.
Added Rolston: "What happened in Calgary isn't going to happen to us all year. We have enough guys in here to make plays. We're a stronger team than that mentally."
|New England||2/1/15 5:30 PM|
|William & Mary||100|
|South Dakota St||86|
|San Jose St||52|
|San Jose St||80||FINAL|
|San Diego State||50||FINAL|