After sitting out Friday, Branko Radivojevic knew what he had to do: Get back to the basics. It appears that's what the rest of the Wild did too.
Minnesota Wild goalie Nicklas Backstrom (32), of Finland, blocks a shot as Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) closes in during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007. Backstrom made 40 saves as the Wild won 4-3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
NASHVILLE Branko Radivojevic knows the Wild is watching. He knows that he is among those the team wants more from; that time and patience might be running out.
Radivojevic knows all of that.
So when he was standing there near the end of Saturday's game in Nashville, moments after scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory over the Predators, he was thinking:
"This feels great, especially for my confidence," said Radivojevic, whose slapshot from the right circle beat Chris Mason high at 18:07 of the third period to win the game. It was his second goal of the season, his first that wasn't into an empty net. And it came one game after he was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
Finally. Radivojevic is a member of a group of players the Wild wants more from. Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough went so far as to go out and claim Todd Fedoruk off waivers, sending a clear message.
Message received. As Radivojevic was sitting in a suit watching the Wild's game Friday night, he got to thinking.
"I said to myself, 'I have to start from the beginning,'" he said. "I had to make sure I did all the right things: hit, work hard. I felt if I did that, good things would happen."
Radivojevic wasn't the only one put on notice, and he wasn't the only one to respond. The line of James Sheppard, Aaron Voros and Matt Foy was on the ice for two goals. Voros scored his third goal in eight games to start the game's scoring, and Foy had his second two-point game in a week, scoring a goal late in the first period that tied the game 2-2.
"I felt we played hard," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "All the guys played hard. It was good to see them when they do have a challenge, to step up and play better. You know, we've been having some tough bounces lately, and even tonight, at a time, it looked like we'd go back to the old games we've played. But the guys kept working. That's probably the reason why we got the last goal and won the game."
That the Wild won for just the second time in five games -- and did it on the road -- is remarkable when you consider there were stretches when the team didn't play very well.
But the Wild kept working. Especially Radivojevic. And it finally paid off. Dominic Moore brought the puck into the neutral zone, then fed a puck to the right wing, where Radivojevic was motoring. He took the puck at the blue line, took a couple of strides and let go with the game-winner, high.
"It's been tough, you know. You go to sit in the stands [as a healthy scratch], and you think about the games. I am really glad I scored that goal today. Finally, one went in. It felt good, obviously."
That was a feeling shared by everybody. The Wild needed this one. And Lemaire had tried just about everything to make it happen.
Kent Youngblood email@example.com
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