A newly confident Minnesota looked in control at all times, even when the game was scoreless.
Things didn't come as easily for the Wild on Saturday night as they did two nights earlier against the Vancouver Canucks.
Wild players had to work for everything they got against the St. Louis Blues. They had to sacrifice bodies to make a play, take a punch to draw a penalty.
But in a tight-checking, fast-paced game that seemed to be in the Wild's control even when it was scoreless, the Wild rode another complete four-line, six-defensemen effort and terrific Josh Harding goaltending en route to a 2-1 victory at Xcel Energy Center.
Sitting at 3-3-3 seven nights ago, the Wild has won four in a row since and has done a complete 180 in the confidence/buy-in department. The battle level? That's never been an issue.
"We were great tonight the way we battled," said Harding, who made 30 saves and was in net for each of the victories. "It's not an easy team to play against. They come at you every shift. ... The battle level was awesome tonight."
Harding's shutout bid was ruined by Jamie Langenbrunner with 2:02 left, but he didn't care. Dany Heatley and Guillaume Latendresse scored second-period goals to help the Wild remain fourth in the West as it embarks on a five-game road trip.
"St. Louis came here with a sense of urgency, but what made the difference, everybody's working hard and everybody's ready to go," said Latendresse, who scored the winner. "It's so fun to play those kind of games when both teams are working hard."
The Wild's game plan was to get pucks deep and grind down the Blues, who played the night before in St. Louis. It worked. The Blues clearly began to fatigue, and frustration set in late with several skirmishes.
"Their way to say we were good was to try to fight us," Latendresse said. "Everybody stood together. Start of third period, [David Backes] comes after me, gets a four-minute, we get a power play. We'll take that every day."
Three seconds into the third, the Blues had six men in the penalty box, the Wild five.
A poker game could have broken out.
"It was tight in there," Latendresse said.
"Poor Stauby, he almost got on the power play," coach Mike Yeo joked, referring to fourth-liner Brad Staubitz.
The Wild opened the scoring midway through the second when Heatley completed Mikko Koivu's 2-on-1 pass for his fourth goal. The play started at the other end when rookie defenseman Nate Prosser blocked Jason Arnott's blast right on the laces.
In pain, Prosser limped to the bench when Heatley scored. As the horn sounded, Prosser took a detour to celebrate -- and ensure the off-ice officials spotted who should get one of the most deserved second assists and plus-1's of the Wild season.
"Our guys have been paying a price for each other," Yeo said.
Added Prosser, "It feels so good to get into a winning locker room like this."
Harding and the Wild's penalty killers, who have extinguished 14 consecutive power plays in the win streak, took care of consecutive Blues power plays before Latendresse stretched the Wild's lead with 1:18 left to two. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo intercepted Heatley's dump-in, bobbled the puck and passed it right to Latendresse. Latendresse broke away, and for a second game in a row he buried a sickly slick backhander.
"We're going into our toughest stretch right now -- five games on the road against really tough teams," Latendresse said. "We have to bring that game on the road and try to bring that every night."
|Atlanta - LP: A. Wood||0||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - WP: A. Bastardo||1|
|Cleveland - LP: D. Salazar||5||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: J. Verlander||7|
|Toronto - LP: R. Dickey||0||FINAL|
|Minnesota - WP: K. Gibson||7|
|Seattle - LP: J. Beimel||6||FINAL|
|Texas - WP: P. Figueroa||8|
|Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu||2||FINAL|
|San Francisco - LP: M. Bumgarner||1|
|Colorado - WP: F. Morales||3||FINAL|
|San Diego - LP: I. Kennedy||1|
|St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright||8||FINAL|
|Washington - LP: T. Jordan||0|
|Milwaukee - LP: R. Wooten||2||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez||11|
|NY Yankees - WP: C. Sabathia||10||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - LP: D. Price||2|
|Toronto - LP: S. Santos||5||FINAL|
|Minnesota - WP: C. Fien||9|
|Boston - WP: J. Lester||3||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - LP: R. Belisario||1|
|Kansas City - WP: J. Shields||5||FINAL|
|Houston - LP: S. Feldman||1|