He's worked past a diagnosis of MS to play hockey, and a goal by Zach Parise made the Wild goalie a winner in a shutout.
Josh Harding has been a member of the Wild for nearly 11 years. But since revealing in November that he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the goaltender feels this season is like "a tryout."
He's trying to prove to himself, the club and everybody else that he can "still do what I've been doing all my life."
Sunday night against the Dallas Stars, Harding overcame the butterflies and the self-doubt and aced that initial test during an uplifting 1-0 blanking.
In front of an announced crowd of 18,296 at Xcel Energy Center, Harding made 24 saves for his seventh career shutout.
Against the former North Stars -- the team his dad, J.P., coached and played for -- Zach Parise scored his first goal in a Wild sweater as Minnesota opened the season 2-0.
"It's been a tough couple months here," said Harding, 28. "This made it all worth it. I can't thank the team enough for having my back."
Harding revealed in November that he had been diagnosed with the debilitating autoimmune disease, one in which the body randomly attacks and eats away the protective lining of the nerves. It's incurable, but doctors are treating it aggressively.
Harding disclosed the illness because he didn't want there to be distractions that could hurt the team if the diagnosis was revealed during a shortened season.
"He's an inspiration," said Stars center Eric Nystrom, Harding's former Wild teammate.
Harding thanked the entire organization, from "the top down."
"It's one of the reasons I signed back here [last summer]," said Harding, who passed up free agency for a three-year, $5.7 million contract. "This is a family. I can't say enough about each and every guy in here. They haven't treated me differently, and I didn't expect them to."
Harding is also grateful to Wild doctor Dan Peterson and neurologist Jonathan Calkwood of the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology.
"Words can't describe what they've done for me," Harding said. "I'm not kidding, I don't think I'd be here without those two guys. They've kind of saved me, and they made me believe."
Sunday morning, Wild coach Mike Yeo hoped aloud that Harding's teammates would play a "great game in front of him."
They did, limiting the Stars' chances and remedying many of the defensive scrambles they showed periodically in Saturday's season-opening victory against Colorado.
The Wild generated lots of quality chances but wasn't rewarded as much as it deserved thanks to the strong goaltending of Christopher Nilstorp, making his NHL debut at 28 years old. He made 31 saves.
And when the Wild did have a lapse, such as Ray Whitney's point-blank, shorthanded try with 70 seconds left, Harding was there.
The Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Pierre-Marc Bouchard trio, along with Clayton Stoner and Tom Gilbert, drew most of the Loui Eriksson-Derek Roy-Jaromir Jagr matchups and did a superb job.
The Wild clung to a 1-0 lead after Parise's 195th career goal 8:11 into the game. It came after Jagr held Brodziak, turning a Stars 4-on-4 into a 4-on-3 Wild power play for 1:25.
The Stars twice broke sticks, essentially turning it into a 4-on-2. Just as the power play expired, Parise took Bouchard's feed and whistled a one-timer from 45 feet.
"You ... you should score there," Parise said, laughing.
Harding didn't sleep a wink Saturday night. He was that nervous. But his first test was a success. "I can't predict the future," he said. "I can only control what goes on day to day. And I'm doing everything in my power to make sure I'm ready to go. And it was just a great feeling coming out here and backstopping the team to a win."
|NY Yankees||0||Bottom 4th Inning|
|Detroit||3||Top 4th Inning|
|Chicago Cubs||0||Top 1st Inning|
|Cincinnati - A. Simon||3:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - V. Worley|
|Minnesota - K. Gibson||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - C. Tillman|
|Philadelphia - J. Williams||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - B. Colon|
|Miami - J. Cosart||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - A. Harang|
|Boston - A. Webster||6:10 PM|
|Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi|
|Cleveland - T. Bauer||6:10 PM|
|Kansas City - J. Shields|
|Detroit - K. Ryan||6:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt|
|Texas - R. Ross Jr.||6:10 PM|
|Houston - S. Feldman|
|Colorado - T. Matzek||7:10 PM|
|Arizona - V. Nuno|
|Chicago Cubs - T. Wada||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - M. Gonzales|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke||7:40 PM|
|San Diego - I. Kennedy|
|Milwaukee - M. Fiers||8:05 PM|
|San Francisco - J. Peavy|
|Oakland - J. Samardzija||8:05 PM|
|LA Angels - C. Rasmus|
|Washington - S. Strasburg||8:10 PM|
|Seattle - R. Elias|
|Green Bay||9/4/14 7:30 PM|
|(6) Jacksonville St||7||FINAL|
|(8) Michigan State||45|
|Troy||10||3rd Qtr 9:10|
|(7) UCLA||21||3rd Qtr 7:33|
|Western Mich||14||3rd Qtr 12:15|
|(5) Ohio State||13||3rd Qtr 8:45|
|Appalachian St||7||3rd Qtr 7:12|
|Ga Southern||17||3rd Qtr 12:20|
|Boston College||2:00 PM|
|West Virginia||2:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|(10) South Dakota St||2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||2:30 PM|
|UC Davis||3:00 PM|
|(16) Clemson||4:30 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Ohio U||5:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||6:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||6:10 PM|
|(20) Kansas State|
|Fresno State||6:30 PM|
|Southern Miss||6:30 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||7:00 PM|
|North Texas||7:00 PM|
|(1) Florida State||7:00 PM|
|(14) Wisconsin||8:00 PM|
|South Dakota||9:30 PM|
|(25) Washington||9:30 PM|
|Utah State||8/31/14 6:00 PM|
|SMU||8/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Miami-Florida||9/1/14 7:00 PM|
|Arizona||9/4/14 7:00 PM|
|Pittsburgh||9/5/14 6:00 PM|
|Washington St||9/5/14 9:30 PM|
|SMU||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Fla Atlantic||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Buffalo||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(24) Missouri||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Arkansas State||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(8) McNeese State||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Central Mich||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Akron||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ill||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(20) Kansas State||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|(4) Oklahoma||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ky||9/6/14 11:00 AM|
|SC State||9/6/14 11:30 AM|
|Navy||9/6/14 12:00 PM|
|UAB||9/6/14 1:00 PM|
|South Alabama||9/6/14 1:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||9/6/14 1:00 PM|
|Colorado||9/6/14 2:00 PM|
|Fresno State||9/6/14 2:00 PM|
|(1) Eastern Wash||9/6/14 2:00 PM|
|(15) USC||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Ohio U||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Northern Ill||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Missouri State||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Ball State||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Maryland||9/6/14 2:30 PM|
|Eastern Mich||9/6/14 3:00 PM|
|Georgia Tech||9/6/14 3:00 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss||9/6/14 3:30 PM|
|Old Dominion||9/6/14 5:00 PM|
|(8) Michigan State||9/6/14 5:30 PM|
|(19) Arizona State||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|San Jose St||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|East Carolina||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|(9) So Carolina|
|Duke||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Idaho||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|(17) Sam Houston St||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|Michigan||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|(17) Notre Dame|
|Lamar||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|(21) Texas A&M|
|Northwestern St||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|BYU||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|Citadel||9/6/14 6:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|San Diego St||9/6/14 7:00 PM|
|(23) North Carolina|
|Virginia Tech||9/6/14 7:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State|
|Memphis||9/6/14 9:00 PM|
|Colorado State||9/6/14 9:15 PM|
|Air Force||9/6/14 9:15 PM|
|Oregon State||9/6/14 9:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||9/6/14 10:00 PM|
|New England||4:00 PM|
|FC Dallas||7:30 PM|
|Real Salt Lake||9:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||8/31/14 3:00 PM|
|Toronto||9/1/14 12:00 PM|
|Edmonton||9/1/14 3:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/5/14 6:30 PM|
|Calgary||9/6/14 6:00 PM|
|Hamilton||9/7/14 12:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||9/7/14 3:00 PM|