CALGARY, ALBERTA – The good news is when you take care of your own business, you don’t have to scoreboard watch.
The Wild did just that Monday night, patching up some recent bleeding by edging the Calgary Flames 4-3 at the Saddledome.
Jason Pominville scored two goals and Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard added one each as the Wild, which has won three times in the past 10 games and had scored only eight goals in the previous seven games, moved into sixth place in the Western Conference with 49 points.
Things got tense late when Minnesota survived nearly coughing up a 4-1 lead.
“It’s nice to put a few pucks in the net,” said Matt Cullen, who returned to the lineup and assisted on Pominville’s eventual winner. “It definitely wasn’t pretty [late]. We’ve got to tighten up and be a little better at closing out those games.
“But right now a win is so big for us. Those two points are huge.”
The Wild, trying not to pay attention to the handful of teams chasing it in the West, got some help when Dallas and Phoenix both lost. Minnesota still remains two points up on ninth place, though, because Columbus rallied late to beat Colorado in overtime.
“We all know, every player knows, that it’s big games, but you can’t look what’s out there,” said Koivu, who won 18 of 25 faceoffs (including nine of 11 in the third period) and scored his 118th career goal — one from tying Andrew Brunette for second in team history. “But you’ve got to stay in the moment. We did a good job of that.”
The Wild saw its 2-0 lead cut in half by Jiri Hudler’s goal early in the third period. At the same time, Jason Zucker had a skate issue and Charlie Coyle was back in the trainer’s room having his tongue stitched from a high stick.
Coach Mike Yeo was down to 10 forwards, so he “rolled the dice,” felt Bouchard “was going” and reunited him with Cullen and Devin Setoguchi.
Ten seconds after Hudler’s goal, Setoguchi sent Bouchard in and he squeezed a shot through Joey MacDonald’s legs. Just 1:13 later, Cullen set up Pominville’s fourth goal in six games since being acquired from Buffalo.
“That was a big response,” said Yeo, the goals coming after a dominant middle frame by the Wild, which outshot Calgary 12-3. “The second period, for me, is what set it up.”
The Flames made it scary in the end when Ben Hanowski, a St. Cloud State Huskies forward until last week, scored his first NHL goal in his first game and Sven Baertschi scored with 39 seconds left. But the Wild survived.
“We always seem to make it a little tougher than we need to, but I guess it’s exciting for the fans,” joked defenseman Ryan Suter, who assisted on Pominville’s first goal and was plus-3.
The Flames are a gritty team with slew of young kids trying to make a good impression on management. They have embraced the spoiler role.
That’s why Koivu scoring 2:17 in was just what the doctor ordered. It came off Zach Parise’s rebound but after Coyle won a race and puck battle.
Cullen looked good in his return from six games off and showed his leadership often by talking Zucker through one of his tougher games in the NHL.
“He certainly makes our team stronger,” Yeo said of Cullen, adding, “It didn’t look like he missed any time. He’s still really fast. That’s good.”