DALLAS – The Wild should just fast forward to the parade right now. It’s one thing to win in Vancouver and Detroit.
American Airlines Center has been a pall hanging over the Wild’s tormented heads for 10 years. But Monday night, for the first time in 3,657 days, the Wild skated off that cursed ice as actual 7-4 victors over the former North Stars.
“The Streak” is dead.
The Wild, which won its sixth consecutive regulation game for the first time in history, won in Dallas for the first time since March 21, 2003, to end a 16-game winless streak. That’s two lockouts ago. Jonas Brodin was 9. Mike Yeo had a full head of hair.
OK, not quite. “I was still in denial,” the Wild coach joked.
“I’ve heard the last four buildings we’ve been in haven’t been good buildings. I’m wondering what happened before,” first-year Wild forward Zach Parise, laughing, said after his two-goal, three-point performance. “We’re overcoming some demons this year ... And that’s good.”
After the Wild surrendered a one-goal lead in the third period, Kyle Brodziak scored Minnesota’s first shorthanded goal of the season for the eventual winner with 7 minutes, 22 second left. Brodziak’s fourth career shortie, followed by a tremendous penalty kill by him and his teammates, bailed out Mike Rupp. The veteran winger tried to lift Ray Whitney’s stick but instead clipped Whitney for a four-minute high-sticking penalty 20 seconds before.
“I dodged a bullet. I owe [Brodziak] dinner. Stupid play by me,” Rupp said, smiling.
“He doesn’t owe me anything,” Brodziak said. “He does enough for guys around here.”
Dany Heatley and Pierre-Marc Bouchard iced it late as the Wild, which had season-high totals in goals and shots (42), improved to 15-5-1 in its past 21 to move back into the Northwest Division lead.
“I bet the fans, they loved the game. I don’t think the goalies liked it,” joked Niklas Backstrom.
In a contagious effort, the Wild was relentless around the net. Parise and Koivu combined for 11 shots, with Koivu scoring a goal and assist. Brodziak, Bouchard and Matt Cullen did the same, with Cullen’s goal being the Wild’s eldest statesman’s 200th career goal. Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon were each plus-5, a team record for defensemen.
The Wild fell behind by one goal three times until Cullen scored late in the second for Minnesota’s first lead in Dallas in 10 games (Feb. 6, 2007).
“It shows a lot the way we responded,” Koivu said. “We were down a lot of times and bounced back.”
Backstrom made 22 saves but struggled until making some clutch saves on that third-period double minor. Hours before starting for the 15th time in 16 games, Backstrom was honored as the NHL Second Star of the Week.
“Today wasn’t my best game. I have to be better,” said Backstrom, 14-3-1 in his past 18. “A win is win. You take that, and for sure, from this building.”
The Wild had scored seven goals total in its past five visits to Texas, but after Philip Larsen tied the score 7:02 into the third, it looked like pain again.
That was until Brodziak struck. Stoner caused a turnover in the neutral zone, and Cal Clutterbuck, who hurt his right leg in the first period and was limping badly after the game, drove the net hard. Kari Lehtonen dropped the shot, but Brodziak scored the streak-buster.
“Thank God it’s over,” Brodziak said.
The victory came after the Wild ended an 11-game drought in Vancouver and won in regulation in Detroit for the first time in seven years.
“Our guys are out to make a statement that this is a different team and a different time,” Yeo said.