With little left in the season to play for, the Wild's mantra the past week has been to play for "pride," for the logo in front of the sweater and for jobs next year.
Yeah, playing out the string isn't particularly fun.
Well, Monday night, the Wild, a team beaten to an emotional pulp the past two months, a team whose players have said they're "embarrassed," worked impressively, did the little things all over the ice and gave its paying fans something to cheer about for a change as it upset the Northwest Division-leading Vancouver Canucks, 2-0.
"It's a lot different feeling getting cheered off the ice," said Kyle Brodziak, who scored a 140-foot empty-netter and assisted on Erik Christensen's winning goal. "That one, we deserved for sure. It just feels good to play a full 60-minute game, do the things that we've been talking about doing for so long.
"It's definitely a feeling that we missed."
The Wild won for the 10th time in 42 games (10-25-7), for the third time in the past 13 home games and for the first time at home since Feb. 26.
Josh Harding, injured March 8 and, like his team, having trouble racking up wins for three months, made 33 saves for his first victory since Jan. 21 and sixth career shutout. He had been 2-8-3 in his previous 15 appearances with a 3.33 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.
Harding credited his teammates, but coach Mike Yeo felt Harding sent them a message 27 seconds in that he was there to play when he gloved down a Chris Higgins snipe.
"It breeds confidence," Yeo said.
The Wild had been scored on first in 11 of the previous 12 games, and usually before it had a chance to drip a bead of sweat, so Harding's sharpness early provided a big lift. Plus, Yeo felt the Wild's preparedness was rock-solid.
"We didn't win the game before the puck was dropped, but we put ourselves in position to," Yeo said. "It's real easy to prepare when things are going well. When things are not going well, it becomes increasingly difficult."
The Wild played with that pack-of-wolves mentality Yeo talks about so often, jumping to Dany Heatley's defense when Alex Burrows retaliated for Heatley's first-period check on Daniel Sedin. Brodziak and Nick Johnson rushed to Heatley's aid, and the Wild drew a power play.
"Those sort of plays get overlooked," Christensen said of Heatley, who played physically against Sedin, whose seven-game point streak against the Wild stopped. "We get a power play out of it."
And the heating-up Christensen, who went 15 games to start his Wild career without a point, scored his fourth goal in four games. All five skaters touched the puck and Brodziak sent Christsensen a no-look, backhanded pass through the crease.
It was Christensen who also helped turned the momentum of the period when, on his previous shift, he hustled all over the Canucks' end and forced Dan Hamhuis into a turnover with a big hit.
It was a Grade A example of doing the little things, something Yeo always harps about, can win and lose games. Little things, such as when Tom Gilbert blocked Sedin's open-net attempt; when Jed Ortmeyer broke up a one-time possibility; when Marco Scandella blocked Alex Edler's shot.
"The pucks do hurt when you're blocking them, but to get a feeling like this after the game, I guarantee everyone that blocked a shot will tell you it's worth it," Brodziak said.
"Until you're mathematically eliminated, you're still going to battle for that playoff spot, but at the end of the day, no matter what situation we're in, we want to feel good about the effort that we bring every night."