NASHVILLE – Mike Yeo had one question for his team Sunday morning: “How do we bounce back?”
The youngest coach in the NHL was guarding against a letdown from his super-young team after the Wild felt it deserved better than seeing its four-game winning streak wiped out the night before by Colorado.
Yeo told his players, “What we did two, three, four games ago, it’s absolutely meaningless to me. It’s how do we go out and perform this game.”
Hours later, Yeo was all smiles after the Wild breezed past the Nashville Predators, winning 4-0 at Bridgestone Arena.
“That was an unbelievable response by our guys,” Yeo said.
The Dany Heatley-Charlie Coyle-Jason Zucker line picked up where it left off against Colorado, with Coyle assisting on first-period goals by Heatley and Zucker. Matt Cooke and Marco Scandella scored third-period goals and Darcy Kuemper recorded his first career shutout for his third career victory, making 23 saves.
“It’s a pretty special feeling right now,” said Kuemper, who will start Tuesday against Ottawa. “Shutouts are always fun, and to get one at the highest level is a cool experience. They did a great job in front of me. We kept things to the outside, blocked a lot of shots and made my job very easy.”
The Wild blocked 21 shots and gave up only a handful of Grade A scoring chances. The team has won five of six and has allowed two goals during a three-game road winning streak, while playing without Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Josh Harding.
“When guys go down, you can do two things: You could feel sorry for yourself or other guys can step up, and that’s what’s happened for us,” Yeo said.
In Saturday’s loss against Colorado, Heatley set up Coyle for two goals in 40 seconds. Sunday, the Heatley-Coyle-Zucker line connected on two goals in a 2:12 span.
Twenty-six seconds after the Wild killed a Predators power play, ex-Predators defenseman Ryan Suter pressured Viktor Stalberg into a turnover at the blue line.
Heatley picked off Stalberg’s pass and fed Suter for the quick transition. Suter dished to Coyle coming at the Predators’ blue line, and he hit Heatley for the redirect tap-in and Heatley’s ninth goal.
“We heard from the bench that we had an odd-man rush,” Heatley said. “Chuckie made a great play. That was a pretty easy one.”
On the line’s next shift together, Suter won a puck battle in the defensive zone to get another transition started. Coyle, a horse all game, whiffed on a pass at center, but after angrily slapping his stick on the ice, he pressured Ryan Ellis into a turnover. That triggered a 2-on-1 and Heatley fed Zucker for his third goal in six games.
“We’ve created some chemistry in the short time we’ve been together,” Heatley said of the line.
So much has changed in one month for Heatley. On Dec. 13, Heatley, who scored two goals in the first 21 games, was demoted to the fourth line. Asked then if scratching Heatley may be inevitable, Yeo said, “I’m still hoping it’s not,” affirming such a move was at least in the Wild coach’s mind.
Weeks later, Heatley looks inspired to move back into a top-six role. Yeo feels Heatley began lifting his game when Parise was lost 10 games ago.
“By us giving him more, he’s rewarding us,” Yeo said.
Coyle, 21, enjoys playing with Heatley, who turns 33 on Jan. 21.
“I have a box of hockey cards that I bought a few years ago. He’s on the cover of it,” Coyle said, laughing. “I still have it at my [childhood] house in my room. I haven’t told him that yet. My mom reminds me every now and then.”