EDMONTON, ALBERTA – One streak expired Monday for the Wild, as the team fell to the Canucks after stringing together five consecutive wins, but another managed to persevere.
Winger Mikael Granlund tallied an assist in the 5-2 setback, the eighth straight game he’s managed at least a point — a productive start to the season that’s highlighted how integral he’s been to the Wild’s offense.
On Tuesday night, he extended that streak to nine games, sniping the game-winning goal in the third period over the shoulder of Edmonton Oilers keeper Cam Talbot in the team’s 4-3 victory.
“He’s skating, and he’s handling the puck,” coach Bruce Boudreau said before Tuesday night’s game against the Oilers. “When Granny’s handling the puck and he’s skating, he’s a very dynamic player. When he gets in trouble, it’s like a lot of our players — they make plays standing still. This is such a good, skating league now [that] you can’t make plays standing still.”
Granlund set up defenseman Ryan Suter’s power-play tally in the second period, his 10th point of this run — which tied for the second-longest active streak in the NHL.
His contributions have been evenly split, with five goals and five assists in that span. Granlund’s five goals through 11 games were the most on the Wild.
Since he’s the playmaker on the first power-play unit and a top-six fixture, it makes sense that he’s involved in the scoring regularly — either as the architect or the finisher.
But it’s not just his speed that’s been fueling the offense Granlund has sparked; vision and work ethic have also been key in his eyes.
“It feels like the game slows down when you really start feeling better,” Granlund said. “It’s just hard work and finding those spots.”
Scoring his first career regular-season goal wasn’t the only evidence Monday that rookie Jordan Greenway returned to the Wild lineup after a two-game detour to the minors with improved confidence.
He also put a season-high three shots on net.
“It was definitely a focus of mine coming into the game,” Greenway said. “I really wanted to get pucks to the net, go to the net just like I did last couple days ago now [with Iowa in the American Hockey League]. Worked out for me. It’s been working out, so I’m going to keep doing it.”
What was also an encouraging sign for the 6-6, 227-pound forward is where he capitalized — burying a loose puck just outside the top of the crease.
“Being a bigger body, it’s a little easier for me to get there, to the dirty areas,” Greenway explained. “That’s pretty much my spot, where I’m going to earn the money, and so that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”
After Greenway scored, defenseman Jared Spurgeon scooped up the puck for Greenway to keep.
“I’ll probably put it in a frame,” he said.
Tardy for puck drop
The loss to the Canucks was the eighth time over the previous nine games that the Wild was tagged for the first goal, and the team is brainstorming for solutions to these early deficits.
“I just keep talking about it and if they’re doing something and they find they’re not getting ready to do something different — whatever that something is right now,” Boudreau said. “I told them if it’s something that I’m saying at this point that’s not getting through or we’re not doing a good enough job in the morning skates, let us know because you gotta start work on time.”
Although the power play did chip in a goal against the Canucks, the unit still struggled to deliver — blanking on four other tries, including 3 minutes, 20 seconds of a double-minor.
Ten shots on goal during the man advantage was a positive sign, but Boudreau is focused on results, not progress.
“You can look at it two ways,” he said. “The [glass] half-full way is that we’ve had good looks, good chances, especially when we have a double minor when we’re tied at that point. As long as you keep getting chances, they say that’s what you want to do. Or you can look at the other way with the glass half-empty and say, ‘We gotta find a way to score, and we’ve got to make the power play a weapon and not just something that goes out there.’
“I’m probably not as positive on the outlook. It’s glass half-empty for me. We gotta get it done no matter what.”