EDMONTON, Alberta — The power play started to show signs of a resurgence last Saturday, just after the Wild nixed the all-lefty unit.
Right shot Charlie Coyle subbed in for winger Nino Niederreiter and when the change opened up a new look, center Eric Staal found himself in the slot – where he scored, snapping a 0-for-14 funk for the unit.
Ever since then, the Wild has stuck with this tweak and by Tuesday, it ignited a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Oilers at Rogers Place.
“It just felt better for our setup,” Staal said. “I'm not [Alex] Ovechkin. I'm not [Patrick] Laine. To be able to be on that side on the outside one-timer, it's a tough play. I think I'm better suited as a guy around the puck. I like to be around it. I like to have the touches.
“Obviously, rebounds and tips is a little bit more of my game – not that I can't do it. I just think the way that we're set up I'm better suited there.”
Not only did Staal score again from that spot Tuesday, deflecting a Ryan Suter shot in from the slot late in the second period, but he also fed the puck to winger Mikael Granlund before reporting back to the middle and acting as net-front pressure while Granlund wired a shot in from the right side – the decisive goal late in the third.
It was well-timed improvement from the power play, as it went a perfect 3-for-3 after blowing most of its looks Monday (1-for-5) in a 5-2 loss to the Canucks.
Staal acknowledged the unit is still a work in progress, as players are still getting comfortable with each other and the overall scheme. But a performance like this could be just the spark the group needed – validation that it’s heading in the right direction.
“We just need to keep going, keep shooting and keep getting those chances,” Granlund said.
This was the Wild’s sixth win when falling behind first, a resiliency that disappeared Monday but resurfaced in time to bank the team’s second road victory of the season.
“You don't want to give up the lead or give up the first goal,” Staal said. “It happens. You've just got to keep playing. The good thing is that we believe in each other, we believe that we can continue to come back and play. Tonight was about gutting it out. It felt like we deserved to win tonight.”
Winger Nino Niederreiter was one of the reasons why; although he still has yet to score this season, he tallied a pair of assists and was on the ice in the waning seconds – preserving the lead by tying up the puck along the boards.
Coach Bruce Boudreau called it Niederreiter’s best game.
“I was really happy,” Boudreau said. “I was hoping he would score an empty-netter, but he gets two assists. The other things will come because he works hard.”
The Wild may have looked like longshots to snag two points Tuesday, what with the Oilers in a groove having won their previous three games. They were also rested, while the Wild was finishing off a back-to-back.
But the second half of these tough tests seem to suit the team; it’s now 3-0 in those situations.
“I guess we’re in great shape, or we know we’re in great shape – I don’t know,” said goalie Alex Stalock, who made 34 saves against the Oilers. “But to come back like that on the road against a pretty fast team that’s speedy, that says a lot about this group.”