VANCOUVER, British Columbia – They didn’t litter the ice with sticks and gloves in celebration, but Wild players probably felt like doing just that Monday night.
In the first game of the John Torchetti coaching era, the Wild experienced the sweet sensation of victory for the first time in 26 days. Two days after Mike Yeo was ousted as coach, the Wild ended an eight-game losing streak by playing with pace, energy and a semblance of competence for a change during a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Five different Wild — Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Fontaine, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter — got goals. Erik Haula and Ryan Suter had two assists apiece. And Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves for his first victory since Jan. 9, ending a nine-game winless streak.
“I was holding out hope that it was going to happen again,” Dubnyk said, sarcastically. “It would have been nice if it was a little sooner.”
The Wild scored its most goals in a game since Jan. 5 at Columbus. That was 17 games ago. With one win in its previous 14 games, the Wild won for the fourth time in 20 games in 2016 and moved within four points of seventh- and eighth-place Nashville and Colorado heading into Wednesday’s game in Calgary.
“To get started in the right direction, to get rewarded for hard work, all of us were excited, we were happy for each other, we were cheering each other on,” Parise said. “It made the game fun.”
Hours earlier, Torchetti said he’d be leaning on his assistants to help with matchups because he doesn’t know NHL opponents the way he knows the American Hockey League.
But Torchetti looked at ease behind the bench.
He diagramed plays, yapped in players’ ears — even veterans such as Parise — all game and inhaled smelling salt as if it was nasal spray.
“Is that different?” Torchetti said, laughing. “It’s my only superstition.”
A previous interim coach with Florida and Los Angeles, he improved to 3-0 in NHL coaching debuts.
“Just had a lot of fun. … I just enjoyed it,” Torchetti said. “It was all about them anyway though. Just enjoy the moment, play hard, just compete for each other. We got the response we wanted.”
In the first period, the Wild hounded the puck, forechecked the heck out of the struggling Canucks and outshot them 17-4.
Parise got things started by checking Matt Bartkowski off a puck, then blasting his first goal in nine games over Jacob Markstrom’s shoulder.
Chris Tanev tied the score with a power-play goal, but the Wild got a great response from Spurgeon, who got sprung by Haula en route to his first goal since Jan. 2. Spurgeon had two points in his first game back after missing three because of an oblique injury.
“In previous games, we kind of fold after getting scored on,” Coyle said.
The Wild made it 3-1 with an early second-period goal from Fontaine after a turnover forced, then set up by Haula. One of the few forwards who had been playing well the past month under Yeo, Haula has seven points in his past 11 games.
The Wild gave up a power-play goal by Henrik Sedin, but Coyle restored the two-goal lead with a power-play goal of his own — his 16th goal and sixth in the past 10 games.
It was a quality effort by the Wild, which looked motivated to impress the new coach. He promised a clean slate, and players skated like it. They moved the puck well, worked hard and, despite having to hang on late, were rewarded finally.
“From top to bottom, I thought we were on our game,” captain Mikko Koivu said.
That tailwind the Wild experienced during its flight to Calgary was one giant sigh of relief.