Before Sunday’s game against Colorado, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was in no mood to sugarcoat his feelings. Still smarting from a shutout loss at Nashville on Saturday — one he said left him with “a lot to be disappointed in” — he spoke bluntly about the Wild’s need to get moving in the right direction as the playoffs approach.
“We’ve got to go out there and win a game,” he said. “If we’re not ready to play, then we’re in trouble.”
This time, the Wild didn’t leave Boudreau wanting. It beat the Avalanche 5-2 at Xcel Energy Center, getting goals from five players and 30 saves from Devan Dubnyk.
The Wild got the swift start Boudreau wanted to see, riding a crisp, assertive offense and sound team defense to a 3-1 first-period lead on goals from Martin Hanzal, Jared Spurgeon and Erik Haula. Zach Parise and Jordan Schroeder added goals in the second period. Dubnyk, who sat out the past two games to rest, surrendered the Avs’ only goals on a 2-on-1 and a breakaway.
With his team getting back to its strengths, Boudreau looked like a different man in the postgame news conference. The fact that it defeated the woebegone Avalanche, the worst team in the NHL, didn’t minimize his delight in the Wild’s second victory in three games.
“I thought it was a great response to the last game, to come out like that,” Boudreau said. “No matter what the standings say, I thought that was really good.
“I thought we started to run a little low on gas after that. That’s what happens when you come out with an awful lot of energy and adrenaline, and then once that starts to fade, you don’t have too much left. But we had enough to hang on, and [Dubnyk] played good to save us in the third period.”
Dubnyk said he benefited from his two-game break. Alex Stalock — who was recalled from the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa last week — gave the Wild two solid starts in a victory over Ottawa and the loss at Nashville, and Dubnyk said that took some pressure off him in his return.
So did the play of his teammates. Though a cranky Boudreau said before the game that the Wild couldn’t take any opponent lightly, the Avs lived down to their reputation early in the game. The NHL’s lowest-scoring team, it didn’t give the Wild much of a test in the first period.
The Wild held Colorado to five shots on goal, including only two in the first 14 ½ minutes, en route to a 3-1 lead. Hanzal scored the third goal of his 17-game Wild tenure at 5 minutes, 4 seconds, and Jared Spurgeon followed with another only 23 seconds later.
That goal appeared to go in off Haula’s skate, but the goal later was awarded to Spurgeon. After Gabriel Landeskog pulled Colorado within 2-1 at 17:03 of the first, Haula broke his 17-game goal drought with 20 seconds left in the period, scoring from the slot on Mikael Granlund’s slick backhand pass.
“That was kind of our game plan going in: Let’s really take it to them in the first period,” Schroeder said of the Wild, who outshot the Avs 15-5 in the opening period. “We got a nice lead, and we’re a tough team to beat when we have the lead and we’re in control.
“That’s got to be our mind-set, to come out every single night and not wait for something to happen, but go make things happen.”
The Avalanche pushed back over the final two periods, outshooting the Wild 27-13 — including an 11-2 margin in the final period. Dubnyk praised his team for boxing out well, allowing him to see the puck as he made 26 saves in the final 40 minutes.
Though the Wild was happy afterward, players know the victory wasn’t an end in itself.
“I don’t know if we can really be relieved,” Haula said. “I think it just matters now what we do the rest of the way. It’s all about consistency.’’