The Wild’s point total finally grew after getting stuck, and the change happened in part to another number going down.
After committing 12 over its previous two losses, and getting dinged with three goals in the process, the Wild rolled out a much more disciplined performance Thursday at Xcel Energy Center and was rewarded with a mostly clean 3-2 win over the Lightning.
“That was kind of the key, staying out of the box,” goalie Alex Stalock said. “It’s kind of what we need to do right now until we mend it or build it back up, eliminate chances percentages-wise.”
Through the first two periods, the Wild kept a dangerous Tampa Bay team off the power play.
It wasn’t until the third period that the team took two minors. The Lightning scored on the second chance, calling for a photo finish, but the Wild held on to nix a four-game slide.
“We really emphasized staying out of the penalty box,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But we know hockey and after two periods if we didn't have any, we were going to get a couple in the third period. We did. But I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job with it.”
That wasn’t the only area the Wild demonstrated improvement.
The team was tighter with its defending, had better compete and was skating – which helped it battle.
“I think the biggest thing, and we have to continue doing that, is not watching the play,” Boudreau said. “We moved our feet on loose pucks, and I'll show that tomorrow how good we were on loose pucks. We weren't allowing them to get the puck all the time so they would have possession all the time. And we were competing for loose pucks and when we're competing for loose pucks and get those 50-50 pucks, usually weren't not playing in our zone. That's one of the reasons they were limited to 20 shots.”
In net, Stalock was steady – his second straight solid showing after a 35-save outing last Thursday in Calgary.
With the win, Stalock improved to 6-1-1 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 10 games (eight starts) at home this season.
Asked if he merited another start, Boudreau said, “We’ll have to talk about it.”
The bounce-back win came after a day off for the team when it was initially scheduled to practice.
Boudreau still isn’t sure if that decision is what sparked the team after it was blown out 7-3 by the Penguins on Tuesday, but he did notice a difference in the group.
“Was it rest?” he said. “Was it that they got ticked off and did what they did? But I do know this: When they play as 20 guys and they play hard and we get good goaltending, we've beaten almost all the best teams. If we don't do that, we struggle. We are a team that's based on everybody participating and playing well.”