A rare home win for the Wild.
Weird to say, but after starting the season 7-1 at home, the Wild had lost seven of its past nine at Xcel Energy Center (2-3-4) and tonight picked up two points in St. Paul for the first time since Dec. 9.
Good evening after the Wild’s 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Wild pulled within five points of sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and ninth-place Vancouver, San Jose, Winnipeg and Calgary heading into Saturday’s big game at Dallas. It'll be interesting to see if there's Wild news Saturday. The Wild's in the market for a left-shot defenseman, sources say, and Arizona's David Schlemko is on waivers.
Nate Prosser logged 8:25 there tonight.
It’ll also be interesting to see whom coach Mike Yeo comes back with Saturday night at Dallas because the Wild has beaten the Stars three in a row this year and twice in Dallas with Darcy Kuemper in net. However, despite Niklas Backstrom’s 1-5-3 all-time record at Dallas with a 3.75 goals-against average and .868 save percentage and despite the fact he has been sick for some time with little practice time, Kuemper did see a lot of work tonight AND as of 11:51 p.m., the Wild was still on the ground here in Minnesota because of a mechanical issue with its aircraft.
So the team will arriving way late in Dallas.
So, we’ll see. There will surely be no morning skate, so I’ll let you know after Yeo’s pregame availability around 5 p.m.
Good win for the Wild tonight. In the final minute of the second period two nights ago in Columbus, the Wild’s game took a turn for the worse after it gave up the tying goal. Tonight, with a 1-0 lead against the Maple Leafs and a solid playing Jonathan Bernier, the Wild gave up the tying goal on a Leafs two-man advantage.
Jared Spurgeon, who rarely ever takes a penalty, took his second minor of the season. Thirty-eight seconds later, Ryan Suter sent a 180-foot clear on the PK into the far mesh for a delay of game penalty. The only time I’ve covered something like that was Brian Rolston once on a PK in Dallas.
Making a 5-on-3 look easy, Dion Phaneuf fed Cody Franson for a one-time blast from atop the left circle.
But, Yeo said, “They scored a goal and tied it up and I don’t think that our game was elevated from that point on [in Columbus]. Tonight, from the talk on the bench, leadership-wise, and the way we finished the kill and the way we reclaimed the lead,” it was the opposite.
Kuemper made 34 saves after getting pulled in four of his past six home starts and after being 2-4 in his past eight home appearances with a 4.68 goals-against average and .810 save percentage. Yeo consciously tried not to talk him up after the game just like he wouldn’t in Winnipeg after he made 21 straight saves to end that game Monday.
That’s because Yeo wants consistency from his erratic goalie and he said you could tell he was on top of his game tonight by the way he was reading plays. In Columbus, he played well, but he made a mental mistake when he tried to fish for that lost stick for the tying goal and then didn’t come close to reading the David Savard winning one-timer correctly.
Yeo wants his game to build, and tonight, both Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu both said how much confidence it gives the team when it sees Kuemper playing that way.
Kyle Brodziak also scored tonight and same with Koivu, who one-timed a filthy Thomas Vanek pass that was similar to the one Sergei Bobrovsky robbed two nights ago in Columbus.
“This time it worked,” Vanek said of the Wild’s 12th power-play goal in the past 14 games.
That goal gave the Wild its first two-goal lead since Dec. 3 and for a change the Wild didn’t trail in tonight’s game.
Vanek had a strong game, especially the last two periods. He hustled, shot the puck, made plays.
“I really liked his second and third period, the way he was creating and making plays,” Yeo said. “Since the break, I’ve been very pleased with his game. Subtly behind the scenes, he’s taking on a little bit more leadership role, a lot more vocal on the bench, in the locker room. Some of that is comfort.” But Yeo said the more engaged you are in all game situations, the better you play, and that’s what he’s seeing from Vanek.
Yeo has subtly mentioned lately that the Wild doesn’t have a very vocal group, that they’re a lead by example type of team. Somebody else mentioned that to me recently, too.
Yeo put together what I dubbed the “Doghouse Line” with Erik Haula centering Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle. Haula, benched in three of the past four games, attempted five shots, had two hits and won 11 of 16 draws. Coyle had two assists, Niederreiter one.
“I thought they were good, and we’ll need them to be good [Saturday], that’s for sure,” Yeo said.
Yeo said this morning there was a big video session where several players were stars.
“Everybody had their moment,” Yeo said.
A couple players kinda let loose what the theme of today’s meeting was: “Whatever everyone can do to make this team better, the guys who get the job done are going to play every night,” Haula said. “These times are really crucial, these 11 games before [the All-Star] break, it’s going to be a tough schedule and we’re going to need everyone on their best.”
Funny moment, but when Coyle sent Spurgeon the pass en route to his winner – his first goal since Nov. 13, Coyle turned to go to the bench for a line change. He was surprised to hear the horn when he got there.
“I was hoping I was hearing it,” Coyle said. “That was nice. It’s a nice sound going back to the bench when you hear that.”
He ended up getting the plus for the goal because Jason Pominville, coming on for Coyle, told him to get back out there to celebrate.
That’s it….I have to get out of here because I have an early flight to catch up to the Wild. Although, heck, I may beat em there.