Over the past several days, the Wild has discussed and worked on a number of troublesome issues. It resolved so many of those in Thursday's 4-3 comeback victory over Chicago that coach Mike Yeo joked, 'Anything else wrong with our game?'
He said that with a smile. It was clear that many messages got through, as the Wild looked much sharper on the power play, got scoring from its defensemen, scored a first-period goal for the first time in six games and stuck to its system when the game began slipping away. The result was a victory that fueled enormous pride in the locker room, as the Wild rallied late to beat the NHL's best team.
Yeo said his team can't feel too giddy for too long, with a game at Columbus on Friday. Both before and after the game, Yeo talked about the Wild still being a work in progress, with consistency one of his primary goals. He warned them before that recent four-game winless streak that they couldn't be complacent, and that same theme cropped up after Thursday's dramatic victory over a division rival. But while he didn't want to attach too much significance to this single game, it certainly felt like a big stride forward.
Read the game story here: http://www.startribune.com/sports/wild/234693261.html
Yeo said the team spent a lot of time recently talking about the shortcomings that took some of the shine off a November that started with a 9-1-1 record. "There's parts of our game that we have to work on,'' he said. "Parts of our game are going to be up and down through the course of the year. We know we have a good power play. We know we have defensemen on the back end that can help us create offense. They're not always going to be there, but these are things in your game that through the course of the season, if you're struggling a little bit, you've got to pick them up.
"I've got a lot of confidence every day I come to the rink and have a chance to coach this group of guys. It's ongoing. Every day is a new challenge, and we've just got to stay on top of it.''
Yeo lauded his team's leadership, noting that the top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville contributed to the tying goal by drawing a penalty (Pominville was hooked by Chicago's Brent Seabrook). The defensemen did a better job of getting pucks to the net, generating nine shots on goal (at least one from everyone except for Ryan Suter) and scoring the tying and winning goals. The defense was sturdy for most of the game, holding Chicago to a season-low 19 shots on goal (including a paltry four in the third period).
Parise said the Wild had a "good shot mentality'' on the power play and cited shooting the puck and creating traffic around the net as the keys to scoring twice on three opportunities. He also was glad to see the Wild retain its composure when it lost the lead.
"(The Blackhawks) were able to erase a two-goal lead pretty quickly,'' he said. "I don’t think we strayed too far away from what we were trying to do. We didn’t go away from our game plan, and that’s what was working for us. We were able to get back into the game.
"Any time you beat a team like that, it's important. Everyone knows how good they are. It's been a tough stretch for us; some games we didn’t play as well as we need to. I thought we played with a lot more energy, and we handled the puck much better. Coincidentally, we scored more goals. Those two things usually go hand in hand.''
Marco Scandella, who scored the winner with 1:48 left, was particularly proud. "It feels great,'' he said. "We were relentless tonight. We never gave up.''
A few other tidbits:
--The Wild is now 8-0-1 when leading after the first period and 13-0-3 when leading after two.
--Brodin has five goals and five assists through 27 games and is one point off last season's total of 11 points, which came in 45 games.
--Parise has six points in his past seven games. His power-play goal was his seventh this season, tying him for second in the NHL.
--Josh Harding did not allow a goal through the first 39 minutes, 43 seconds. Jeremy Morin's goal 17 seconds before the second intermission ended a shutout streak of 131:36 over three games, the longest of Harding's career. Harding is 12-1-0 at home this season.
That's it for tonight. Russo returns Friday for the festivities in Columbus.