Win, win, win, all the Wild does is win. The Wild now three points back of Chicago for the Central Division lead … with three games in hand.
Tonight, thanks to a road-record five second-period goals, the Wild was 7-4 victors over Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers tonight to break the franchise records for win streak (10) and point streak (11, 10-0-1 since Nov. 29).
The Wild has points in 15 of the past 16 games (12-1-3) and wins in five straight on the road.
Bruce Boudreau became the first coach in NHL history to coach three different teams to win streaks of 10 or more games. He has done that four times.
Next chance to make it 11 in a row? Tuesday in Nashville, which is always a tough game for the road team. You’re not allowed to practice the next three days or fly, so abnormally, the road teams gets on a plane the morning of the game and flies in for the game.
But, the Wild just won in Montreal and New York on back-to-back nights without Zach Parise and Erik Haula and two different goalies, so the team’s used to overcoming challenges.
Without Parise and Haula, Boudreau has really loaded up the top two lines.
Tonight, all six members of those two lines had multi-point games.
Charlie Coyle had a career-high three assists and four points. Jason Zucker scored the winning goal and had two assists. Mikko Koivu also had a goal and three points. Eric Staal had two assists to extend his point streak to seven games and Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter scored a goal and assist each.
Defensemen Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba also scored for the Wild and Darcy Kuemper made 31 saves , 11 in the third period when the Wild was in hang on mode. Its only shot was the Coyle empty-netter, the Wild’s 10th empty-net goal of the season. Remember there was a team in the past few years where the Wild never seemed to be able to pot those.
Boudreau told the team after the game how proud he was that it was able to hang on because it was so clear they had nothing left in the third. It has been a busy month and a tough back-to-back to enter the break.
“These are two tough buildings to play in, two great teams,” Koivu said. “When you go on the road, it’s always tough. We’re perfect for this one. We’ll take it.”
Koivu, Nino Niederreiter and Marco Scandella scored on three of the Wild’s first four second-period shots to end Henrik Lundqvist’s night less than five minutes into the period. Koivu and Niederreiter’s goals were 18 seconds apart.
Boudreau showed bigtime faith in Kuemper by starting him in the potential milestone game.
Sure, Devan Dubnyk was riding an eight-game win streak and 12-game point streak, but the Wild played the night before in Montreal and didn’t roll into its hotel until 2 a.m. Dubnyk got a mental break after the much-hyped Dubnyk vs. Carey Price Show, plus, Kuemper was coming off a solid outing his last start.
The Wild, the best defensive team in the NHL, has outscored opponents 37-16 during its 10-game winning streak (30-11 in the past seven games).
The Zucker-Koivu-Granlund line that has been so good during the winning streak. Boudreau sang their praises, especially Zucker, after the game. Granlund has 11 points in the past nine games. Zucker has 15 points in the past15 games, Koivu 15 points in the past 16 games.
The cool thing is the Wild’s not satisfied. It has a move on to the next one mentality, and as Coyle said afterward, the Wild doesn’t want to just break the record, they want to “crush it.”
I am hanging on to a ton of extra quotes to write a good follow for Christmas Day.
The gist of the story: Remember how Boudreau said he expected the team would finally get it by Christmas? Safe to say he’s clairvoyant.
No matter who’s in the lineup, who’s in goal, as Coyle said, “Everyone’s doing their part right now up and down the lineup. That’s what’s getting it done for us.”
Wild, second in the Central and West, enters the break with 46 points in 33 games. It leads in goals against and save percentage and its +36 goal differential is second in the NHL.
Its fourth in the NHL at 3.06 goals per game.
Decent team, eh?
Probably no blogs the next couple days, but please read the paper because I’ll have stories in there.
Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas everybody. Enjoy time with your families.