With each win, the Wild has started to get closer to the style of play it needs to rely on to have success.
That was especially clear Friday when the team used rock-solid goaltending and timely scoring from its defense to assemble a 3-1 win over the Stars.
The team hopes it takes another step in that process Saturday when it finishes off a back-to-back at home against the Lightning.
“We’re just starting to find our groove, and everyone’s starting to slide into their roles perfectly,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. “Simplifying the game is always a huge thing for us. When you overcomplicate things, that’s when you start turning pucks over and that’s when the momentum goes the other way.”
While there’s still plenty to improve – goalie Devan Dubnyk had to make 24 second-period saves to keep the Wild scoreless with the Stars and the offense has come in spurts – the Wild certainly looks like it’s making the strides necessary to get in a workable rhythm.
Just last Saturday, it surrendered a franchise-record 57 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Hurricanes. By Friday, that number was trimmed to 34. The scoreless struggle for two periods also suited the Wild, enabling it to pounce in the third with three unanswered goals for the win.
“You gotta build that confidence game-by-game, and that’s our goal – to keep getting better each and every game and get that feeling,” captain Mikko Koivu said.
The plan is for the Wild to call on backup Alex Stalock against the Lightning, but coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledged Saturday morning the team was still mulling over the decision.
“When Duby’s playing that way and he’s in the zone and we don’t play for four days, sometimes you might change,” Boudreau said.
Regardless of who’s in net, this will be a tough test for the Wild.
Like the back-to-back it played earlier in the week when the Wild was in Nashville Monday before hosting Arizona Tuesday, the Lightning had Friday night off and was waiting for the Wild to return to St. Paul.
“They’re fast,” Boudreau said of the Lightning. “They got superstars. They got great goaltending, and they got a Norris-Trophy defenseman. I think that’s enough of a challenge for one night.”
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Matt Read
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Jordan Greenway
Marcus Foligno-Eric Fehr-J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter- Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Jared Spurgeon
Nick Seeler-Greg Pateryn
2-0-2: The Wild’s record on home ice.
5: Shots and blocked shots for winger Zach Parise Friday.
500: Career points for defenseman Ryan Suter after tallying a goal and an assist vs. the Stars.
24: Saves for Stalock in his start Monday against the Predators.
23: Penalty kills in 23 tries for the Lightning.
About the Lightning:
After starting 4-1 at home, the Lightning embarks on its first road trip of the season. In 2017-18, Tampa Bay was 25-13-3 as the visitor. The Lightning has been led offensively by center Brayden Point, who has four goals and five points. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has been solid, posting a .954 save percentage and 1.48 goals-against average. The team, however, has struggled in Minnesota, dropping its last six games at Xcel Energy Center.