NEW YORK – The music was of normal volume, the pats on the back like any other postgame.
There was no raucous celebration inside Madison Square Garden’s visiting locker room Friday night after the Wild steamrolled the New York Rangers 7-4, like this was any other victory.
Winning has become that business as usual for a confident team that would gladly move on to the next challenge now rather than letting the NHL’s three-day holiday hiatus interrupt all this fun.
“We don’t want to stop there,” Charlie Coyle said of breaking the franchise record with a 10th consecutive victory. “We don’t want to just beat it. We want to crush it.”
One night after Bruce Boudreau said that tying franchise records is like kissing one’s sister, the Wild, which hasn’t suffered a regulation loss since Nov. 29, improved to 10-0-1 in the month of December, also setting a franchise-record point streak.
The Wild, winners of five straight on the road, broke a team road record with five second-period goals and got multiple-point games from all six members of the top two lines.
Coyle had a career-high three assists and four points. Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker each scored a goal and had three points. Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund, who each scored goals, and Eric Staal had two points apiece.
And Darcy Kuemper, giving Devan Dubnyk a mental break after winning the Dubnyk-Carey Price showdown the night before in Montreal, made 31 saves and had to be strong in a hold-on-for-dear-life third period.
The Wild’s only shot in the period? Coyle’s empty-net goal.
That’s why Boudreau told his players how proud he was of them after the game. He saw they had “nothing left” after a busy month and rolling into their New York City hotel at 2 a.m., yet they found a way to get two points.
“To do it the way we had to do it, winning games nine and 10 in Montreal and New York, I think was pretty special,” said Boudreau, the first in NHL history to coach three teams to win streaks of 10 or more games.
Chris Kreider gave the Rangers an early lead, but for the second night in a row, the Wild battled back, this time on a Granlund goal that Henrik Lundqvist would love to have had back.
It would be a sign of things to come for King Hank.
Koivu and Niederreiter scored 18 seconds apart in the first minute of the second. Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh cut the deficit to one, but the Wild got the lead back when Marco Scandella scored his first goal in 62 games.
That ended Lundqvist’s night 4:55 into the period. He gave up four goals on 13 shots, three on Minnesota’s first four shots of the period.
Zucker and Matt Dumba made it 6-2, and at that point the Wild was content to hang on and get home for the holidays.
Even with Erik Haula hurt and Zach Parise sick, the Wild has found a path to victory no matter who’s in the lineup.
“It says a lot about the group we have in here, about how hard the guys are battling,” Zucker said. “We’ve had both goalies playing, we’ve had every line playing, some guys in, some out. It just shows no matter who’s in, if we play our game, we can beat anybody.”
Especially with the Zucker-Koivu-Granlund line churning. Granlund has 11 points in the past nine games. Zucker has 15 points in the past 15 games, Koivu 15 points in the past 16 games.
The break comes at a good time. Players clearly need to reenergize.
“It’s not easy to win 10 games in a row in this league. This is a tough league,” Granlund said. “All the guys can be really proud of it.”