NASHVILLE – Not even three days of drinking eggnog and munching on gingerbread cookies by the Christmas tree can slow down the Wild.
Despite not playing or practicing for three days and having to fly to Nashville the morning of Tuesday’s game, the Wild’s bubble didn’t burst after the NHL’s holiday recess.
The Wild’s franchise-record winning streak struck 11 and franchise-record point streak reached 12 when Jared Spurgeon scored his first career overtime goal to lift the Wild to a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
The Wild, one point back of Chicago for the Central Division lead, improved to 11-0-1 since Nov. 29 and 13-1-3 since Nov. 19. The team, winners of six consecutive on the road, was compensated for a strong 13-shot third period that would have resulted in a regulation triumph if not for goalie Pekka Rinne, who made 36 saves total.
“They played to win and not to lose. They weren’t playing to get into overtime,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, who has now coached Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota to winning streaks of at least 11 games. “That’s the way we need to play. To me, we have to go for it.”
During the first 11-win December in franchise history, the Wild has gotten great efforts up and down the lineup from different players nightly. Tuesday, the Wild got one from the most unsung of heroes.
Jordan Schroeder, who at 26 has spent most of his career in the minors after being drafted by Vancouver in the first round in 2009, played like he never wants to see Des Moines again.
He assisted on Chris Stewart’s second-period goal and was such a speedy forechecker, Boudreau elevated him to the Zach Parise-Eric Staal line in the third period.
Schroeder got tapped for overtime duty and teed up Spurgeon for a beautiful one-time winner. Charlie Coyle picked up his second assist on the goal to tie Staal for the team lead with 29 points.
“I was surprised to be honest with you,” Schroeder said of hearing his name in OT. “I was excited. I wanted to go out there and make it happen. Fortunately, I was able to make that pass to Spurgeon and he put it home.”
Boudreau explained the rationale of elevating Schroeder as twofold: 1) He liked Schroeder’s game; 2) “There were a couple guys that from the three-day break and no practice looked like they were struggling with their legs.”
Schroeder brought a presence to the Staal line in the third, too.
“It’s been tough for him to find a solid spot in the lineup, but tonight, he earned his way,” Parise said. “The way he played, he almost demanded more ice, and the coach gave it to him. He got rewarded.”
Parise, who missed the previous two games because of strep throat, scored his first goal on the road since Oct. 23 on a first-period power play.
After three second-period goals made the score 2-2, Devan Dubnyk made 12 of his 28 saves in the third and OT to extend his winning streak to a career-high and franchise-record nine games and point streak to a career-high 13 games (11-0-2).
Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who visit the Wild on New Year’s Eve, extended their winning streak to 13 games by beating Boston.
It was an impressive win by the Wild, which despite being 1-7-1 the game after Christmas the past nine occasions, didn’t make the odd-day trip an excuse.
“We have some guys that have been around,” Staal said. “They understand what it’s going to take right now for us to keep winning games. We want to keep this going as long as we can.”