ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The last 12 days of 2013 weren’t kind to the Minnesota Wild.
Minnesota lost its final three games going into the Christmas break. Out of the break the Wild lost its next three games, the last two of which coming on home ice.
Sitting on the outside of the playoff picture and mired in a six game losing streak with rumors of head coach Mike Yeo’s job security swirling around, Minnesota needed a win badly Thursday night.
Enter the worst team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres.
Second period goals by Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville, and Jason Zucker gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead and helped spark the Wild to a 4-1 victory over Buffalo. It was Minnesota’s first win in regulation since Dec. 8. After the game, one could feel a sense of relief from the players knowing that the losing streak was finally over.
“Obviously the win is the most important thing.” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “It’s two points but as a player I think you recognize how we did it and how we played. I think we also recognized that for us to get wins that’s how we have to play too.”
The unsung hero of this game was goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who had no idea he would be playing until earlier Thursday when Josh Harding was ruled out because of an illness. Backstrom had 19 saves in the game and received his first regulation win since beating Chicago on Oct. 26. Backstrom’s effort did not go unrecognized by his teammates.
“I think we all knew he was going through a tough go. We weren’t scoring goals when he was playing.” Wild forward Jason Pominville said. “Just to be able to get the lead for him tonight was huge and for him to stand tall when needed to was huge for the team.”
Nobody was happier for Backstrom in Thursday’s win than Yeo, who praised his performance in the net.
Niklas Backstrom After The Win
“We finally played a better game in front of him. I felt confident going with Backstrom in this game because of how he played in his last game. He was in control all night. He was great,” Yeo said.
Even though the losing streak is done, there is still a lot of work left for Minnesota to do to get back in the playoff picture. The Wild is seven points behind Colorado for third place in the Central Division, which would give them an automatic playoff berth. In the wild card race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, Minnesota is two points behind Phoenix, who currently holds the eighth spot.
Jason Pominville After The Win
Mikko Koivu After The Win
What the Wild did Thursday against Buffalo, they have to find a way to do it on a consistent basis otherwise the same questions and doubts surrounding the team going into the game will return. But for one night, a positive vibe that had been missing from Minnesota for the past couple weeks finally returned.
As defenseman Clayton Stoner said after the game, “ We are undefeated this year so it’s all good.”
Hey, you have to start somewhere.