MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Last week the Minnesota Wild made a couple deals at the NHL trade deadline with the thought that it would solidify the roster going into the playoffs.
Since then, the Wild has gone winless in three games, with the last two being shootout losses.
With a month to go in the NHL season, every game going forward is going to feel like a playoff game. That was the case Thursday night in St. Paul with the New York Rangers in town. Minnesota knew that going in and treated the game as just that. The result: A 2-1 victory over New York and an end to the three game winless streak.
“We had to come out with a great effort tonight,” defenseman Marco Scandella said after the game. “We have a great team here. We were confident going into tonight. We played a really good strong game and continue to build off of that.”
The Wild got the first goal of the game as an errant puck was thrown onto Nino Neiderreiter’s stick in front of the Rangers net. All he had to do was shoot the puck past Cam Talbot and Minnesota had a 1-0 lead.
New York would tie the game in the second period on a power play goal by Derek Stepan. At 1-1 going into the third period, the feeling was the next goal would be crucial. And on the night where his bobble head was given away, it’s only fitting that Zach Parise scored what would prove to be the game winning goal.
“It was a really smart play by (Mikael) Granlund to attack the net and recognize he had room.” Parise said on his game-winning goal. “That’s what started the play. At that point of the game we need to get pucks to the crease and get an ugly goal.”
For the rest of the third period the Rangers would come hard at the Wild, out-shooting them 16-8. But Darcy Kuemper came up big in net for Minnesota, making a couple of key saves to preserve the victory. Kuemper said it was important to bounce back after giving up a three-goal lead to Edmonton in the previous game.
“We can’t let too many games slip away this time of year. Huge points tonight. We got back to our identity and stuck with it the whole way,” Kuemper said.
The Wild will now play 16 games over the next 31 days. Each game Minnesota plays going forward will feel like a playoff game, much like it did against the Rangers. This is something that wasn’t lost on head coach Mike Yeo during his post-game press conference.
“I expect a lot of close games down the stretch, being able to find a way to win and being comfortable in your own zone. When you are up a goal late in the third period you have to have the right focus to be able to do the right thing. Those are important things for our team and that’s the kind of stuff you have to go through to be where you want to be,” Yeo said.
Minnesota ends their home stand Saturday night against Columbus. The Blue Jackets are in the same spot in the Eastern Conference the Wild are in, fighting for a playoff spot. After that, Minnesota goes on a three-game road trip starting in Boston on Monday night.
Buckle up Wild fans, the push for a playoff spot is going to be like a roller coaster ride over the next month.