ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild put together one of their most consistent efforts in months Monday night as Josh Harding made 33 saves in a 2-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center.
The contest featured a pair of hot goalies in Harding and Vancouver's Cory Schneider, as the two dueled back-and-forth all night long. In the end, Harding won out and recorded his second shutout of the season and first victory since a win against Dallas on Jan. 21.
The Wild also won for the first time since a 3-2 win over Phoenix on Mar. 8, snapping a three-game losing streak. Adding to the Wild's frustration, all three losses were in front of the home crowd.
"They were rocking," Harding said about the fans.
Indeed the Wild's effort Saturday may have forced a diehard Wild fan to partake in a barley pop or two. A 5-3 loss to the equally ordinary Carolina Hurricanes was just the cherry on top of an ugly three-month stretch where Minnesota has dropped 27 spots in the NHL standings. But Monday's 60-minute effort against one of the League's best provided fans with a positive memory or two.
"A night like tonight, we can go home feeling good about ourselves," said Wild forward Kyle Brodziak.
Minnesota got on the board late in the first period on a power-play goal by Erik Christensen, who started the play with the puck in the right corner. By the time the puck came back to him seven seconds later, the puck had made a complete lap around the Vancouver zone, with all five Wild skaters making a pass. An extra pass by Brodziak in front was the difference, as he passed to Christensen at the right post. He loaded a quick snap shot, beating Schneider for his fifth goal of the season and fourth in his last four games.
Wild coach Mike Yeo said the goal came as a result of recent changes on the power play implemented by assistant coach Darryl Sydor.
"I liked the movement on the power play tonight, it's something we've been working on," Yeo said. "(Sydor) has done a good job the last couple of days, making adjustments to the set-up we are using and just the overall execution out there. There was some really nice movement, using the whole zone and we had a couple of real nice looks because of it."
That's all the support Harding would need as he stoned the Canucks at every turn, picking up his 10th win overall. His previous shutout came way back on the 29th of October against Detroit.
He looked especially confident early, making a big save just a couple of minutes into the game on Chris Higgins -- which became a theme for the rest of the night. No matter who was shooting for Vancouver, Harding was in sound position and made the shutout look easy.
"Hards was outstanding," Yeo said. "He not only saves it (the early Higgins chance), but he sends a message to the rest of the group that he's ready to go. That breeds confidence."
For Brodziak, the helper was his 38th point of the season, establishing a new career high, besting the 37 points he scored last season. His 180-foot empty net goal with 2.7 seconds remaining sealed the victory.
"Just one of those games where Harding played well and made some big saves at the right time," Schneider said. "He did a good job controlling rebounds so we couldn't get second looks. We worked hard. Some nights, you give up three and you win. Others, you give up one and you lose. We played a good game, we just need to move on from here."
Not to be outdone on the other end, Schneider was nearly as stellar, stopping 17 shots in the second and 4 more in the third to keep the Canucks just one goal away. He finished with 32 saves.
"You can count on one hand the number of grade-A scoring chances we had tonight 5-on-5," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "We did have possession time, but a lot of it was on the outside, not enough on the inside. At the end of the day, 5-on-5 tonight, we didn't generate enough chances."
The loss dropped Vancouver to 3-5-2 in its last 10 games, still at 94 points, six back of St. Louis for the top spot in the Western Conference.