The Minnesota Wild will try to extend the best start in franchise history when they continue a season-opening five-game homestand on Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center against the Washington Capitals.
Minnesota (3-0-0) is facing Washington for the first time since a 2-1 victory on Nov 1, 2003, and has won all three home meetings against the Capitals (1-1-0).
The Wild continued their winning ways with a 2-1 shootout triumph over Vancouver on Tuesday. Petteri Nummelin - back in the NHL for the first time in six years - scored the game winner on a backhand past Roberto Luongo.
"I made the move to shoot the forehand and came back to the backhand," said Nummelin, who played 61 games with Columbus in 2000-01, and was one of several key moves to improve a team that finished 11th in the Western Conference last season despite having a record above .500.
Besides Nummelin, the Wild signed Marian Gaborik to a contract extension, traded for high-scoring right wing Pavol Demitra and signed forwards Mark Parrish and Branko Radivojevic and defensemen Keith Carney and Kim Johnsson.
On Wednesday, Minnesota gave Jacques Lemaire - the only head coach in the franchise's history - a multiyear contract extension
"It's a big change in the way I feel as a coach. I'm even more excited than I was the first year here," the 61-year-old Lemaire said. "I love to see them play. ... Their ability makes it a lot easier for me."
Gaborik, the franchise's all-time scoring leader, has two goals and two assists so far. Demitra, a three-time 30-goal scorer, has been quick to adapt to Lemaire's defensive style.
"He's a smart coach," said Demitra, who has a goal and four assists. "He knows what he's talking about. We can learn a lot from him. We have so much respect for what he's done in the past."
Minnesota's revamped offense will try to slow down Washington's high-scoring left wings, Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
The two have scored six of the Capitals' seven goals this season, including a hat trick by Semin in a 5-2 victory over Carolina on Saturday.
Semin, who was sued by the Capitals after he went to play in Russia instead of the minor leagues during the lockout, had never scored more than once in 53 career games before his outburst.
"I scored three tonight - but I could have scored more," Semin said through a translator.
Ovechkin, the reigning NHL rookie of the year, bounced back from a poor effort in a season-opening loss 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers last Thursday with a career-high 15 shots and his first two goals of the season.
"First period, I played awful," Ovechkin said. "Terrible. Second period, I told myself: Shoot everything."
Forward Chris Clark and defenseman Brian Pothier are tied for the team lead with four assists each.
|Oct 12 '06||WSH 2 at MIN 3 - SO|