The Wild scored twice in the third period and defeated the Flames 3-2 at Xcel Energy Center, running their season-long winning streak to five games.
The win was Minnesota's third straight out of the Olympic break and gives the Wild 75 points and a nine-point cushion on a wild-card spot on both the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks. Minnesota, which currently holds the top wild-card position in the Western Conference, is seven points clear the Dallas Stars, the conference's second wild-card team.
"We said we wanted to get off to a real good start [after the Olympic break]," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We also said we wanted to get better every game. I don't feel we got better in this game, but we can use this game to get better the next game."
Yeo said he expected the game Monday to be a grind-it-out affair, and he was right. Each team was sluggish in a scoreless first period and after trading goals in the second, the Wild scored the first two goals of the third period to claim a 3-1 lead.
Zach Parise was credited with what proved to be the game-winner on a tip-in from the doorstep with 5:16 remaining in regulation. At the time, it looked like nothing more than an insurance goal and put the Wild ahead by two.
The Flames pulled goaltender Reto Berra with over a minute remaining and had quality zone time, but could not find the tying goal.
"Tonight, I don't think we were at our best. I don't think we played at a level we need to play," Parise said. "But, it doesn't matter when you look back at the score. We won the game and that's what's important."
Kuemper, named the NHL's Third Star of the Week earlier in the day, wasn't spectacular but made several timely saves. He stopped 21 shots, including eight in the final period, to earn his 11th win of the season.
"As a goalie, it was tough, going long spurts without any action," Kuemper said. "I was just doing my best to stay mentally into it. I felt pretty good for the most part."
Minnesota got on the board first when Matt Cooke stole the puck away from Berra behind the net and chipped it to Kyle Brodziak on the goal line. Brodziak dragged the puck to the crease and fired into an open net for his fifth of the season at 9:02 of the second.
"That first goal, that's for sure my mistake," Berra said. "I feel bad for the team because they played really hard tonight and we had a chance to win."
Calgary tied the score later in the period when a soft shot from the right half-wall by Dennis Wideman deflected off Wild captain Mikko Koivu in the slot and right to Mike Cammalleri in the left circle, where Cammalleri rocketed a shot past a sprawling Kuemper for his 14th of the season and first in 10 games.
"You always know he's going to show up to work," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said of Cammalleri, who may have played in his final game with the Flames with the NHL Trade Deadline set for 3 p.m. ET Wednesday. "It was nice to see that loose puck go right to his stick. Sometimes, the puck doesn't come to you at the right time, but tonight the timing was great."
Minnesota took a 2-1 lead early in the third on a power-play goal by Jared Spurgeon. The goal was his second of the season and first since Oct. 8.
In the first-ever NHL game between the brothers Granlund, older brother Mikael netted two assists for the Wild. Markus assisted on Giordano's goal, which was his first NHL point in his third career game.
Berra made 24 saves for Calgary.
"It's sad, because we worked so hard. But I feel like we gave the three goals," Hartley said. "It seems like every time we made a big mistake, they made us pay."
Koivu returned Monday after missing 17 games with a fractured ankle. He was held scoreless and was a minus-1 in 19:21 of ice time.
Minnesota is now off until Saturday when they play the Stars at American Airlines Arena in the front end of back-to-back games. It's a rare extended break during the regular season's final stretch, which put a premium on getting a win Monday.
"You never want to go into those long breaks with a loss," Parise said.
Calgary returns home for a two-game set against Eastern Conference foes beginning Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators.
|Kyle Brodziak (5) ASST: Matt Cooke (15)|
1 - 0 MIN
|Mike Cammalleri (14) ASST: TJ Galiardi (11), Dennis Wideman (17)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Jared Spurgeon (2) ASST: Ryan Suter (28), Mikael Granlund (25)|
2 - 1 MIN
|Zach Parise (21) ASST: Jason Pominville (20), Mikael Granlund (26)|
3 - 1 MIN
|Mark Giordano (10) ASST: Markus Granlund (1), Joe Colborne (13)|
3 - 2 MIN
|Mikael Backlund Holding against Mikko Koivu|
|Keith Ballard Interference on goalkeeper against Reto Berra|
|Mark Giordano Hooking against Zach Parise|