DETROIT -- It might be time to add the Minnesota Wild to the list of contenders in the Western Conference.
After polishing off a tough three-game road trip with a third straight win Wednesday night -- 4-2 against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena -- the Wild are starting to look and play like a very talented, confident team.
Minnesota (17-10-2) has won four straight games, six of the past seven, and leads the Northwest Division with 36 points, two more than the Vancouver Canucks.
"Anytime you can come out and get three wins like that, it's fun hockey," said Wild forward Devin Setoguchi, who scored his 10th and 11th goals to continue a run of torment against Detroit that dates to his days with the San Jose Sharks.
"The main thing is that everyone's ready to go from the start of the game, no matter who it is. When you've got everyone going and every line jumping, it just makes it that much easier to go out there and play for everybody else."
Setoguchi was the one who cashed in early this time, scoring the first of his goals 2:04 into the game. His second capped a power play with 2:45 left in the second period to give Minnesota a comfortable 4-1 lead.
"I think we're confident going into any building now," said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo, whose team also won at Colorado and Vancouver during this trip. "I didn't even realize, but I don't think we'd even had a regulation win [in Detroit] since 2006. I think we're a different team right now and a lot of that is just the confidence we have coming into every game."
It's certainly a different feeling from the one that surrounded a 4-5-1 start to the season. Since those first 10 games, Minnesota is 13-5-1 and looking like a team that could be a tough matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We expect to win now," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "Early on we had that doubt. Now we expect to win and we're holding each other accountable. We know what we're capable of. We know what each guy's capable of. Now we're expecting it and it really shows."
Despite firing 38 shots, Detroit (14-11-5) scored on one of five power plays and couldn't turn momentum for any length of time. The Wild scored their four goals on 19 shots and went 2-for-3 on the power play.
"Their power play was more effective than ours and that was basically the difference," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "You're never happy when you lose, but you have to look at some of the good things. We created enough chances to win the game."
Detroit rookie Gustav Nyquist scored his first goal of the season, and Drew Miller had the other for the Red Wings, who lost for the first time in three games. Detroit now heads west on a four-game road trip to Anaheim (back-to-back), Phoenix and San Jose.
It didn't take long for Minnesota to take 1-0 lead on Setoguchi's first goal, his fifth in the past six games. After Matt Cullen slid a pass from the bottom of the right circle into the low slot, wide-open Setoguchi scooped the puck and slid it under goalie Jimmy Howard a little more than two minutes into the game.
The rest of the first period was dominated by the Red Wings, but they failed to beat Backstrom legally on those 17 shots. Detroit appeared to tie it at 7:30 of the first, when Jordin Tootoo tapped home a puck that skittered through Backstrom's pads, but it was immediately waived off by referee Dave Jackson.
It was ruled Miller touched the puck with a high stick in the low slot, and the play wasn't reviewed.
Brodziak's fifth goal of the season pushed the Wild lead to 2-0 at 3:51 of the second, capping a four-minute power play caused by Niklas Kronwall's high-sticking infraction while delivering one of his patented big hits to Charlie Coyle.
Kronwall was 39 seconds from getting out of the box when Jared Spurgeon fed a perfect pass from the right circle to Brodziak in front of the crease for a quick snap shot into the back of the net.
Nyquist, recalled Wednesday after playing an American Hockey League game in Peoria, Ill., Tuesday, put the Red Wings on the board about five minutes later with a great individual effort. He stole the puck near the Detroit blue line and created his own breakaway, which he capped with a slick backhand through Backstrom's pads.
The Wild didn't even blink. Minnesota countered with Koivu's goal, fired off a long rebound from the high slot, and Setoguchi's second made it 4-1.
"Koivu's line goes out there and [scores] almost immediately after [Nyquist] scored and that was a huge goal," Brodziak said. "It's kind of what we feel's been going on here for the last little while. We're staying resilient and we're getting rewarded for it. Winning's a lot more fun. We're finally starting to have a little bit of fun around here and it's nice."
|Back to top|