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Richards happier with Wild's play in second game

by Dan Rosen
HELSINKI -- Was Minnesota coach Todd Richards happy?

Good question, because it was hard to tell after Friday's 2-1 shootout loss to Carolina at Hartwall Arena, the final game of the Helsinki portion of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere.

"This is absolutely the way we need to play," Richards said.

OK, but he also said he thought his team (and the Hurricanes) was tired in the third period and not willing to risk a mistake with a challenge.

Richards was pleased with the chances his team got, but didn't like how they managed their ice time in the second period, when they let 5 1/2-straight minutes of power-play time, including 31 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage, disappear without a whisper.

So, was he happy? Well …

"You get one out of four points, so obviously you want more," Richards said. "In the big picture you have 80 games left, and to me this was a huge step for our team in terms of how we played in our own zone. They're a good team and they're going to create opportunities, but we limited their chances off the rush, which means guys were paying attention."

And that was the key point of the night for the Wild.

After struggling to keep up with the quicker Hurricanes and battling mental lapses in the first game of the Premiere series here before losing, 4-3, the Wild looked like a much different team Friday.

They were skating with the 'Canes and limited the odd-man rush opportunities that were so prevalent Thursday. They didn't have the mental lapses that equate to bad penalties and, eventually, power-play goals for the other team. They came out with intensity and set a physical tone early, something the younger Hurricanes had trouble matching in the first period.

"It was a game that you're disappointed with the result, but you look at every aspect and you're happy with the way the team competed," Richards said.

The only difference was Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who was spectacular in making 41 saves, including several on second-chance opportunities.

"We spent a lot of time trying to find it in front of him and we couldn't, so we weren't clearing bodies or the puck," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said, giving credit to the Wild players who were finding the puck and holding their ground in front of the net. "Then he looked calm in his net, he didn't look like he was throwing a lot of movement at the puck. He had it figured out and he had a couple of toe saves and pad saves that were just inches. He was just fantastic."

That's going to happen sometimes and the Wild know that.

They also know they got exponentially better from Game 1 to Game 2 in Helsinki.

One point is not good enough, but at least it didn't make the trip to Finland completely pointless.

"I think we're right there," Wild captain Mikko Koivu told on his way out of the locker room. "But obviously you want to win the games, too."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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