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Amid Winning Streak, Wild Happy, But Not Content

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Excuse the Minnesota Wild if it isn’t throwing itself a parade after winning its fifth game in five tries against the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

Though in doing so, the Wild did something that had not been done in 76 years, and also became the third team to win every game of a season-series five games or longer against the defending Stanley Cup champion, it didn’t change the Wild's mantra or mindset.

"It’s fun right now, but we know what’s happened in the postseason," said Erik Haula, who extended his point streak to nine games on Tuesday with a goal and an assist, the longest active-streak in the NHL. "It’s a different animal. We’re just trying to get in right now; try to play as well as possible and take that into the playoffs."

The final regular season meeting between the Wild and Blackhawks on Tuesday felt like a playoff game, from how it was defended, to the combined 37 shots on goal, to the snarl it took on.

But feeling like a playoff game and actually being a playoff game are two entirely different things.

"We’re playing a fast, good checking, tight style of a game," Jarret Stoll said. "That’s how we need to play. We can suffocate teams with our speed and our checking ability, and that’s what we did here tonight against Chicago.

"Not only against them, we could do that against any team in this league."

Stoll isn't unfamiliar to the position the Wild finds itself currently in. In some respects, neither is the Wild, having last season sprinted to the finish line and into the top eight in the Western Conference.

It wasn't so long ago the Wild was looking at the playoff picture from the outside. But since a 7-4 loss against the New Jersey Devils 13 days ago, one the Wild was persistent in saying was just "one game," Minnesota has reeled off six consecutive one-game winning streaks.

It's a run, but the Wild is doing its best to not dwell too much on each victory.

"It was just a stand by all of us in this locker room," said Matt Dumba, who fought Andrew Shaw in the second period on Tuesday, his third career scrap. "Enough is enough. We were sick of losing games to probably teams we shouldn’t and ended up beating the ones that were higher up in the standings that we knew we could."

In taking 10 of a possible 10 points from Chicago the Wild completed a historically rare feat. It's learned enough from history though to know it cannot only rest on those laurels.

"Well, obviously you get some confidence from it, but at the same time the playoffs are a different animal," said Jared Spurgeon, who scored the game-winning goal in the third period. "But when you have that confidence going into the playoffs if you do happen to play in them, it’s huge for the team. We’re having fun right now, and we just have to keep it going."

Stoll was a member of two Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup-winning teams. The first, in 2012, snuck in as the eight seed by getting hot down the stretch, and then became the first team to finish below fifth in its conference to ever win a Cup.

When the Wild defeated the Kings last Tuesday, win number three of its current stretch, Stoll reflected on what had changed for Los Angeles late in that 2012 season, or when the Kings found themselves in crunch time.

"You realize the magnitude of each game, and you definitely hear about it from outside of the dressing room, and how important the points are," Stoll said. "You look at the standings, and people start talking about matchups, and it's tough hockey, it's harder hockey, it's tighter hockey, and it's a battle.

"That just elevates everybody's game, and everybody's focus to try to win a game, and get two points, and realize how important the points are. Maybe that's the mindset leading up to the last eight-to-10 games of the season."

Now with five to go, there's no time like the present for the Wild.

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