Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 5-3 win against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The fragility that had crept into the Minnesota Wild, both vernacularly and literally, appears to be fading fast.
The past two games, under interim Head Coach John Torchetti, Minnesota has been punched in the gut in second periods. Those same second periods had turned into 20 minutes of horror for Minnesota over a long losing streak.
But each jab was met with a swift counter-punch of Minnesota's own, as the Wild has found answers to adversity.
"Before, it was, give one up, and we'd kind of get a little deflated, where the last couple ones, we've got scored on, and no one has been sulking," Zach Parise said. "We've been responding, and getting big goals right after."
The punch on Wednesday came when Calgary was able to score consecutive goals to shrink a 3-0 Wild lead to a one-goal deficit. The second thump came not in the gut, but in the face, when a shot going nowhere near the goal deflected off Matt Dumba's noggin and in.
"From my end, it happens," Torchetti said. "Especially the second goal, it went off ... Dumba's head, and it looked like a game out there, one of those things with the rolling ball. But what are you going to do?"
It was a cruel way to see its lead get cut into, but 1:38 later, Minnesota threw an uppercut of its own, turning an extended shift in Calgary's end into its fourth score, and a two-goal edge.
"It was a good bounce back at a time we needed it," Jason Pominville said. "When you give one up, you want to make sure that you respond the right way."
It's difficult to play 60 perfect minutes, and have all the bounces go your way. But what's been key for the Wild the past two games is how it has responded to the bad, and forged ahead.
"It's just one of those things, you deal with it, and you move on," Torchetti said. "You can't let one goal ruin the whole night."
With 70 seconds of a 5-on-3 and a chance to extend its lead to 3-0 in the second period, the Wild's power play, which has been much better lately, was given a major opportunity.
And in a crucial spot, Minnesota took advantage.
For the ninth time in the past 11 games, the Wild scored on a power play. Though Mikko Koivu's goal in the second period wasn't a game-ender, it did authoritatively hammer a nail into the proverbial coffin, giving Minnesota a three-goal cushion so early in the game.
"It kind of loosened us up," Torchetti said.
Koivu was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce, when a Ryan Suter point shot ticked of Mark Giordano, and then floated neatly into the top corner. Suter picked his head up, and made the simple playing of shooting to goal. Many times, especially when you're up two skaters on the ice that can lead to good things.
Things are going quite well for Erik Haula lately, so much so that, peculiarly enough, the Flames decided to leave him by his lonesome in the slot in the first period.
And Haula made them pay.
After Haula got tossed from the faceoff circle, Pominville stepped in and won the puck to Nino Niederreiter. He was able to circle below the goal line, and Pominville followed in support, only to see and find a wide-open Haula in the slot.
It was strong work by Niederreiter and Pominville to create possession down low, and as Calgary collapsed, Pominville made a heady play to feed him the puck, a flat pass right in his sweet spot.
"Nino was an absolute workhorse below the goal line tonight," Haula said. "He did a great job of holding onto the puck, and supporting. It doesn't always show, but he did a great job. [Pominville] played a really great game, too."
Later on, Haula would return the favor, finding Pominville all alone in front after a long shift in Calgary's zone, setting him up for a goal.
Haula now has nine points in his past 12 games, with six goals. That offense has complemented Haula's steady two-way game, and a more effective effort in the faceoff circle, though his latest goal began with him getting chased from it.
"I feel about as good as I did in the playoffs a couple of years ago," Haula said. "Thinking about the window, I'm playing hockey, and just trying to do the right things, but all the bad thoughts from the back of my head are leaving, and the confidence is kicking in, and that's huge."
Against a Flames team that had six power-play goals in its past three games, the Wild thought it prudent to not find itself in the box too often on Wednesday. In general, the Wild has talked about wanting to spend less time on its penalty kill.
But when the Wild found itself killing off a Zach Parise tripping minor late in the first period, it was Minnesota, and not Calgary, who scored.
It began with a solid defensive play by Nate Prosser, stripping the puck from Sam Bennett as he tried to toe-drag into the circle.
Prosser then flung a pass in the direction of Jason Zucker. From there, Zucker was able to chase down the puck, dance around Jakub Nakladal, and fire a shot off the far crossbar and in, snapping a 15-game goal drought.
That being said, the Wild quite literally played with fire, putting itself shorthanded five times on Wednesday.
"We're anxious, but we just have to play under control," Torchetti said.
It ended in the third time in the 14 occasions the Wild has committed four or more penalties and Minnesota has won the game.
Two of those wins have come on this road trip, as the Wild also came away with a victory in Vancouver after its penalty kill went 2-for-4.
Minnesota spent four minutes of the first 5:39 of the third period against Calgary protecting a two-goal lead. The penalty kill stood tall, with its last line of defense, Devan Dubnyk, holding his ground, but to begin a period that the Flames were bound to be pressing in, the Wild made things harder on itself.
"It's just tough [penalty-killing] all the time to get any type of flow, any type of momentum five-on-five," Parise said. "It just makes the game hard. I don’t' know what it is, maybe we're finding ourselves on the wrong side of the puck a little bit, but it's something that we'll just have to fix."