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 6-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium.
The John Torchetti-era Wild is having no problems scoring goals, indoors or out.
After setting a franchise mark with three consecutive regulation games with at least five goals-for, the Wild's offense was at it again on Sunday, scoring six against the Blackhawks to extend the record.
"We're making plays offensively," Zach Parise said. "We're playing with a lot more patience with the puck, a lot more poise, a lot more confidence with the puck. We're playing a fast game now, and to me, that's been the biggest difference."
Not coincidentally, the Wild is also 4-0-0 in those games, yet to be defeated with Torchetti at the helm.
"If they want to keep going, that's fine with me," Devan Dubnyk said. "We showed it last year: When we play fast, and play like that, we're more than capable of putting up four, five, and six, and when we play fast and hard defensively, we're very capable of winning games 1-0 and 2-1."
One of the most noticeable differences has been the Wild's ability to re-establish its pace. Without a roof, with the wind in its face, Minnesota wasn't positive if it could keep its foot fully on the gas, and was ready to change if the weather dictated it.
But Mother Nature obliged, as did the Wild's goal-scorers, and Minnesota kept its offensive groove intact, and gave Torchetti a win in his home coaching debut.
"We weren't worried about the elements," Parise said. "We liked the way we're playing, the way we've been playing the past four games. Now it's a challenge to keep it going, but we're all happy with how it's going."
The four straight victories are also the Wild's longest winning-streak this season.
"It's up to them; it's not me. That's the bottom line," Torchetti said. "Once you make a commitment as a teammate and your other teammates see you play at that level, then it's up to myself and then the other players to hold everyone else accountable to that style of play. So it's great to work when you have the puck."
It was a pretty warm February day by Minnesota standards, and the Wild's power play stayed hot in the first period.
When Thomas Vanek deflected a Jason Pominville point shot past Corey Crawford, it was the Wild's fourth straight game with a power-play goal. Minnesota has scored on its man-advantages in 11 of its past 13, going 24.5 (12-for-49) percent over that stretch.
"The power play has been fantastic this past week," Dubnyk said.
Some of the things Torchetti has made a point of talking about on the power play worked in Minnesota's favor to put it ahead 2-0 on Sunday. It began with getting the puck on the flank to Jason Pominville, a position the Wild has been able to use effectively.
"Being comfortable on the power play is big," Torchetti said of Pominville. "Keeping that dot, when he's on his off-side making sure that you don't want him to be too far ahead. You want him always to be in that one-time position and then always in the situation for two or three plays."
From there, Pominville, who now has six points in his past three games, took a well-paced low shot that found Vanek's stick above the crease. By getting moved back to the blue line on the power play, Pominville said he's found more comfort.
"I've played in different positions this year, positions that, to be honest with you, I've never really played," he said. "I started the year net-front, and then was half-wall for a little while, and now I'm back to defense where I've pretty much played since I've been pro."
In Vanek's 800th career game, he scored his 123rd power play goal, and since entering the NHL in 2005, only Alex Ovechkin has more power play goals than Vanek.
Matt Dumba, who asked a Wild equipment manager to "give him the Ray Lewis" when applying his eye black.
On the ice, Dumba leveled a check that looked more like a form-tackle that drew a Wild power play that led to Vanek's goal. Earlier, Dumba opened the scoring, and in the first 20 minutes, was a major spark-plug for Minnesota.
"I was excited all day," Dumba said. "Right when I got on the ice, I had this energy, and I just wanted to use it the right way."
Dumba skated 5:14 in the first period, while also spending two minutes in the penalty box. He had two individual shot-attempts, one of which was good for the first goal ever scored in an outdoor NHL game in this history of the State of Hockey.
"We get a big goal from [Dumba]," Dubnyk said. "He goes and throws a big hit, and draws a penalty, and we go from there."
The goal was created by Dumba following up on a play, hustling down ice and not over-skating the crease. Instead, Dumba stopped on a dime in time to cash in on a Ryan Carter rebound.
"You're never going to get another opportunity like this," Dumba said. "It's a really special game, and we're so fortunate that we could go out and perform the way we did."
The Wild's Golden Gopher gang was out in full force on Sunday, just steps away from where they grinded their teeth in the college ranks.
Erik Haula, Mike Reilly, and Vanek each left their footprints — err, skate track — on the TCF Bank Stadium ice. Vanek scored the aforementioned goal, and Reilly picked up a secondary assist on the score when he orchestrated the action from the blue line and kept the puck moving to Pominville.
"I’m usually not a big celebrator, but I got pretty fired up today here," Vanek said.
Late in the first, Haula drew a penalty, and in the second, began a sleek passing sequence that ended in Nino Niederreiter scoring his 11th of the season. By the time the game was 22:26 old, all three University of Minnesota alumni had recorded a point.
"It was incredible; what a feeling," Haula said. "First, to get the win, and the whole team to play that well. Having 50,000 people being back where you started. It was incredible."
The trio combined to play 314 games as Gophers, scoring 117 goals. On Sunday, they were able to rekindle some of their collegiate magic.
If there's one line that's completely taken off lately, it's that of Haula, Pominville, and Niederreiter.
Haula said the three players complement each other with their skill sets, and Niederreiter said the trio raises each other's games.
The past three games, not only has the line been mainstays in the opposition's zone, it has also been consistent contributors on the score sheet.
"Our line has been obviously playing with confidence," Pominville said. "We've been able to get on the score sheet, which helps your confidence, and confidence is a big part of the game."
The line has combined for 14 points, with Pominville leading the way with six, punctuated by his first three-point game of the season on Sunday. A veteran of outdoor games by the Wild's standards after playing in the 2008 Winter Classic, Pominville looked very comfortable navigating the TCF Bank Stadium ice.
When the Wild started out the season hot, it was getting steady offensive contributions from its third line. Getting that tertiary scoring helps relieve some pressure from the top six, affects matchups, and usually goes hand-in-hand with success.
"It's obviously a team game, and when everybody is pitching in, it takes pressure off of others, too," Carter said. "It's putting us in spots where teams have to press to get back to us."
On Sunday, the Wild got four even-strength goals from its bottom six, which gave Minnesota a major boost.
"There's an extra bit of energy there too because everybody is contributing, everybody is feeling good, and right now we're rolling a little bit," Carter said.