Following Wild games, Managing Editor Glen Andresen will give the five takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
All it takes is a win. That's all it takes to quiet the talk of a losing streak. That's all it takes to end struggles against the pesky Phoenix Coyotes. It's all it takes to get certain players back on track. And a 3-2 win over the Coyotes was all it took to pull the Wild to within four points of five teams that are tied for fifth in the Western Conference.
Of course the Wild has more work to do, espcially with two more big games in California on Saturday and Sunday. But if it can duplicate tonight's effort and the performances of its veteran leaders, we could be feeling really good about this team come Monday when the Wild gets another extended stretch of days off.
"It was pretty easy sending guys over the boards because everybody was putting it on the line tonight," said Wild Head Coach Todd Richards.
Richards has really enjoyed the use of the phrase "Big Dogs" this year. Personally, I'm a fan of that phrase in any situation. When you pull out the driver on the golf course, you're letting the "Big Dog" eat. If you're a guy hanging out with your friends, you let them know upon your arrival that "the Big Dog is here!" And if you're Todd Richards and you're using that phrase, you're likely talking about Mikko Koivu
, Andrew Brunette, Brent Burns and Marty Havlat.
Richards again talked about how the Big Dogs led the way tonight, with everyone else following suit. Well, I'd say he was on target with that assessment. Brunette scored two goals. Koivu and Antti Miettinen each had a pair of assists. Burns scored his seventh of the year which puts him on pace for 21 this year. Havlat was the only "Big Dog" kept off the final scoresheet, but that was only because he missed an empty net in the closing seconds. Hey, the guy needed a break from shouldering the load.
A little more on that top line of Koivu, Mitts and Bruno. The Star Tribune's
Mike Russo ran a feature in today's paper about that line's struggles and what they've been doing to correct them. There was video study and extra work in practice and talks with each other. And tonight, there were results.
With Havlat and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
struggling to get things going against a stingy Coyote defense, the top line took over. They opened the scoring with a picture perfect rush into the zone with Brunette finishing from in tight where he loves to be. Miettinen, who is more known for his shooting than his passing, threaded a perfect dime to Burns at the crease for an easy tap in. And again, Bruno battled in front of the net to tip home a Zidlicky shot on the power play for a huge third period goal that proved to be the game-winner.
It was Brunette's first two-goal game since March 28, 2008 against Edmonton. Isn't every Wild player's last two goal game against Edmonton? Or does it just seem that way?
Coming into tonight, the Coyotes owned a five-game win streak over the Wild, which was tied for the longest current win streak against Minnesota with New Jersey. That came to an end tonight.
The Wild win also ended a Phoenix streak against the Northwest. The Coyotes had won all six of their previous games against Northwest Division opponents this year. That also came to an end tonight.
When they arrived last year, Richards and General Manager Chuck Fletcher did away with the old Wild tradition of the rotating captaincy, and went with the easy decision of making Koivu the permanent owner of the "C." But they did continue to switch around the "Alternante Captain" role among a leadership group within the locker room. Nick Schultz and Brunette wore the "A's" for the first two months. Tonight, they relinquished those responsibilities to Havlat and Greg Zanon.
Certainly, those two are deserving. Havlat has been doing it all over the past month, and Zanon is just a competitor. He showed that again tonight in the third period. Twice, he was clipped with vicious shots, and both times he quickly got back to his feet and gutted it out in crucial situations.
It was that kind of effort that was prevalent among the entire Wild team tonight.