Video: Greenway, Parise lead Wild past Blue Jackets, 2-1
ST. PAUL -- Jordan Greenway was one of the last Wild players to leave the ice after practice Friday.
Collecting passes from assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, the Wild's gargantuan winger worked on collecting the puck in the left slot, turning his wrists over to prepare for a shot, then letting it rip toward the opposite top corner of the goal at TRIA Rink. A water bottle resting feet in front of him served as a marker; shoot too low, and the bottle would get smashed. Too high, and if not for the tinted glass on the fifth floor of Treasure Island Center, the puck would end up on Wabasha Street.
Greenway hit the same exact target in Saturday's 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, beating Sergei Bobrovsky on a perfectly-placed wrister the goaltender never even saw and giving Minnesota (24-21-3) a rare early lead from which to build upon; too many times this season, the Wild has given up the first goal and been unable to recover.
Preparedness. The difference between the week the Wild just had and the way it ended.
Video: CBJ@MIN: Greenway, Staal team up to open scoring
"When we're not chasing the game, we feel we're in it the whole time," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said after his club's third straight win on Hockey Day Minnesota presented by Wells Fargo. "We may not win them all, but we're in it all the time. It's important. There was so much talk the last couple days among us about not being ready at the start. But I think they really were prepared mentally by themselves, and I think it showed during the first period."
Those last couple days included two trades sandwiched around a shutout loss to one of the worst teams in the NHL at present. But if Minnesota is to ascend to the playoff ranks and stay there after losing four of six games earlier this month, its readiness for Saturday's affair could serve as a blueprint.
[RELATED: Complete coverage from Hockey Day Minnesota 2019]
"I think we were pretty fired up to come out tonight after last game, and it paid off for us," said Greenway, who scored his ninth goal of the season to make it 1-0 16 minutes, 7 seconds into the first period.
Zach Parise scored the game-winner about 90 seconds later, and from there Minnesota settled into a tight-checking, low-chance dogfight. Its defense and 3-for-4 penalty kill avoided leaving Devan Dubnyk out to dry, and the netminder responded in kind with two big third-period saves to keep the score at 2-1.
For an All-Star goalie whose coach said he needed some rest after a dry spell the past couple weeks, Saturday represented an individual resurgence to go with that of his team.
"It's always more fun when you don't get scored on," said Dubnyk, who stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief of Alex Stalock during Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Ducks. "You try not to look at results as much when you're trying to break it down and think about if something needs to change or doesn't need to change. I felt good about my game, so I wasn't concerned about it. It's still nice to jump in and play the majority of the game last game and get a good feeling going."
Video: CBJ@MIN: Dubnyk denies Werenski to preserve lead
Parise, meanwhile, recovered from a frustrating night Thursday in which he took a franchise-record 11 shots but couldn't find twine. That summed up the evening -- and the last couple weeks -- as Anaheim snapped a tumultuous 12-game losing streak in St. Paul.
General Manager Paul Fenton had already dealt minor leaguer Justin Kloos to the Ducks in exchange for Pontus Aberg, hoping to add some more firepower. Friday, he shook things up further by trading Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask, capping a whirlwind few days for a team still trying to find its stride.
Rask and Aberg earned the assists on Parise's goal Saturday. The pair hadn't skated together before warmups.
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But they talked a lot leading up to the game, Rask said, and had some familiarity from the get-go.
"You just kind of learn to play with each other," Rask said. "It's going to take some time, but luckily we got on the board right away, so that's good."
Maybe more than good, the way the Central Division and Western Conference are shaking out. By the time he addressed reporters following Saturday's victory, Boudreau had already checked the out-of-town scores and seen that of the five teams hovering around the West's final Wild Card spot, four -- including the Wild -- earned wins.
Minnesota will see one of them Wednesday at Colorado in its last game before the break, but first comes a test Monday in Vegas against the defending Western Conference champions.
"Any time we win, I'm happy," Boudreau said. "You know the way it goes. I think ... there's so many teams that are hitting their sense of urgency right now, which is right now a lot earlier than normal. But you could just look at the out-of-town scores, all the teams that had lost that are close together, they won tonight against good teams. So the sense of urgency is there.
"I gotta believe it's going to be quite a race from here on in."
Video: Locker room reaction vs Columbus
Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Columbus