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Wild's confidence--and its game--is trending upwards

Points streak hits four games as Minnesota tops Colorado Thursday night in St. Paul

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- If the Wild is to make a run up the Western Conference standings, it's going to have to start putting together runs and winning streaks.

Those stretches have to start somewhere, and if Minnesota's recent results are any indication, it could be the start of something. 

Jason Zucker's third-period goal with 10:02 left in regulation lifted the Wild to a 3-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center, which continued a couple of positive trends if you're a Wild fan.

Minnesota improved to 5-1-2 on home ice this season and has now run its points streak in downtown St. Paul to seven games. Considering home games have come at a premium through the first two months of the season, those points will come in handy once the schedule turns in a couple of weeks. 

Overall, the Wild now has points in four consecutive, in five of six and in seven of nine since the beginning of the month, posting a record of 5-2-2 in those games.

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Colorado

Going back even further, the Wild has been playing mostly solid since a 4-3 win against Montreal on Oct. 20, but the results haven't always showed it.

A lack of finish in Nashville spoiled a great start in an eventual 4-0 loss to the Predators on Oct. 20.

A rotten third period ruined a great 40 minutes in a 6-3 loss in Dallas.

The Wild outshot the defending Stanley Cup champs 36-26 but lost 2-1 in St. Louis 24 hours after that.

A bad first period put the Wild behind the eight ball in San Jose, but it nearly rallied anyway.

Only recently has the Wild started to make some hay in the standings.

Video: COL@MIN: Greenway scores after pretty passing play

"It's great to get rewarded," said Wild forward Jordan Greenway. "It's tough when you know you played really well or you should have won that game and you still come back in here knowing you lost. It's great to come in here with a victory and everyone is buzzing around. It goes right into tomorrow and everyone comes to the rink happy and things just continue to build. 

"It's a huge confidence builder for us and I think it's going to keep the momentum going."

Confidence is something that was in short supply for several Wild players early on in the year. Eric Staal went eight games without his first goal. Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello went through dry spells. Kevin Fiala struggled for a couple weeks before finding his game. Greenway didn't score his first goal until last week. 

But as the Wild has played better of late, all of those guys have helped carry the load and as they've found their games, along with everyone else, the confidence in the group has become palpable. 

Video: COL@MIN: Zuccarello taps in Koivu feed for PPG

As Greenway said, the good sensations are continued day after day, and while it's not tangible, its presence is certainly being felt inside the dressing room.

It can be seen on the ice, not only in the win column of late, but in the Wild's overall play. 

The tic-tac-toe passing plays on display on all three goals on Thursday were plays the Wild wasn't even trying a month ago.

"We've always felt that we've had a good team. We've been close," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who had a pair of assists in the win. "For whatever reason, different things in different games, we found ways to lose. And now everyone is chipping in, doing the right thing, we're getting solid goaltending. It's contagious."

Even when things went south on Thursday night, the Wild found a way to persevere. 

Video: COL@MIN: Zucker puts Wild back ahead in 3rd

Leading 2-0 after scoring twice in the first 161 seconds of the second period, Colorado's Cale Makar evened the game, scoring twice over the final 5 1/2 minutes of the period, including the tying goal with 1:11 left.

In games past, the Wild might have let that seep into its final 20 minutes, but instead, Minnesota stuck to it, played a solid final period, and was rewarded with Zucker's put back midway through the stanza.

"The maturity is starting to show," Suter said. "We're starting to play the right way at the start of games and playing if they score to get the momentum back. It's a good sign for us."

Some of that, of course, was good timing.

Video: Locker room postgame vs Colorado

"It was a good thing, quite frankly, that the period ended when it did so you could re-gather your thoughts," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau admitted afterward. 

But a lot of that was resolve, which the Wild has shown plenty of in recent weeks as it tries to climb out of the deep hole it dug for itself in October. 

"We've been playing pretty good now for a length of time. I mean, we're obviously going into maybe the best team in the NHL's building, so it'll be a great test for us," Boudreau said. "But if we could ever put a little run together while we're doing all these road games, I'm hoping we're going to be pretty successful when we start getting a lot of home games in a row. So we'll see how it goes."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Avalanche 2

Video: Wild edge Avalanche on Zucker's goal

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