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Three's got no company: Wild avoids skid, thanks to another comeback win

Minnesota scores twice in the final six minutes of regulation, wins on Fiala's overtime blast

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Almost 90 percent of the way through this truncated 20th anniversary season, the Wild made sure it would maintain its grip on one bit of some pretty cool team history. 

By storming back in the late stages of regulation, and winning 4-3 on Kevin Fiala's second career overtime goal, the Wild made sure it would get to game 50 of its 56-game regular season without yet losing three consecutive games. 

Minnesota has never gone an entire regular season without at least one three-game skid along the way (h/t to Wild PR maven Megan Kogut). The closest the Wild has come to accomplishing the feat before this season was 2017-18, when Minnesota had just one three-game skid in early November.

Video: STL@MIN: Kaprizov sets up Zuccarello to make it 2-1

The year prior, the Wild made it all the way to mid-March before seeing its first three-game losing streak. When that streak went away ... it really went away. Minnesota lost five straight, won once, then lost four-in-a-row. 

Even in a shortened season, avoiding a three-game skid is no easy task. This year, the Wild are one of just three teams in the NHL to boast such a statistic. Playoff-bound Pittsburgh and Boston are the others, and like the Wild, each of those teams is coming off a victory in its most recent outing.

Video: Players postgame vs St. Louis

"We definitely didn't want to lose three in a row. The great teams don't do that," said Wild forward Nick Bonino. "We talked about that before the game and I think over the course of this week, we had some really good periods in both of our losses. And I think tonight we played three pretty solid periods."

Bonino knows a thing or two about great teams. He's won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.

The first of those clubs started the season with three-straight losses and also had a five-game skid along the way. 

The second also had two such streaks, which proves that even the best teams go stretches during a season where it has tough stretches. 

The fact the Wild has been able to halt those skids before they even start is a big reason why it locked up a playoff spot with nine games remaining in the schedule, the earliest it has ever done so.

Video: STL@MIN: Brodin ties it 3-3 with a minute remaining

"In such a short season, that's obviously a huge thing," said Wild forward Nick Bjugstad. "We were semi aware of it, I think in the back of our heads, we kind of all know the situation and that supplies some energy."

In order to keep that streak alive, the Wild had to follow its own blueprint from 48 hours earlier, and one that the Blues followed the day prior to that.

Multi-goal third-period comebacks were the common thread between the teams this week, with St. Louis scoring three unanswered to win 4-3 in regulation on Wednesday night. A day later, Minnesota scored twice late, including with goalie Cam Talbot on the bench, to force overtime and nab a point. 

It did the same thing on this night, the only difference being that this time, the Wild capped its comeback effort with a win instead of a loss. 

Video: Dean Evason postgame vs St. Louis

"We just stayed with the game plan. We were happy that we didn't get out of it and try to do something different," said Wild coach Dean Evason. "We didn't try to get real cute and make pretty plays. We just kept grinding away and grinding away and ultimately found a way. If there's an example it's this hockey club we just played. That's what they do."

For 54 minutes, the Blues frustrated the Wild, making life difficult for Minnesota at almost every turn. And when Minnesota got golden scoring opportunities, netminder Jordan Binnington was there to make saves. 

In the second period alone, Binnington stoned both Zach Parise and Kirill Kaprizov on breakaway chances that also had grade-A rebound follow-ups.

Video: STL@MIN: Sturm deflects Brodin's shot to make it 3-2

On the shift after Kaprizov was stopped twice, David Perron pushed St. Louis' lead to 3-1, a score that would linger until 14 minutes into the final period, when Nico Sturm's awesome re-direction of a Jonas Brodin shot pulled the Wild within a goal.

And considering what had happened in the previous two games, made the belief in a comeback tangible on the Wild bench.

"It gave us a lot of confidence," Brodin said. "Almost every game when you have one goal in the last five minutes you're going to get some chances."

Sure enough, with goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen on the bench for the extra skater, it was Brodin's seeing-eye shot from the point - through a Bonino screen in front of Binnington - that found its way to the back of the cage, tying the game at 3-3 with exactly one minute left in regulation. 

"We know at all times that we have the type of players in the locker room that can get it done," Sturm said. "There's players on every line that could change the game at any given time. But it doesn't really surprise me In that sense. I think we've shown a couple of times this year that we have the resiliency in the locker room."

Video: STL@MIN: Zuccarello feeds Fiala for Wild's OT winner

In 3-on-3, Fiala took control of the puck after some excellent work in the neutral zone by Victor Rask to stickhandle possession away from the Blues - at the end of his shift no less - and start the charge into the offensive zone.

Fiala crossed the blue line and dished back to Mats Zuccarello, who basically one-touched the puck right back into Fiala's wheelhouse for a blistering one-timer that beat Binnington from the top of the right circle.

In earning the two points, the Wild kept its hopes for history alive and learned something about itself along the way.

"The last couple of nights it didn't go our way but it's not like we weren't in those hockey games," Evason said. "It's a good thing for us now to be able to ... reference if we get in this situation again, mentally, that we can get the job done."

"It doesn't matter if we clinched the playoffs already," Brodin said. "The last games here it's going to be important to get the wins and get confidence going into the playoffs. Just have to keep working hard and hope we get more wins."  


Related:

Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 4, Blues 3 (OT)

Video: Fiala, Kahkonen carry Wild past Blues in OT, 4-3

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