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Zucker's play does the talking in Wild's victory over Canadiens

Forward scores once, assists on third-period winner as Minnesota snaps two-game skid

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- After a tumultuous few days, Wild forward Jason Zucker decided he'd let his play do the talking.

Zucker scored a goal and had a fabulous assist on the game winner on Sunday as Minnesota rallied for a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center.

It was a sharp contrast from 72 hours earlier, when the Wild posted just 17 shots on goal in a 4-0 loss against these same Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

Frustrated by his own performance and by the team's rocky start, Zucker called out his teammates ... and his head coach. 

The comments were not meant as a shot across the bow of coach Bruce Boudreau, but they were certainly interpreted that way by some in the media.

Before the Wild's team plane had already left eastern Canada, Zucker had apologized to Boudreau and did so again at practice on Saturday at TRIA Rink.

His performance on the ice on Sunday required no such analysis.

Video: Locker room postgame vs. Montreal

"I think we've said enough," Zucker said with a grin creeping across his face. "Yeah, it was good."

If Boudreau was frustrated by all the talk over the past few days, he didn't show it. Like the players, Boudreau has been mystified by the club's sagging start, especially with the optimism from training camp and the belief that Minnesota was ready to make a push back to the postseason.

Just one victory in the team's first seven games had left Boudreau and the locker room clearly frustrated. A closed-door players only meeting after the game in Montreal resulted, as was Zucker's comments.

But Boudreau's confidence that a turnaround was possible hasn't wavered. 

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Canadiens

"It's a good group. I've always said that it's a group that cares. These guys care," Boudreau said. "It'd be great if we could put a little string together."

The Wild was able to snap a couple of frustrating early season trends on Sunday. 

Minnesota's struggling power play connected on a pair of goals, including Brad Hunt's tying goal 8:38 into the third period. 

The Wild also scored its first goal off the rush, when Zucker fed Zach Parise with a pristine pass from the right point to the bottom of the left circle that seemed to get through about 10 sticks. Parise redirected it under the cross bar for what ended up as the winning marker with 7:06 remaining. 

"That was probably the hardest pass [in terms of velocity] that I've ever made, so that was very impressive by Zach, especially to get that short side of the bar," Zucker said. "I still don't know how he did it, I need to watch the replay because that was impressive."

Video: MTL@MIN: Parise puts home Zucker's dish on the rush

The Wild's passing was also much more effective. It's ineffectiveness in moving the puck has been a big reason for the team's early struggles, but that wasn't the case on Sunday.

"We had a lot of bad passes and turnovers on simple plays. These players are better than that," Boudreau said. "Tape-to-tape passes create speed and if you can pass tape-to-tape, it has the illusion that you're skating a lot faster because I've never seen a guy skate faster than a puck. That's the kind of stuff that makes you look like you're ... going 100 miles an hour and that you're playing fast."

The Wild also re-gained control of the game after Montreal scored twice in 16 seconds early in the second period, a stretch which cancelled out perhaps Minnesota's best period of the season. 

So often, one goal against has turned into two, three or even four. 

But the Wild overcame that on Sunday, eventually stopped the bleeding and evened the game on a big goal by Marcus Foligno in the dying moments of the second.

Video: MTL@MIN: Foligno taps home loose puck to tie game

"It just seemed like something was coming back up to haunt us again and I thought the guys did a really good job just staying mentally into it and getting ticked off too," Foligno said. "There were a lot of shifts after some letdown shifts that we had some really good emotion in our shifts and controlled the game."

Now it's up to the Wild to try and put together consecutive wins for the first time this season, something it will have the opportunity to do on Tuesday when Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers come to St. Paul. 

The time for talk is over. That much was evident on Sunday.

"There's players in here that can back it up and get things going. We know that and that's why we're positive. This isn't a season that's kind of already made up its mind," Foligno said. "It's right there for us to battle back and tonight was a good example of it." 


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 4, Canadiens 3

Video: Hunt, Parise lift Wild to 4-3 victory vs. Canadiens

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