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Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Coyotes 1

Hanzal scores in return to Arizona as Wild caps historic regular season

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Wild.com's Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 3-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday night:

 

1. During a season in which the Wild (49-25-8) has rewritten its team record book, two of the most important franchise marks fell on Saturday night.

The victory over Arizona (30-42-10) was Minnesota's 49th of the season, surpassing the previous team record of 48 established in 2006-07. It also gave the Wild 106 points, another new franchise record (104 in 2006-07). 

It also allowed the Wild to finish the regular season on a four-game win streak. Much was made of Minnesota's slog through the month of March, but all of a sudden, the Wild seems primed to enter the postseason as one of the NHL's hotter teams. Minnesota captured at least one point in seven of its final eight games of the campaign, going 5-1-2 during that span. 

"I think it was big. Time will tell; we'll see after the next series how big it was," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "But I think for the importance of their psyche, their last eight games was a really good job for them."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Postgame at Arizona Coyotes

Minnesota also secured a second-place finish in the Western Conference and assured itself of home-ice advantage should the team advance to the Conference Final round of the postseason.

"I think it says that we've been able to be consistent for the most part," said Wild captain Mikko Koivu. "Toward the end, we got our game back, and I thought we've been playing some good hockey. We have been getting better towards the end here for the last two weeks or so. That's what we wanted."

The Wild's 106 points puts it three behind the Chicago Blackhawks for first in the Central Division and nine clear of the third-place St. Louis Blues.

2. At the exact same moment Eric Staal was scoring a power-play goal to give the Wild a 2-0 lead in the first period, St. Louis and Carolina finished regulation tied at 4 apiece.

Video: MIN@ARI: Staal nets one-timer from circle for PPG

The result in Raleigh officially locked the Wild into a first-round matchup with the Blues, beginning next week with Games 1 and 2 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul (the NHL is expected to release its official playoff schedule on Sunday night). 

"They're very daunting. I think they're very similar to only a couple teams in the League in that they don't have, really, a weakness," Boudreau said. "They've got six good defensemen, they've got four lines that can go, especially with the addition of [Vladimir] Sobotka, and their goalie's been on fire since the change. So our work's cut out for us. But I've seen our team all year and when [we] need to rise to the challenge, I think we will."

It marks the second time in three seasons St. Louis and Minnesota will lock horns in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Wild won the series in six games in 2015 and will have the added bonus of home-ice advantage this time around.

"It's gonna be fun. They had a tough start, but they've been better lately, so they're a pretty balanced team," Staal said. "It should be a good series. We'll prepare, as we would next week for whoever we get, and it's them, so [it's] exciting to start Game 1 [next week]."

St. Louis won three of the five meetings between the teams this season, although one of those wins came in a shootout. Four of the five games were one-goal games (counting Minnesota's 3-1 win in which it scored an empty-net goal), so expect another exciting playoff series between the budding rivals.

Video: Locker Room Postgame at Arizona

"St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville, it doesn't really make that big of a difference," said Wild forward Erik Haula. "They're all great teams and a little bit of a rivalry there. It'll be a really fun series. I'm sure both teams are going to be ready for it. We're just excited that 82 is done and now we start the fun part."

3. With the Wild clinging to a one-goal lead late in the game, former Coyote Martin Hanzal scored in his first game back in Glendale.

Video: MIN@ARI: Hanzal buries puck at doorstep for PPG

An Arizona icon for the last decade, Hanzal was dealt to the Wild on Feb. 26 along with Ryan White for a bevy of draft picks. Playing in his first game against his former team, Hanzal's power-play goal with 6:25 remaining in regulation provided the Wild with a critical insurance marker.

For Hanzal, it was his fourth goal since joining the Wild and 20th overall this season, marking the first time in his NHL career Hanzal has reached the 20-goal plateau.

"It's nice. I've never scored 20 goals. I'm glad I reached that," Hanzal said. "Now it's playoff time. All the stats go away and we have to prepare for [next week] because that's when the real season starts."

Video: Martin Hanzal Talks Emotional Return to Arizona

Erik Haula also had a goal for Minnesota while Darcy Kuemper made 20 saves for his first win since Feb. 16.

"It was fun getting back in there," Kuemper said. "Love playing the game, so it was nice to get an opportunity before the season is done here, and especially nice getting a win."


Loose pucks

• The Wild finished its regular season with a 22-13-6 road record, tying its franchise-best 50 road points (2014-15) and reaching its second-most road wins.

• Minnesota went 2-for-2 on the power play, finishing the regular season at a franchise-best 21 percent.

• Mikko Koivu earned the first assist on Hanzal's goal, giving him 40 on the season. He's reached 40 helpers in five of his 12 NHL seasons.

Charlie Coyle had an assist, extending his point streak to end the season to four games, tying a career long.

• Haula's goal was his 15th of the season, a new career best.

• The Wild won 69 percent of its faceoffs on Saturday, with Staal winning 9 of 11 draws (82 percent), Koivu taking 13 of 17 (76 percent) and Hanzal winning 13 of 18 (72 percent).

• Attendance: 17,490


He said it

"I just said I love him. That's it." -- Wild forward Martin Hanzal on what he said to longtime former teammate Shane Doan, who may have played in his final game on Saturday after 21 seasons in the NHL (all with the Coyotes organization)


Dan's three stars

* Eric Staal

** Darcy Kuemper

*** Shane Doan

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