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Wild finds its blueprint ... now it needs to duplicate it

Minnesota stymies red-hot Tampa Bay in victory Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- If the Wild is going to climb back into the postseason mix in the Western Conference, it would be wise to take its game plan from Thursday night and run it through hockey's version of a Xerox machine.

Minnesota frustrated the explosive and red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning on its way to a 3-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center, a win that snapped an ugly four-game losing streak and, hopefully anyway, set the tone for the team's final sprint into the All-Star break.

The game also started a streak of 10 of 11 games on home ice, a stretch of games which will likely define the stretch run of the Wild's season. 

"We knew we hadn't played well," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "Pittsburgh was a dud, and for us to get back on the horse and play the way we did shows how we're capable of playing and to continue that into the break here and after the break."

Video: Postgame helmet celly vs Tampa Bay

Suter was one of many Wild players who had a tough night Tuesday against the Penguins. But instead of bag skating his team into oblivion at practice on Wednesday, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau showed them some video clips then sent them on their way for the day. The goal: forget hockey and come back to the rink Thursday refreshed and ready to go against a team that had lost just once in its previous 11 games. 

The Wild did just that, checking off numerous boxes along the way that almost always define the team's game when it's at its best.

Video: TBL@MIN: Parise finishes Staal's feed for PPG

Zach Parise scored the game's first goal when he finished off a great backhand pass from Eric Staal 14:17 into the game. The goal, which came with three seconds left on a power play, gave Parise three in his past two games and lifted him ahead of Staal for the team lead in that category.

The Wild entered the night 12-6-3 when scoring the first goal. 

Video: Locker room postgame vs Tampa Bay

"It's hard to be chasing the game because if you give them that first one, if they get another one, then it's a big hole," Parise said. "When you get the lead, if you can get that second one, then all of the sudden, you're in the driver's seat."

Tampa Bay tied the game 7:42 into the second the first of Nikita Kucherov's two goals, but the Wild climbed back behind the wheel less than five minutes later, when Joel Eriksson Ek capped a gritty shift by his line in the offensive zone with a goal from the slot. 

Video: TBL@MIN: Eriksson Ek fires quick blast from the slot

Just 131 seconds elapsed before the Wild pushed its lead to two on Suter's shot from the point that hit a Lightning defenseman in front. Suter's goal ended up being the game-winner.  

It was the kind of answer and push back the team has been missing for the past few weeks. 

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Tampa Bay

"When we were going good we had that push back and I don't know where it went," Boudreau said. "I think the biggest thing, and we have to continue doing that, is not watching the play. We moved our feet on loose pucks and I'll show that tomorrow how good we were on loose pucks. 

"We weren't allowing them to get the puck all the time so they would have possession all the time. And we were competing for loose pucks and when we're competing for loose pucks and get those 50/50 pucks usually weren't not playing in our zone. That's one of the reasons they were limited to 20 shots."

Tampa Bay, which entered the game averaging 32.5 shots on goal per game, had just 12 through 40 minutes as Minnesota built a 3-1 lead. 

Not surprisingly, the Lightning pushed early in the third and had its most fruitful period in terms of shots in the third. Even then, Tampa was only able to get eight shots to Alex Stalock who made 18 saves in the win. 

After allowing 18 goals during its four-game losing streak, it was the kind of back-to-basics defensive effort the Wild has been lacking ... and desperately needed. 

Video: TBL@MIN: Suter fires shot that finds the way home

"You can't defend all game. You have to have the puck," Parise said. "It's so hard to get it back. You gotta do stuff when you get the puck, make plays. That said, you need to be smart, but I feel like in Pittsburgh, for example, anytime we got the puck, we gave it right back to them. That's a tough way to play."

The victory moved the Wild to within seven points of the Edmonton Oilers for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, so there remains plenty of work ahead.

But Thursday's game is a solid reminder of just what the Wild is capable of when it plays its game for 60 minutes. Now, it just needs to copy it on Saturday night against the division rival Dallas Stars to wrap up Hockey Day Minnesota 2020. 

"That was a game that if we needed an answer, that was the game to do it. Really good," said Wild forward Marcus Foligno. "We frustrated them a lot until they got some chances in the third period and power play kind of got going for them a little bit. But for the most part, we played a really solid game and the way we played tonight was big for getting out of this rut."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Lightning 2

Video: Parise, Wild hang on for 3-2 win vs. the Lightning

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