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All even: Wild resets season after dominating win Friday against Sens

After 1-6-0 start, Minnesota gets back to .500 before the end of November

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- To be .500 the day after Thanksgiving is not the goal of every team at the start of an 82-game season at the beginning of October. 

But when you're 1-6, in last place in the NHL and just trying to survive a road-heavy schedule with no end in sight, .500 at Thanksgiving looks pretty damn good. 

After a miserable start to the 2019-20 season, the Wild can officially push the reset button after reaching .500 following a dominant 7-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.

Around the time the Wild lost 4-3 in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes 13 days ago, coach Bruce Boudreau implored his team to avoid looking at the standings, which showed the Wild dead last in the 31-team NHL with 16 points. 

Minnesota has gone 4-0-2 since, probably should have gone 6-0-0, and is playing its best hockey in the season. 

When the final horn sounded on the Wild's triumphant victory on Friday, Minnesota had climbed to within two points of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference and checked off an important goal on its journey back to relevance.

Video: Locker room postgame vs Ottawa

"Our goal was to get back to .500 before the end of November," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "We knew that if we stuck with it, we were not playing terrible, we were just finding ways to lose. But we've buttoned it down defensively and our goaltending has been solid. It's been the big difference."

Credit the entire dressing room with not getting down on itself when the Wild was five games under .500 just six games into the season. Six of those seven were on the road while five came against playoff teams from a year ago. 

But with the team scuffling out of the gate and a two-month slog of a road schedule left to navigate, it wasn't hard to envision a nightmare of a season by the time the Wild's schedule turns in the middle of December. 

At that point, .500 seemed like a pipe dream. 

"We put ourselves in a tough position to start the year," said Wild forward Ryan Hartman. "We talked about this date, or even Christmas to get ourselves back in the hunt, and we've done a great job lately of gaining points and jumping up in the standings. We aren't looking at the standings too much. We are just doing what we need to do. Just getting points. If we do that we're going to be just fine."

Eric Staal admitted he hasn't completely ignored the standings, but Boudreau remains steadfast that he has paid them little attention.

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Ottawa

"We win three or four more in a row, then I'll go, 'Oh, man. We're getting closer,'" Boudreau said. "If we just play the right way, and do the right things, then the points automatically come up and we don't have to be begging and looking. They'll just be there."

On Friday, the Wild had to navigate trouble early. After a sleepy start to the game, the Wild began pressuring the Senators end midway through the period. Minnesota got a little too cute at times with the puck, becoming a tad too pass happy, before a turnover led to Ottawa's first goal of the game on a deflection by Nick Paul at 15:37.

Video: OTT@MIN: Donato puts home nifty backhander

Minnesota dominated the first part of the second however, and finally broke through at 9:43 when Victor Rask's forecheck forced a turnover right onto Ryan Donato's stick. He flipped a backhander under the crossbar to tie the game at one.

It was the beginning of a stretch of 4 minutes, 13 seconds where the teams combined to score four times, with the Wild bagging three of them, to take a 3-2 lead into the final period. 

"I think we just found our game," Donato said. "I know that when we play that way where we just play super structured, shut down especially in this place, when you get a couple goals, the crowd really gets into it."

Minnesota buried the Sens under a four-goal avalanche in the final period, scoring four times in a span of 5 minutes, 4 seconds. 

"I don't know. It was kind of so so the whole first two, we got a few and then everybody got comfortable, got their legs going and smooth sailing from there," said Wild forward Luke Kunin, who scored Minnesota's fourth goal 4:34 into the third. "I don't have the exact answer, but happy we found it."

Video: OTT@MIN: Spurgeon, Zuccarello combine for goal

In all, seven different players scored goals for the Wild, 11 different players found the scoresheet. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, celebrating his 30th birthday, led the way with one goal and two assists. Along with defensive partner Ryan Suter, each posted a plus-5, which tied a franchise record.

Jonas Brodin had two assists while Staal had a goal and an assist while Alex Stalock, making his fifth start in the past six games, stopped 33 shots.
 
"Both teams were sort of slow and sloppy in the first period and then midway through the second period it started to get a bit more crisp," Spurgeon said. "Al made some big saves for us to keep us in. We just stuck with it." 


Related:

Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 7, Senators 2

Video: Wild ride balanced offense to 7-2 win

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