There were many key moments that defined the Minnesota Wild's 2015-16 season. Wild.com will take a look at some of the most important.
Sunday, February 28, 2016 — In the midst of looking to turn its season around, the Minnesota Wild returned from a quick, two-game eastern road trip during which it suffered a last-second loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and a come-from-behind defeat against the Washington Capitals.
Playing its eighth game under interim Head Coach John Torchetti, the new coach's tenure could be summarized by two streaks up to that point: A four-game winning stretch, and the three consecutive losses it was in the midst of.
On a mild winter day in Saint Paul, the Wild played a matinee against the Florida Panthers, a chance to put an end to its losing streak and inch closer toward a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
After the Wild scored just over five minutes into the first period to take a 1-0 lead, the Panthers would strike next, a power-play goal in the second period, meaning the teams would enter the third period in a deadlock.
Roughly midway through the third period, the game still tied, Eric Haula made a play at Minnesota's blue line, and then several more in one of the most exciting sequences of the season by a Wild player.
What It Looked Like
What Was Written
From the recap: It was Haula’s eighth goal of the season and first in seven days; he had a breakaway in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks last Sunday but was hauled down en route. The puck never went in the net, but he was credited with a goal.
His goal against the Panthers took considerably more effort.
With the game tied at 1-1, Haula stripped Panthers defenseman Dmitri Kulikov of the puck inside the Florida offensive zone, poked it through neutral ice, and then split a pair Panthers players. Haula beat goaltender Roberto Luongo with a forehand shot under the crossbar.
From Five Takeaways:
The Wild desperately needed a home win to end a long slide at Xcel Energy Center, and with the game tied 1-1 in the third period, Erik Haula willed them there.
The Wild won at home as recently as two games ago, but the Wild had not won in Saint Paul in 62 days, since a Dec. 28 win against the Detroit Red Wings.
That's a nine-game span in which the Wild had collected points in its home arena (three combined overtime and shootout losses in that stretch), but Haula, with a highlight-reel individual effort, bagged Minnesota two big points on Sunday.
"It was all about the win at home," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "The fans deserved it, they were great tonight; they supported us. We hadn't won at home in a long time. It's a feeling that you have to be comfortable with out there."
It began when Haula curled back at his own circle, and with an active stick, broke up a pass intended for Dmitry Kulikov.
From there, Haula hounded the puck away from Reilly Smith, pushing it in the direction of Eric Gudbranson.
But Haula wasn't done, catching up to the loose puck, and out-hustling and out-muscling his way through Smith and Gudbranson, before roofing the puck under the crossbar for the eventual game-winner.
It's worth repeating how well Haula has been playing of late. The goal, his sixth in 26 games since New Year's Eve, went unassisted. And Haula earned it, with one of his prettiest and hardest-working goals of the season.
"We need wins right now, that’s the bottom line," Haula said. "It doesn’t matter who gets them or what happens in the game as long as we get those two points. It’s playoffs right now already and we’re ready for a huge tilt on Tuesday."
What It Sounded Like
What Was Tweeted