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Statistically Speaking: Scoring first big for Wild, Central teams

Minnesota is 16-4-1 when lighting the lamp first this season

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

Scoring first in the NHL is more important than perhaps in any other professional sport.

Look no further than the Wild's game in Nashville last Saturday.

As the contest continued scoreless for 20 minutes, then 40 minutes, it became crystal clear that whomever scored the first goal was going to have a giant advantage.

"That's what we were talking about between [the second and third] periods, was whoever scores the first goal would probably win," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. 

Ultimately, Nashville scored first and eventually went on to win 3-0, the first goal providing the exact kind of boost Boudreau predicted it would.

The Wild is 4-1-0 since returning from the Christmas break, having scored first in three of those four victories. Minnesota is 16-4-1 when scoring first this season, a margin that's ninth-best in the NHL.

Scoring first has proven even more important in the Western Conference, and specifically the Central Division. Minnesota's 16 victories are tied for sixth-most in the West, with six of the top seven in the conference residing inside the Central Division.

The expansion Vegas Golden Knights are the only Pacific Division team in the top seven Western clubs in victories when scoring first this season. 

Quality starts have buoyed the Wild during its current stretch of solid play. It'll aim to keep it a trend during the season's second half.

"I think you always want that. It's not always easy but it shows you something that you can build confidence on," said Wild captain Mikko Koivu. "Every team, you gotta be on top of every game or you can lose it in the first period. We want to keep doing that, stay on top of it and take it on the road as well."

With three of Minnesota's next four games -- and plenty more down the stretch -- against Central foes, who scores first could be a major factor to keep an eye on.

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