It’s a good thing the Wild weren’t playing the rival Colorado Avalanche on Monday night at Xcel Energy Center. They saw over the weekend what the Stanley Cup favorites can do to a team that doesn’t show up for the opening 20 minutes.
Instead, the Wild fortuitously got the lowly Anaheim Ducks, and despite a slow start, they bounced back with an ugly 2-1 win. That helped the Wild set a new franchise record with nine wins in a row at home.
Though it likely wasn’t the complete effort coach Dean Evason was hoping after back-to-back blowouts to the Avalanche over the weekend, it’s hard to complain with the end result. Nick Bjugstad and Ryan Suter scored the goals, and Cam Talbot finished with 24 saves to earn the win.
“I think we’re going through a bit of a slump with energy, but we’re finding ways to win, which is important,” Suter said. “Every game can’t be, we score six goals and everybody is smiling. Every once in a while, we’ve got to grind them out like we did tonight.”
Think of it as the Wild turning the page after their worst two-game stretch of the season. That actually started about 24 hours earlier as Evason tried to breath some life into his team with a fast-paced practice on Sunday morning.
He hoped the energy would translate on Monday night. It did not.
It was another sleepy start from the Wild as they looked lifeless in the first period. The only saving grace was that the Ducks also looked rather disinterested.
Frankly, if fans would’ve been allowed in the arena, there’s a good chance they would’ve fallen asleep in their seats.
“It was a little bit sloppy,” Carson Soucy said. “Not every game is going to be pretty. We are not going to have all these fancy goals. We know that we can stick with it though. We know that we can get better as the game goes on.
The slow start wasn’t necessarily surprising from Evason, who noticed a lack of energy even in warmups before the game.
“It was just blah,” Evason said. “The guys feel it. They know it. They were trying to catch it. They were trying to talk their way through and energize their way through.”
Things started to pick in the second period and Troy Terry got the Ducks on the board with a breakaway goal. He slipped past the defense after Mats Zuccarello fell down in the neutral zone, then beat Talbot with a backhander to make it 1-0.
That deficit seemed to energize the Wild and they responded with some solid pay before getting a goal from Suter to tie the game at 1-1. It was the first goal of the season for Suter and came on the power play via a seeing-eye shot from the point.
“That was a big goal by Sutes,” Bjugstad said. “That was a great all-around play on the power play. Obviously we’ve had our chances. To come through with a goal like that after being down one game-changing.”
That score held into the third period where Bjugstad scored the game-winner. He hopped over the boards boards early in the third period, won a puck battle in the offensive zone, and capped the sequence by hammering home a rebound to make it 2-1.
That proved to be the difference as Talbot continued to be a calming presence in the creasing, making a handful of big saves down the stretch before the final buzzer sounded.
“We got better and better as the game went on,” Evason said. “We thought our third period was real good. Our energy was good in the third period. We put a lot of pressure on them. We played a lot in their zone, so hopefully we get some rest next day and a half or whatever it is and come back fresh for that 4:30 p.m. game (on Wednesday).”