Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Tough Act to Follow

Photo by Russell Hons

Jason Zucker scored the first of Minnesota’s two goals, his 17th of the season, in the first period of the Wild’s 3-2 OT loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Wild make a point and savor Vikings’ win

No one is thrilled when a lead with four minutes remaining turns into an overtime loss, but Wild players pretty much seized a positive attitude as the team began a five-day break for its NHL bye week.

Minnesota dropped a 3-2 decision to Vancouver Sunday night in a strange evening permeated by the Vikings’ surprise playoff win over the New Orleans Saints a few hours earlier.

The result left the Wild with six of a possible eight points in their final four games, however, as players scattered for a few days away from the rink.

“Got to look at it as a positive,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Player introductions were held in front of a mostly empty arena at the Xcel Energy Center as the vast majority of fans huddled in front of TVs on the arena concourse to watch the final minutes of the Vikings-Saints game.

Midway through the Canadian National Anthem, a roar went through the building that signified something good must have happened for the Vikings.

“It certainly sounded loud enough to be a good thing,” Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said, “so I was kind of itching to get over to the bench and figure out what happened.”

What happened, of course, was a last-second touchdown that boosted the Vikings into the NFC championship game, the replay of which was shown on the Xcel scoreboard after the anthems for players and fans alike.

After many setbacks, it was the Vikings’ turn to stage an improbable comeback.

“It’s exciting for our state,” defenseman Nate Prosser said. “We’re all pumped up for them.”

A native Minnesotan like Prosser, winger Zach Parise donned a Vikings cap after the game and reveled in the victory by his favorite pro football team.

“That was awesome,” he said.

Less awesome was the Wild’s final result against the Canucks, but Minnesota took 53 points and a little momentum into the break off a record of 24-17-5.

“I think we’re starting to play better hockey overall,” Boudreau said, admitting that his guys looked a bit emotionally drained after two back-to-back series over the previous six days. “In regulation we gave up six goals in four games. What our identity’s got to be; we’re not a high scoring team this year, so quite frankly, we’ve got to defend.”

The Wild defeated Chicago 2-1 and Winnipeg 4-1 in their previous two games after an overtime loss to Calgary and ended their most recent stretch of games with a 6-2-2 record.

The point Sunday pulled them within two of St. Louis for third place in the NHL Central Division.

“We made some good movement in the standings this week,” Prosser said. “We’re definitely pushing in the right direction, that’s for sure. You can sense it on the ice; you can sense it in the locker room — we’re building it here.”