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Updated: January 16th, 2011 8:43pm
Brunette says 'We're a strange team,' after Wild blasts NHL's best

Brunette says 'We're a strange team,' after Wild blasts NHL's best

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Before heading out of town for a long business trip, you never want to leave with bad blood lingering between you and your loved ones. So perhaps what the Minnesota Wild did Sunday night at home can be considered an apology to the fans for the recent home-ice ugliness.

Playing the last home game of the month before embarking on a two-week road trip, the Wild dominated the powerful Vancouver Canucks in both ends of the rink, and when the gloves were off, winning 4-0 to snap a three-game losing streak.

The most important and sensible question a true Wild fan can ask at this point is a simply one: How? As in, how does a team struggle so mightily for a week, at home and on the road, then snap off such an impressive win versus the NHL's top team?

"We're a strange team, there's no doubt about it," said Andrew Brunette, who scored the game's first goal during a mad scramble in front of Canucks goalie Cory Schneider. "You never know what's going to show up."

On this night, rookie goalie Anton Khudobin showed up, and presented his most impressive work to date, stopping all 32 of Vancouver's shots. Although his active style in the crease is bound to give Wild coach Todd Richards a few more gray hairs soon.

"He was a bit sliding here and sliding there, but his slides made the saves," joked Richards, as his team became the league's first to beat the Canucks twice this season. The tempo was set early when Wild tough guy Brad Staubitz fought Vancouver's Aaron Volpatti and got the sellout crowd riled up. It quickly became a tough night for the Canucks defense when Eden Prairie native Andrew Alberts left the game with an injury, and former Gopher Keith Ballard ended up in the penalty box for five minutes after a fight with the Wild's Chuck Kobasew.

"We didn't help ourselves, That was the hard part," Ballard said, after his team's losing streak in Minnesota grew to four straight. The Canucks are now 1-2-0 versus the Wild this season, and 10-0-0 versus the Northwest Division's other three teams. "We didn't manage the puck very well in the first period and we were always looking to make that extra play when we did get it in to the offensive zone."

So maybe this is the perfect position for the Wild, which now has a .500 record at home, but is 11-7-3 on the road (including a 5-1-1 streak away from St. Paul). Before its next home game on Feb. 1, the Wild will visit Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose and Chicago, and players are feeling like the trend of winning on the road and playing OK at home might be enough to earn a playoff berth.

"You want to win anywhere," said John Madden, who scored his first goal since Dec. 20 on Sunday. "This league isn't like it used to be where you win your fair share at home and go .500 on the road and you make the playoffs. You've got to win games all over the place."

The Canucks, who still have the NHL's best record at 29-10-6 have been doing just that all season - winning games all over the place. Just not in Minnesota.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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