Finally, a win, as Wild outlasts Blues in shootout
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
It took an effort beyond overtime. It took early goals and late goals. It took fortunate bounces off the goal post. It took survival of a stretch more than 12 minutes long without so much as a shot on goal.
In the end, it took a pair of shootout goals, and a pair of shootout saves. And then, weeks later, the losing streak was gone.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored late in regulation and again in the post-overtime shootout, and the Minnesota Wild finally got a win, 3-2 over the St. Louis Blues.
There's no illusion, among players or coach Todd Richards, that this will lead to a late-season playoff run, with only a half-dozen games remaining, and several teams to leapfrog to get from 11th to 8th place or better. It's just a simple taste of something they hadn't felt for a long, long time.
"It's been a tough stretch the last 7-8 games. We played a solid game tonight and it's fun to get two points here in St. Louis," Bouchard told Marney Gellner of Fox Sports North in a post-game interview. "We're going to enjoy this win. There are six games left in the season and we want to finish it strong. All the guys here have big pride and we want to finish it with pride."
The win was somewhat surprising in that it came versus the same St. Louis team that handily beat the Wild 6-3 on Saturday in St. Paul. But this wasn't exactly the same Wild team, as Casey Wellman joined the fold just minutes before the game, getting called up from Houston to replace the banged-up Chuck Kobasew. Wellman's flight was delayed, and he got to the arena in downtown St. Louis while the teams were already warming up.
It wasn't exactly the same Blues team either, as St. Louis played without star forward T.J. Oshie. The Wild defenders may have gotten a break, as the Minnesota native was out of the lineup, serving a two-game suspension handed down by the team after Oshie missed Monday's practice.
The Wild took an early lead on an Eric Nystrom goal, then settled into the familiar offensive doldrums that have been an unfortunate team hallmark for much of the season. They took untimely penalties, were unable to generate offense, and watched Blues newcomer Chris Stewart score on a first period power play and again early in the third, and it look for all the world that the losing streak would hit nine via another lifeless road effort.
But Bouchard snapped a shot over the shoulder of Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, and in overtime the Wild was on the power play for more than three minutes. The team out-shot the Blues 8-1 in the five-minute overtime but could not get another puck past Halak. At least not until the shootout.
"The guys stuck with it. We had some chances to win it in regulation and in the overtime," said Richards, who for one night could simply focus on a victory, rather than rumors about his job security, or lack thereof. "It's a step in the right direction as far as getting our game back to where we want it to be."
Still, there's a dark cloud to be found inside all of that silver lining. The losing streak is in the past, but it went on long enough to dispel all hope that there will be games past the regular season. And Richards admitted that reality is never far from his mind.
"It's a win, and it's great," sad the coach. "It's great for the guys in there, and for the organization, but still there's a little bitter taste."
The Wild gets an even colder opponent on Thursday, hosting Edmonton in St. Paul. The Oilers are currently in the midst of a 10-game winless streak.