Myers: Finally, it all came together for Wild in 3-1 win on Hurricanes
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St. Paul, Minn. - The most successful hockey coaches are the ones who find a way to make sense of the on-ice chaos. They devise a system by which you limit your opponents' shots, make the most of offensive opportunities and dominate both ends of the ice.
The Minnesota Wild had been doing a lot of all that recently and getting very little in the way of wins to show for it. So in their 3-1 home win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, the best-laid plans were seemingly thrown out the window.
And somehow, it worked.
After sending dozens of shots at opposing goalies in recent games and getting one goal - two if they were really fortunate - the Wild shot twice at Hurricanes backup Justin Peters, and scored twice. One of those "shots" was a puck that hit the crossbar, glanced off Zach Parise's midsection, hit a Hurricanes player and landed in the net. One the scoreboard, it counted.
"Sometimes you need those," said Parise, who leads the team with five goals. "You have all those good chances that don't go in so sometimes you need a cheesy one like that. They're nice."
Snake-bitten all season, Dany Heatley finally got a goal, on a power play, into an empty net. Again, whatever works.
"Those count too," Parise added, with a knowing smile. "As a scorer, you know how it goes sometimes when no matter what you do, it doesn't go in. Then you get an empty-netter like that and it's a really good shot of confidence. Hopefully we'll see that from (Heatley), because we need a lot of goals from him."
If Wild coach Mike Yeo had spent time planning and scouting how to beat Hurricanes starting goalie Cam Ward, that plan went out the window early. Ward stopped five shots, then headed to the locker room with an apparent leg injury. The Hurricanes announced they expect him out three or four weeks.
In his stead came Peters, who got a rude welcome from his Minnesota hosts. Nino Neiderreiter and Parise scored on the first two shots sent toward Peters. The Hurricanes got one back, but not two, as the Wild's winning streak grew to two games.
That's the good news. The bad news in downtown St. Paul is that the plan to ride Wild starting goalie Josh Harding to a win went out the window as well. In the second period, Harding appeared to suffer a left leg injury. Niklas Backstrom, the starter at the beginning of the season, played the third period, and looks to be the goalie of record for the time being, as the Wild head to Chicago for a Saturday Central Division date with the Blackhawks.
"The guy has battled for us like no one else in the room and he's been great," said defenseman Clayton Stoner of Harding, who had played in nine consecutive games and was leading the NHL statistically. "I'm sure he'll be back soon. (Backstrom) is a great goalie too. He came in in a tough spot tonight and showed us what he can do. We're confident in both of them, and we'll just move forward."
Stoner was part of a makeshift defensive corps playing without regulars Keith Ballard and Jonas Brodin, both of whom are out after taking pucks to the face. Still, the patched together blue line crew seemed to do good work. Or good enough anyway.
"All those guys played really well," Parise said, praising the defense for holding the fort in the third when Carolina pressed to tie, and defenseman Marco Scandella made perhaps the save of the game, swatting a puck that had slipped past Backstrom off the goal line. "In the last game when Jonas went down, those guys stepped in and played really well, and tonight was just a carry-over."
None of it was according to any grand plan. But on this night filled with so much chaos, it worked, somehow.