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Updated: February 26th, 2013 11:38pm
Myers: Mike Yeo believes Wild took 'a huge step' in win over Calgary

Myers: Mike Yeo believes Wild took 'a huge step' in win over Calgary

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by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild didn't qualify for the playoffs on Tuesday night. Truth be told, they didn't even crack the top eight in the Western Conference via their 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames.

But in coming from behind to get two points, and by battling through bad luck and bad calls and bad vibes to somehow get a win, an emotional Wild coach Mike Yeo finally saw some of the grit he's been looking for all season.

"That's the fight that we need every night," said Yeo after the game. "If you've got seven shots and one of them hasn't gone in, get eight. If you've gone 0-for-seven on the power play, score on the next one. That's what it is. That's what winners do, and that's what they did tonight."

Although for about 55 minutes, it looked to be another one of those "do everything but score" frustrating losses. Zach Parise had gotten a goal on the ice, complete with the red light and the horn blaring and the crowd screaming and the officials signaling that the puck was in -- only to have replay reveal that it wasn't.

Mikko Koivu had moved the puck with reckless abandon on seven power plays, and had clanked the crossbar behind Flames goalie Joey MacDonald, to no avail. The Wild had killed two extended power plays by the Flames and had tilted the ice in their favor after a rough first 15 minutes and still nothing would go.

"It was frustrating. You start to wonder," said Parise, who eventually got the game winner on a power play in overtime, lifting a backhand shot past MacDonald.

"I think we did a really good job of just shooting on the power play, and we hit posts. Fortunately, it was able to come through. You start to say, 'I don't get it. What's got to happen now?'"

What's got to happen -- and Yeo has been preaching this for weeks -- is reckless abandon, even when things aren't working, and you're tired and you're frustrated.

housands of Wild fans assumed back on July 4 that the huge splash in free agency was a ticket to watch hockey the following May. Yeo knows it doesn't work that way, and he's finally seeing his players realize that as well.

"If we thought that we were just going to sign a couple players and all of a sudden we've arrived, and they were going to open the gates, and here we are, a playoff team, that's not reality," said Yeo after the game, his voice charged with emotion.

"It's hard. You have to do a lot of things to be a winner, to find yourself at that point. There are great teams you're competing against. There's teams that have been there and have done it year after year, and you have to beat them."

In this compressed season, with the most daunting travel schedule of any team in the league and a game seemingly every other night on a team that's already lost its backup goalie (Josh Harding) and an on-ice leader (Cal Clutterbuck) to illness and injury, Yeo has been preaching that to beat them, you need to play great when you don't feel great.

You have to drag yourself to the rink on nights where you'd rather be resting and recuperating. You need to find unconventional ways to win, when all the conventional ones aren't working.

After falling behind early after Calgary notched nine of the game's first 10 shots on Tuesday, the Wild were whistled first for a five-minute major penalty and then for a four-minute double minor.

They killed both, allowing just one Calgary shot during the nine minutes of man-disadvantage. Niklas Backstrom stopped a short-handed breakaway by the Flames, keeping his team close long enough to see Jason Zucker tie the game, and Parise win it.

With the two points the Wild are now tied with the surging Kings at 20 points each, although if the playoff started today, Los Angeles would get the tiebreaker and the chance to defend the Stanley Cup. The Wild would be out.

Still, what Yeo saw Tuesday, he liked, as seemingly nothing went right, save for the two points the Wild had added by the end of the evening.

"You have to deal with the emotions, the physicality, the toll that it takes night after night," Yeo said. "This is what we're learning. To me personally I thought this was a huge step for our club."

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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