Wild end two-game losing streak, move into first place in Northwest
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The Minnesota Wild's performance Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings left coach Mike Yeo expressing embarrassment about how his team played. But as mad as Yeo might have been, he also was eager to see how the Wild would rebound Sunday night in Anaheim.
Yeo had to be pleased with what he saw -- at least in the opening period.
The Wild scored three first-period goals en route to a 3-2 victory over the Ducks at the Honda Center. The Wild (9-5-3) moved into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division with 21 points, one ahead of Edmonton.
The Wild's 5-2 loss against the Kings was the team's second in a row after a five-game winning streak. Yeo did not hide his disgust after the Kings spent 60 minutes dominating the Wild, and the coach had a closed door meeting with his team on Sunday instead of having them skate.
The Wild's issues with scoring goals returned in the final two periods, however, and they had to hold on for a victory after Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler scored his second goal of the game on a wrist shot at 19 minutes, 11 seconds of the third period.
Wild goal Niklas Backstrom finished with 32 saves and was named the No. 1 star. The Wild was outshot 34-26.
"It was a great test for us and I learned we have character and pride in that room," Yeo said. "That said this is the first of many tests we're going to face this year. ... All year long we're going to be faced with these tests. It's not an easy thing to battle through but our guys did."
The victory gives the Wild a 2-2 record on a five-game road trip that will conclude Tuesday in Columbus.
Brodziak started the scoring for the Wild at 6:09 of the opening period when he put a rebound past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller from in close for his fourth goal of the season.
The Wild already had gained momentum at that point but the goal really got things going.
Cullen had a chance from in front with 8:50 left in the first period but Hiller made an outstanding save.
Cullen would not be denied when given another opportunity.
He increased the Wild's lead to 2-0 at the 16:11 mark with his seventh goal. The goal was setup by winger Cal Clutterbuck who made a great no-look backhand pass to Cullen, who was coming down the slot and easily put the puck past Hiller.
The Wild's final goal of the opening period was scored by Jared Spurgeon on a slapshot that came with the defenseman moving from his right to his left. Spurgeon was moving toward the top of the circle when he let go with the high shot.
The Wild got a scare at the end of the period when Devin Setoguchi took a puck to the face and went down to the ice. The winger, however, was able to return.
The Ducks, who pulled Hiller in favor of Dan Ellis after 20 minutes, got within two early in the second when Fowler's wrist shot from the circle to the right of Backstrom beat the Wild goalie.
Backstrom made a nice save on Ducks veteran Teemu Selanne shortly after Fowler's goal. Selanne later hit two posts in the second period, including one with Anaheim on a four-on-three power play.
Backstrom also added a nice glove save on the Ducks' Saku Koivu.
The Ducks applied big pressure, and got Fowler's second goal of the game, after pulling Ellis with 2:17 left in the third.
That happened when Yeo met with his players and spelled out just how disappointed he was with their play Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Clearly, Yeo's message got through as the Wild came out and looked far better than they had against the Kings or San Jose on Thursday night in a 3-1 loss.
• 2.12: Number of goals Wild were averaging this season entering Sunday's game, placing them second to last in the NHL.
• 2.0: Number of goals the Ducks were averaging entering Sunday, putting them last in the league.
• Dec. 3, 2008: The last time the Wild held sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division. The Wild moved into sole possession of first place with Sunday's victory. They have 21 points. The Edmonton Oilers, who lost 6-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, have 20 points.
The Wild got more bad news on the injury front when it was revealed defenseman Marco Scandella suffered a concussion on Saturday night.
The Wild already lost winger Guillaume Latendresse to a concussion last week against San Jose. He has returned to the Twin Cities and it's not known how long he will be out.
Scandella missed 14 games last season because of a concussion.
Second period: Anaheim - Cam Fowler 1 (Francois Beauchemin, Bobby Ryan), 2:15.
Third period: Anaheim - Fowler 2 (unassisted), 19:11.
Shots: Wild 15-8-3-26; Anaheim 7-13-14-34. Saves: Wild, Nik Backstrom (34-32); Anaheim, Jonas Hiller (15-12), Dan Ellis (2nd period, 11-11). Power play: Wild 0-4, Anaheim 0-3.
1. Backstrom, 2, Fowler, 3. Cullen.
The Wild will close a five-game road trip at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Columbus.
The Wild will return to Xcel Energy Center for a six-game homestand beginning Thursday against Colorado and won't play on the road again until Nov. 30 at Edmonton.