VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A new voice and approach paid immediate dividends for the Minnesota Wild.
Jared Spurgeon had a goal and an assist to make interim head coach John Torchetti a winner in his debut Monday night as the Wild beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 to snap an eight-game losing streak.
Minnesota (24-22-10) fired Mike Yeo on Saturday following a 4-2 home loss to the Boston Bruins that left the club with just one victory in its last 14 games.
“When you take over jobs, there’s a reason why,” said Torchetti. “You just have to try and build confidence in the team and pat them on the back here and there … but also let them know if there’s a different play that’s an option.”
Torchetti, who was promoted from the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, coached in the minors for Minnesota four of the last five years, and had already worked with many of the players on current the roster.
“It was all about them tonight,” said Torchetti. “Play hard, compete for each other. That’s all we were looking for and we got the response we wanted.”
Zach Parise, Justin Fontaine, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter also scored for the Wild, while Erik Haula and Ryan Suter each added two assists.
“There was a lot of energy from us,” said Parise. “There was life in the room and on the bench.”
Devan Dubnyk finished with 24 saves to snap an ugly 0-6-2 run as Minnesota scored five goals in a game for the first time since Dec. 17.
“We played fast and that’s what we got away from a bit,” said Dubnyk. “You see what we can do when we do play like that.”
The Wild were 22-11-8 and owned the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference when they beat the Stars in Dallas on Jan. 9, but then went into a free fall that cost Yeo his job.
Torchetti has nine seasons of NHL coaching experience, including stints as interim coach for Florida in 2004 and Los Angeles in 2006, and was also an assistant with Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup team.
He was energetic behind the bench on Monday, going from one end to the other to motivate and teach.
“It kept us into the game,” said Parise. “You’re held accountable to make the right play all the time.”
Torchetti said he uses smelling salts — a pick-me-up usually intended for players — as part of his pre-game routine, a tradition from his days as a forward in the minors.
“It’s to get me going,” said the Boston native. “That’s my only superstition so I have to keep it.”
Henrik Sedin, with a goal and an assist, and Christopher Tanev scored for the Canucks (22-22-12), who have lost two in a row after back-to-back road wins that gave them life in the playoff hunt. Jacob Markstrom stopped 29 shots.
Minnesota moved to within four points of the second wild-card spot, while Vancouver now sits six points out after a fifth straight loss (0-4-1) at Rogers Arena.
“They came out strong. They put a lot of pucks on net,” said Sedin. “I didn’t think we were prepared to make the plays we had to.”
Torchetti kept the top line of Parise, Coyle and Mikko Koivu together, but the other three trios were shuffled, as were two of the three defensive pairings.
The Wild dominated the first period, outshooting Vancouver 17-4 and leading 2-1. Parise made it 1-0 at 9:31 when he bumped Canucks defenseman Matt Bartkowski off the puck before ripping a slapshot high over Markstrom’s glove.
Coming off a demoralizing 5-2 loss to Toronto at home on Saturday where they were outshot 38-19, the Canucks got that one back on the power play with 4:31 left in the period when Tanev redirected Sedin’s pass.
But Minnesota restored the lead just 1:17 later on a weird one. Spurgeon, who returned to the lineup after missing three games because of injury, came down the right side and fired a shot that went off Bartkowski’s stick and fooled Markstrom.
Minnesota made it 3-1 just 2:12 into the second when Haula jumped on a Vancouver turnover and fed a wide-open Fontaine, who outwaited Markstrom.
Sedin got that one back when he banked an attempted pass in off Dubnyk’s stick on a power play to snap a 20-game drought at 10:17. But a penalty negated another Vancouver power play and Coyle scored once Minnesota went up a man on a deflected shot at 13:21.
“That’s the way it’s been lately,” said Sedin. “We get close and then we let one goal in quickly and all of a sudden it’s a two-goal game again.”
Niederreiter then scored with 3:12 left in the third as the Wild begin what they hope is the first step on the way to getting back in the playoff picture.
“Enjoy the moment,” said Torchetti. “We’ll build on it into the next game and they’ll want to be hungry and prove themselves again.”