It took the Minnesota Wild five games played on the road to finally do it, but on the occasion of captain Mikko Koivu‘s 500th game, they finally cracked it, winning a game while away from the Xcel Energy Center. They had to take it all the way to the shootout with the Calgary Flames to do it, but then Koivu and Zach Parise scored to seal the 2-1 win.
The game was rather quiet in terms of penalties taken and goals scored before the tie-breaking shootout, though. The first period was totally scoreless, Kyle Brodziak‘s first goal of the season put Minnesota ahead near the end of the second and then Jiri Hudler answered early in the third to knot up the game at one apiece. Hudler later scored the Flames’ only shootout tally and Niklas Backstrom denied his teammates Blair Jones and Alex Tanguay.
Right after Backstrom got the win, Zenon Konopka came over and grabbed him in a hug so powerful that Backstrom was lifted off the ice. But who can blame Konopka for being happy? The Wild had finally shaken their record of being bad on the road, showing that they can win inside and outside of St. Paul. The pressures of a pattern like that must have been weighing very heavily upon the team.
Now let’s see if the team can keep it up in their next game. They’re off to Vancouver to face the Vancouver Canucks, where Backstrom was pulled after two periods the last time the two teams met. Could he be back in after two straight one-goal games, the strategy of coach Mike Yeo riding the hot hand, or could the team go with Josh Harding instead? Harding hasn’t seen time in net since the team played the Chicago Blackhawks late last month, when he allowed two goals and got yanked pretty early.
But look for the Wild to have a spring in their step, a confidence booster that comes from finally, finally not always losing on the road. There’s nothing quite like that for giving a team a good reason to do even better.