Minnesota Wild Start 2014 With a Win, End Six Game Losing Streak


Dec 29, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild react on the bench following the game against the New York Islanders at Xcel Energy Center. The Islanders defeated the Wild 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The last 12 days of 2013 were a struggle for the Minnesota Wild. They lost their final three games going into the Christmas break, and coming back they lost the next three games.

On a six game losing streak the Wild and Coach Mike Yeo needed a win bad. So there was no better time to play the worst team in the NHL the Buffalo Sabres.

Second period goals by Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville, and Jason Zucker gave Minnesota the 3-0 lead and gave the Wild a much needed spark.

The 4-1 victory over Buffalo is Minnesota’s first win in regulation since December 8th. After the win you could feel a sense of relief from the players knowing that the losing streak, the worse in the team’s history, was finally over.

“Obviously the win is the most important thing.” Wild Captain Mikko Koivu said. “It’s two points but as a player I think you recognize how we did it and how we played. I think we also recognized that for us to get wins that’s how we have to play too.”

The unsung hero of this game was goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who had no idea he would be playing until earlier Thursday when Josh Harding was ruled out because of an illness. Backstrom had 19 saves in the game and received his first regulation win since beating Chicago on October 26th. And his effort did not go unrecognized by his teammates.

“I think we all knew he was going through a tough go. We weren’t scoring goals when he was playing.” Wild forward Jason Pominville said. “Just to be able to get the lead for him tonight was huge and for him to stand tall when needed to was huge for the team.”

Nobody was happier for Backstrom in Thursday’s win than Yeo, who praised his performance in the net.

“We finally played a better game in front of him. I felt confident going with Backstrom in this game because of how he played in his last game. He was in control all night. He was great,” Yeo said.

Even though the losing streak is over, there is still a lot of work to do for Minnesota if they want to get into the playoff picture. The Wild are seven points behind Colorado for third place in the Central Division, which would give them an automatic playoff berth. In the wild card race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, Minnesota is two points behind Phoenix, who currently holds the eighth spot.

What the Wild did Thursday against Buffalo, they are going to have to find a way to do it on a consistent basis otherwise the same questions and doubts surrounding the team going into the game will return. But for one night, that winning feeling that has been missing from Minnesota for the past couple weeks has finally returned.

As defenseman Clayton Stoner said after the game, “We are undefeated this year so it’s all good.”

And for now that’s all that matters.