The Minnesota Wild will take the Western Conference’s longest winning streak into their Thursday night road game against the San Jose Sharks.
Minnesota, behind a goal and two assists by Matt Boldy and 21 saves by Marc-Andre Fleury, won its season-best sixth game in a row on Wednesday, beating the host Anaheim Ducks 4-1. The Wild now hope to improve to 5-0-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season.
The Wild have won 11 of their past 13 games to close within four points of the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars. A big reason for that has been an improved defense that has allowed just six goals over the six-game winning streak.
“Fun,” Minnesota coach Dean Evason said when asked about watching his team’s defensive play following its 13th consecutive head-to-head victory over the Ducks. “Every coach obviously preaches defense first, and we certainly have.
“We gave up a lot of goals early in the season. Our group has made a commitment to keep it out of the net and obviously our goaltenders are first and foremost making stops, but our commitment as a team has been real good in that area.”
Fleury, who has allowed just one goal in each of his past three starts, kept the Wild in it against the Ducks during a sloppy second period by making a number of big saves.
Boldy scored what proved to be the game-winner at the 4:46 mark of third period. His 12th goal of the season, on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle, broke a 1-1 tie.
“Just a good team game,” Fleury said. “I think we defend well, block a lot of shots, get rebounds, get people away from our eyes so we can see the puck. We have the puck a lot, too.”
The Wild next play a San Jose team that has the fewest home wins in the league (3-10-5) and has dropped two in a row, including a frustrating 7-3 home loss to Calgary on Tuesday.
The Flames jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 30 seconds on goals by Tyler Toffoli and Dillon Dube.
Nico Sturm cut the deficit to 2-1 with his ninth goal of the season near the end of the period, and the Sharks rallied to tie it 3-3 early in the third on a goal by Timo Meier. However, Calgary answered with four consecutive goals, including two by Nazem Kadri, to pull away.
Afterward, Sturm called out his team for its lethargic play.
“I just thought our overall effort today was probably pretty embarrassing,” Sturm said. “I think it’s the first time this season where we as a group have to look in the mirror. You know, we’ve lost games obviously this season but I thought the effort was always there. And today I thought for the first time we looked scared at times. Yeah, especially at home, that was unacceptable.”
San Jose defenseman Mario Ferraro added, “We weren’t ready to play and it trickled into our game later on, too. It’s hard to chase the game. If those (first) two goals didn’t happen, maybe our mindset is a little different.”
The Thursday game will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. San Jose rallied from a 2-0, third-period deficit to win 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 13 in Saint Paul, Minn.
–Field Level Media