The Minnesota Wild’s defense has suddenly become very stingy. They’ll look to hold down the visiting Detroit Red Wings when they continue a four-game homestand on Wednesday night.
Minnesota has given up just one goal in the last two games. The Wild blanked Vancouver 3-0 on Saturday, then squeaked out a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
The latter victory began the homestand. Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves as the Wild won for the eighth time in their last 11 games.
Before those back-to-back triumphs, Minnesota had allowed at least three goals in their previous seven games.
“We were defending, and not only just playing defense,” coach Dean Evason said. “We were doing the right things offensively that we didn’t have to play as much defense.
“We held onto pucks. We didn’t blindly throw pucks through the neutral zone. We didn’t blindly throw pucks into the slot when it wasn’t there. When we do that, now they have a counter and a transition, and they can really hurt us. We liked our overall game.”
Due to a quirk in the schedule, the Wild were facing the Oilers for the third time this month. They split the first two meetings. Frederick Gaudreau scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period on Monday and the Wild hung on.
“We’ve seen them a couple of times the last few weeks and they’ve given us some trouble,” Fleury said. “It was amazing. All the guys battled and blocked some shots and were aggressive on them. It was a fun battle and fun to win the game.”
Matt Boldy scored his 11th goal on a power play and assisted on Gaudreau’s goal.
“It’s a big win,” Boldy said. “They’ve got some super players over there. I think just how good our (defense) core played kind of just speaks to how good they are.”
Detroit won the first meeting with Minnesota, 2-1 on Oct. 29, with Lucas Raymond scoring both goals for the winners.
The Red Wings will be playing the tail end of a back-to-back. They were blanked for the first time this season on Tuesday, falling at home to Carolina 1-0, and are 0-2-1 in their last three games.
More significant: Team captain and center Dylan Larkin didn’t play in the third period. He suffered a hand injury in the first period.
Larkin won’t play Wednesday, but coach Derek Lalonde didn’t have any further details. The Wings have dealt with injuries to their forwards throughout the season.
“He’s a driver. He’s a transporter of the puck,” Lalonde said. “With some of the offense we already have out, he still pushes us. … He’s a big piece (to lose on a team) that has not produced a ton five-on-five offensively.”
Forward David Perron is hopeful that the team can survive until Larkin returns.
“No matter what happens,” he said, “we’ve stepped up all year when guys went missing.”
The power play needs to improve for that to happen. That unit went 0-for-3 against the Hurricanes and had only one shot.
“That’s the main thing I like to talk about,” Perron said. “It’s not just about goals on the power play, it’s bringing momentum; and I don’t think we did a good enough job of that.”
–Field Level Media