ST. PAUL, Minn. — With their chances of a playoff appearance slipping by the day, the Minnesota Wild returned home for a stretch of games before the All-Star break knowing there was little room for error.
They have taken advantage of the homestand and head into the break believing they are ready to make a push to the post-season.
Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello each had a goal and assist, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 25 shots as the Wild beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 on Wednesday night.
Jordan Greenway and Jason Zucker also scored for Minnesota, which enters the All-Star break with three wins in four games.
“When you win and you feel like you can win, you don’t want to break,” Zuccarello said. “But I feel like it’s good for confidence and mind to get away from the game a little bit. I think that’s OK and hopefully we can come back and ready to go and fight for that playoff spot.”
A string of six losses in seven games left the Wild eight points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 14. Minnesota heads to the break five points behind Vegas and Arizona as wild cards in the West.
“I was counting on four wins,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of the four home games leading to the break. “That’s why I was probably so disappointed the other night. But Winnipeg lost again tonight. We’re all jumbled in there. I know you have to jump more than one team but if you have a good two weeks, it’s capable of doing it because a lot of teams are playing each other.”
Detroit’s Filip Zadina was credited with two goals, his first NHL multi-goal game, but both came on deflections off a Wild player.
Jimmy Howard had 29 saves for the Red Wings, who will head into their break having lost six in a row overall and eight straight on the road.
“I didn’t have that concern because I can’t imagine how, I can’t even fathom how that could be possible with where we’re at and the number of games that we’ve won,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said of his team possibly looking ahead to the break. “How do you let any game slip away at all? How do you not make sure you’re ready to go? But that wasn’t the case.”
Detroit got the first goal of the game 3:08 in after Zadina’s cross-ice pass to Tyler Bertuzzi deflected off the stick of Minnesota centre Joel Eriksson Ek, sending the puck up and over Dubnyk’s shoulder.
“That was the puck luck we actually need as a team,” Zadina said. “I tried to go back there for Bert and it ended up in the net, so I was glad for it. We need to play better hockey, I guess. The game is simple but it’s hard on the ice.”
Zadina scored again with 3:21 left in the first period after his shot from the circle was saved by Dubnyk. The puck bounced off Dubnyk and defenceman Jared Spurgeon before ricocheting back under the goaltender, who knocked it into the net.
“That wasn’t on him,” defenceman Matt Dumba said of Dubnyk. “He stood tall the rest of the way and we got our act together.”
They were breaks not often seen this season by a Detroit team that will go into the break having the fewest wins, points and goals scored per game while also allowing the most goals per game.
It was the 15th time in 51 games the Red Wings held a lead after the first period.
“It was kind of a little bit of fool’s gold in the first – some guys were going, some guys just weren’t ready to go,” Blashill said. “It catches up to you as the game goes along and it caught up to us. Then we played stupid.”
Zuccarello and Zucker scored in the first 2:19 of the second to give the Wild the lead and Staal, who was honoured before the game for scoring his 1,000th point earlier this season, scored later in the period.
NOTES: Detroit recalled D Dennis Cholowski from Grand Rapids of the AHL before the game. He took the lineup spot of Mike Green, who was scratched after sustaining a lower-body injury in the previous game at Colorado. Cholowksi also took Green’s place on the team’s top power-play unit. ... C Frans Nielsen was also scratched with a lower-body injury sustained against Colorado. ... Minnesota C Mikko Koivu returned to the lineup after missing two games with an illness. Ryan Donato was scratched in place of Koivu.
Red Wings: At the New York Rangers on Jan. 31.
Wild: Host Boston on Feb. 1.
More AP NHL: www.apnews.com/NHL and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports