There’s a fine line between being confident and being cocky, according to Wild coach Dean Evason, and he swears his team knows the difference.
A confident team never feels like it’s out of a game no matter the score. A cocky team relies on coming back time and time again.
And while Wild are currently blurring the line between the two things, the results have been impeccable so far this season.
On Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild fell behind once again, and of course, battled back for a dramatic 4-3 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. Ryan Hartman scored the game-winner and was promptly tackled by Matt Dumba before the rest of his teammates mobbed him in celebration.
“It was good,” Hartman said with a laugh. “It’s always a good feeling to have everyone coming off the bench.”
Cam Talbot made 21 saves for the Wild, who are 4-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
As satisfying as the win was for the 18,055 fans in attendance, Evason joked that he wouldn’t mind the Wild scoring the first goal of the game at some point. Well, at least it’s been exciting for the fans, right?
“Somebody said that’s what we’re trying to do,” Evason said with a laugh. “Keep the fans interested and draw them in. We’d certainly like to do it a little bit earlier.”
Following the same script as every game so far this season, the Wild fell behind early as Ducks winger Rickard Rakell made it 1-0 a mere 78 seconds after the initial puck drop.
That deficit forced the Wild to wake up, and later in the first period, Brandon Duhaime scored the first goal of his NHL career to level the score at 1-1. What an unbelievable goal it was from the rookie. Emphasis on the word unbelievable.
Watching the replay of Duhaime’s goal, it was hard to believe the manor in which the puck crossed the goal line. He dropped his stick on the sequence, and as he reached down to pick it up, Nico Sturm’s initial shot deflected into the back of the net off of Duhaime’s skate. All luck. No skill.
“I think I blacked out,” Duhaime said. “Just looked in the net and it was there. Then everyone started coming to me.”
A couple of minutes later, Jared Spurgeon made it 2-1 in favor of the Wild with a slap shot through a Marcus Foligno screen in front. That lead was short-lived as Ducks winger Troy Terry tied things up at 2-2.
That score held until early in the second period when Rakell scored again to push the Ducks in front 3-2. Fortunately for the Wild, they responded once again, this time with Jon Merrill wiring a puck past Ducks goaltender John Gibson to make it 3-3.
It was Merrill’s first goal since Feb. 8, 2020 and he was nervous it might get taken away after Ducks coach Dallas Eakin used his challenge. Luckily for Merrill, the officials deemed the play onside, and he got to celebrate with his teammates on the bench.
“I was just trying to mention to the refs that I haven’t scored in a while,” Merrill said with a laugh. “I could really use this.”
That paved the way for a tense third period, and while it featured a handful of good looks from both teams, neither the Wild nor the Ducks scored, and the game went into overtime.
That’s where Hartman played hero with a snipe.
“It feels pretty good afterward, right?” Hartman said. “We know we’ve got to eventually come out with a lead at some point. It is what it is. A win is a win no matter how we look at it.”