posted on Oct, 10 2006 @ 08:39 PM
After struggling to win close games in 2005-06, the Minnesota Wild are proving they can beat teams down the stretch this season.
The Wild look to extend their best start in franchise history when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
Minnesota (2-0-0) erased an early deficit on Saturday in rallying to defeat Nashville 6-5 at home. The Wild, who have opened a season with consecutive
victories for the first time in the team's six-year history, scored a franchise-record five power-play goals in the win.
"With all of the penalties they're giving, if you've got a good power play you have a chance to win some games," said Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire,
whose team has won all 44 games in which it has scored at least five goals.
Brian Rolston scored the winning goal with 1:11 remaining Saturday as the Wild outscored the Predators 6-3 after falling behind 2-0 in the first four
minutes of the contest. Minnesota beat Colorado 3-2 in overtime in its season opener on Thursday.
The Wild had the fourth-worst record in the NHL in one-goal games last season, going 14-20-8.
"We have to win these one-goal games," said Rolston, who led Minnesota with 79 points last season. "And it's nice to see."
Todd White, Pavol Demitra, Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu and Mark Parrish -- a Minnesota native who signed with the Wild as a free agent during the
offseason -- had power-play goals Saturday.
Demitra, who had 25 goals and 37 assists in 58 games for Los Angeles last season, scored a goal and had five assists in three games against Vancouver
(2-1-0) in 2005-06.
While the Wild's offense seems to be in sync, the defense has been inconsistent.
Starting goaltender Manny Fernandez allowed three goals on 11 shots in the opening period on Saturday, and was pulled in favor of rookie Niklas
Backstrom during the first intermission. Backstrom, playing in his first NHL game, had 17 saves in the final 40 minutes.
Fernandez went 2-2-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average against Vancouver last season.
The Wild continue their season-opening five-game homestand Tuesday, while the Canucks finish up their four-game trip to begin the season. Vancouver
won its first two contests before losing 3-2 to Colorado on Sunday.
The Canucks were 0-for-5 on the power play and allowed the Avalanche to convert on 3 of 8 opportunities.
"You expect that on the road," goalie Roberto Luongo said.
Luongo had 32 saves Sunday, and has stopped 77 of 83 shots through the first three games. He has just one win in six career starts against Minnesota,
posting a 3.10 GAA over that span.
Daniel Sedin scored his third goal of the season on Sunday, while Markus Naslund had a goal and an assist to lead the Canucks. Vancouver's top line of
Naslund, Sedin and his twin brother, Henrik, have scored five of the team's eight goals.
The Canucks went 5-2-1 against the Wild last season, with Naslund and the Sedin brothers leading the way. The trio played in all eight meetings, with
Naslund registering two goals and three assists, Daniel Sedin recording two goals and four assists, and Henrik Sedin posting a goal and three
Vancouver has just two wins in its last eight trips to St. Paul.