After a three-game losing streak negated their quick start to the season, a pair of victories have the Minnesota Wild feeling good again.
A third straight win Friday night against Anaheim would further boost their confidence, as they'll be facing a Ducks team that's coming off a shootout loss but off to a good start to 2013.
The Wild (4-2-1) couldn't maintain their momentum from a 2-0 start with the three consecutive defeats, but they've earned points in three straight after dealing Chicago its first loss in seven games this season Wednesday, 3-2 in a shootout.
Matt Cullen scored 90 seconds into the game and again in the shootout to lift Minnesota.
"Games like this are how you build confidence in what you're doing as a team and start getting that belief that - you know what? - we can be a good team," said Cullen, who was scoreless in the first six games. "It's not just talk. It's not just on paper. It's getting some results."
The Wild were able to overcome Josh Harding being pulled early in the first period after allowing two goals on four shots. Niklas Backstrom came on and made 28 saves, including 11 in the third.
An encouraging sign for the Wild was a second straight contest of production from their second and third lines, which had struggled behind the top unit of Zach Parise, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu. Those three players scored 10 of Minnesota first 13 goals until Tuesday's win over Columbus.
The top line's only goal in that 3-2 victory came from Koivu before the Wild defeated the Blackhawks with no goals from that forward grouping.
"We're not there yet by any means, but this team has shown that when we're playing our game we can play with anybody. Scratch that: We can beat anybody," coach Mike Yeo said.
Yeo's team hadn't had much trouble beating Anaheim until the last meeting Feb. 14, a 2-1 Ducks road victory. Minnesota had won four of the previous five meetings.
The Wild have won three in a row at Anaheim, taking the last matchup there 5-3 on Dec. 4, 2011, and they'll be looking for their first road win in three games this season.
The Ducks (3-1-1) fell 3-2 in a shootout to San Jose on Tuesday, but they were mostly encouraged by dominating the undefeated Sharks for most of the game. Anaheim held a 30-18 shot advantage - 13-4 in the first period.
"I think we played well," said left wing Matt Beleskey, whose second-period goal put the Ducks up 2-1. "We played a good road game. ... If we play that way every night we're going to be a pretty successful team."
While the offense from Minnesota's second and third lines has been timely, the top unit could be in position for another big game Friday. Koivu has recorded 11 points in his last nine games against Anaheim, while Heatley scored one goal in each of the past two matchups and has 10 goals and 12 assists in 23 career meetings. Parise has two goals and three assists during a four-game point streak versus the Ducks.
Anaheim's Corey Perry has 15 goals and 12 assists in 26 career contests against the Wild.
The Ducks are 0 for 12 on the power play since converting all three chances in their first game, while Minnesota has gone 0 for 6 in its last two.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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