The Wild made a nice return to the Xcel tonight after being gone on a 4 game road trip all of the place (Ok, maybe just to California, Colorado and Calgary), with a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. This gives the Wild a 4 point lead over Vancouver for the 1st Wild card spot in the playoff picture (Could be a 3 pt lead over Phoenix if they win tonight).
Nino Niederreiter netted the first goal of the game with a powerplay goal 16:04 into the game, which was his first goal in almost a month. Jared Spurgeon got the first assist in his first game back from his broken foot, and Jason Zucker got the second assist. This was Zucker's first NHL assist this season.
Dany Heatley scored his 11th goal of the season after Jared Spurgeon worked his ass off and made a dynamic play to recover the puck and get it up front to Heatley. It was one of many ways that Spurgeon reminded Wild fans why the team missed him so badly.
There were a lot of positives tonight. The lines looked pretty good tonight. The first line was buzzing around all night and really forced Tampa Bay to be on their toes. The second line scored a fantastic goal. The third line kept Tampa's top line quiet all night. And the 4th line didn't really make any huge mistakes. Progress.
Spurgeon was back in full TANK mode tonight. It's so easy to forget what presence he has on the ice. Often over looked because he's so tiny, Spurge is able to make great plays and use his fantastic vision to help the team in ways that not many other players can.
The bad news from tonight's game was that Marco Scandella went down with a lower body injury on his 2nd shift, and recorded 55 seconds of TOI. SO far there's been no update on his injury, but looking at the replays it looks really bad. He's legs bend at awkward angles and he could have injured anything and everything from his groin down to his feet.
The biggest thing in the "needs improvement" category tonight was probably the slow start. The Wild didn't look very confident in the first, despite getting the first goal. It's no coincidence that once the team started working together after Kuemper made a number of great saves that they started to gain more confidence and they managed to get on the board.
The team also really (and I mean REALLY) needs to work on not letting up when they have the lead. There is no reason that Tampa should have been able to get the score within one tonight. This is something the team needs to address before the post season gets here. STEP ON THE THROAT GUYS. Stop leaving this all to Kuemper.