Wild victory in Montreal, discover the meaning of familiarity on and off the ice

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MONTREAL — The Wild haven’t handed out so many guest passes at the Bell Center since the days when Jacques Lemaire and Mario Tremblay coached, Pascal Dupuis and Stéphane Veilleux played and Doug Risebrough ran the club.

Freddy Gaudreau grew up in the small mountain town of Bromont, Quebec. He had more than 100 friends and family in the stands at the Bell Center on Tuesday night, including his parents and three siblings, who were able to enjoy “Friendly Freddy” at the center of the Wild’s front row, get an assist, earning eight of nine faceoffs and taking Nick Suzuki to cleaners with defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Jake Middleton in a dominating effort against the Montreal Canadiens’ No. 1 center and a 3-1 victory, the second to the Wild in six games this season.

Marc-André Fleury grew up on a farm an hour from Sorel-Tracy. The future Hall of Famer had two dozen people in the seats to watch him play Game 944 to move into sixth place on the NHL’s all-time game list and win his 522nd game – 30 away. pass Patrick Roy for second all-time – with 26 saves.

Wild coach Dean Evason lives in Montreal during the offseason and has flooded the rink with his wife, Genevieve, and many friends.

And best of all, Brandon Duhaime gobbled up over 40 post-game assists. His parents, Trevor and Martine, are from the suburbs of Montreal, and while Duhaime may be a Floridian, he unquestionably played the game of his NHL career in a high role on the third line by scoring the game-winning goal, assisting on one of Joel Eriksson Ek’s goals. two goals and dominating in all three areas. His mom, aunt, uncle and tons of cousins ​​got to watch in this hockey mecca.

“For me, personally, I just try to take it as another game,” Duhaime said. “For them it was obviously very special to come to their hometown and get a big team win like we did.”

Minnesota’s start to the season has been brutal, but since losing the first three games, the Wild have snatched five of six points and look more like themselves against the Canadiens. They defended well, blocked 20 shots and were so good on the Canadiens’ blue line and in the neutral zone that they forced Montreal to a turnover on turnover.

And when they needed Fleury to be Fleury, he was. In a 1-1 game, Sam Steel and Mats Zuccarello had turnovers at center ice, but Fleury made four big saves. And as the Wild clung to a 2-1 lead after Gaudreau set up Duhaime’s second goal in two games, Fleury denied Mike Hoffman on a penalty shot — the 22nd penalty shot in 28 attempts in the Fleury’s career.

Hoffman is such a sniper that Fleury half-expected him to pull him out of the circles. But Fleury remained patient, stayed on her feet, held on and calmly directed Hoffman’s shot into the corner.

“I felt like we had the puck a lot, we played well, we got big goals, we got blocks on the PK, which helps a lot,” Fleury said. “The guys played well up front.”

And in the third, even though the Canadians pushed, the Wild looked so comfortable defending their own side. They never felt like they were on their heels, as they remained ready for Eriksson Ek’s last empty net thanks to terrific efforts from Gaudreau and Ryan Hartman before Eriksson Ek blasted his way through. way to the end of Montreal with Hoffman shooting from behind.

“To you, did he look like he got our swagger back?” Middleton asked a certain reporter. “Like, it felt like we got our swagger back. These are the kind of games we are going to win, 2-1, like that for a whole third period. It was just nice to have that feeling. I know we won at home, but everyone knows we haven’t collected 60 goals yet. It’s really nice to do it at the start of a road trip like this.

Middleton, who had a few blocked shots, including one when he appeared to save a goal in the second period, said he knew immediately during the second intermission the Wild weren’t going to give up the third-period lead.

“Like, when I got here, there was… no tight assholes,” Middleton said with a laugh. “In those 25 games I played (last season), that’s exactly how I felt tonight. Everyone kept their cool. Even though there was a slight breakdown, the four other guys on the ice were there to cover. That’s how we thought we should play, and hopefully we can keep it that way.

There’s no doubt general manager Bill Guerin and Evason tried to get the Wild’s attention after a 1-3-1 start and an overtime loss to open Saturday’s five-game trip to Boston.

In an exclusive interview with Athleticism On Sunday, Guerin said it was imperative that the Wild get to work or it will be “a long year”. And Evason did his best to wake everyone up in Monday’s practice by throwing the defensive lines and pairs into a BINGO machine, including splitting Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno up front and splitting the defense partners Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba.

Foligno skated with Marco Rossi, who played well the last two games, and Matt Boldy, who tied a career high with eight shots. Duhaime, normally a fourth line, skated with Eriksson Ek and Hartman and received rave reviews from Evason, who also noted that if you had to list the many Wild players who haven’t played well this season, Duhaime n would do no less. -that-prestigious list.

Duhaime felt it so much in Montreal that he dragged his toes in runs and performed diving backchecks to steal pucks from players like Brendan Gallagher.

“I had a really good chat with Deano before the game, and he just kept saying play your game,” Duhaime said. “Don’t change it for someone you play with or anything like that. Just play hard, play your game and stick with what you do.

And then there’s Gaudreau who, along with Kirill Kaprizov and Zuccarello, made life miserable for the Habs’ first line. Some rolled their eyes at the thought of Evason’s favorite player getting the front row, but his good skating has protected his talented teammates who have been on the ice for too many goals against this season.

“I don’t think about those things too much,” Gaudreau said. Athleticism. “I trust the coaching staff that they are trying to put a roster (together) to win, and if that means they see me somewhere, then I mean it. If that means they see me somewhere else, then so do I. I put no energy (to) think about it. Wherever I play who I play with, I just bring my game.”

Gaudreau’s parents, JP and France, must have had a blast.

“They love seeing their son have fun on the ice, and that’s all that matters,” Gaudreau said. “Success, points do not increase their happiness. I think what really interests them is seeing me enjoy hockey. That’s how we were ruled as a family, especially in this building. They know it was my forever dream to play here. It’s big here. Iconic. You are from Quebec; you’re just a Habs fan growing up. Everyone is.”

Evason showed Tuesday night he’s not afraid to switch lines, saying he doesn’t care what happened last year and “we’re trying to find chemistry for the 22-point Minnesota Wild.” 23. If we had started without losing a hockey game, we probably wouldn’t have changed lines. But we didn’t. We had difficulties in many areas. »

But the Wild spent more time in the offensive zone than we saw in those early weeks, were first on the pucks all game and consistently won puck battles. But now he is set to continue Thursday night against a much more attacking Ottawa Senators team after the Wild took a charter train to Canada’s capital on Wednesday afternoon after a fourth straight night in Montreal.

Monday after practice, several Wild players went to the spa-sur-l’eau Bota Bota, which is a spa located on a ship anchored in the Old Port of Montreal. It boasts of offering “the healing benefits of a spa while letting itself be lulled by the natural movements of the St. Lawrence River”.

It’s too early to tell if the Wild is cured, but Montreal seems to have been a tonic.

“We played more like we play,” Evason said. “We talked to the guys about adopting the way we played here tonight. That’s how we have to play: a tough and determined game against a very good offensive hockey club that put a lot of pressure on us We’ve done a lot of good things in the areas where we haven’t done good things.

(Photo: Eric Bolte / USA Today)

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