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With backs against the wall, Wild have responded with a flurry

Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker (16) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Man., on Feb. 26, 2019. Terrence Lee / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL -- A couple of weeks ago, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau offered a bold prediction.

“We are going to make the playoffs,” Boudreau said at the time. “That’s about as elaborate as I’m going to get. You want me to predict how many wins we’re going to have? Not going to happen.”

Already in a tailspin, the Wild responded with three straight losses, including a 4-0 disaster against the Anaheim Ducks, who broke a 12-game losing streak Feb. 19 at Xcel Energy Center. For skeptics, that signaled the end of a six-year playoff streak.

Certainly, general manager Paul Fenton had seen enough. He started dismantling his successor’s “young core” on Jan. 17 when he sent Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for center Victor Rask. Next came Charlie Coyle, dealt to Boston for young center Ryan Donato, 22, and finally, Mikael Granlund, sent to Nashville for Kevin Fiala, 22.

Those moves have done the trick. Since Coyle was traded on Feb. 20, the Wild are 5-0-1 and still hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“I think any athlete or team, when their backs are kind of against the wall, they find that extra gear and they play with that extra desperation that they need to win,” veteran defenseman Ryan Suter said. “You get it turned around and guys are starting to smile a little more and have that confidence with the puck again. It’s been good to see.”

It started with a 4-1 win over the Rangers in New York, and continued with a 3-2 win over the Red Wings in Detroit. While it was a welcome change, it could have been fool’s gold considering both wins came against two of the worst teams in the league.

But the Wild proved it wasn’t a fluke, following it up with a 2-1 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at home, a 3-2 win over the Jets in Winnipeg, and a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames, which had won their previous seven games.

“I think that lately, every time we go on the ice we think we’re going to win,” Boudreau said. “We don’t think something bad is going to happen to us. We are going to get the lead and we’re going to hold it.

That five-game winning streak ended on the heels of a recent 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators, the second game of back-to-backs for the Wild.

“We got 11 of 12 (points), so it’s been pretty productive,” goaltender Alex Stalock said. “Any team will take that this time of season.”

The confidence built over the past couple of weeks will be valuable because the schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Wild play the Predators again Tuesday, March 5, this time at Nashville, followed by road back-to-backs at Tampa Bay and Florida. The Lightning already have 50 wins.

“We played some pretty good teams in the last three games, and even though we might’ve got outshot, we played them on an even keel,” Boudreau said. “It’s very uplifting and positive. It’s just something we know we can do when we put our mind to it.”

Briefly

The Wild on Monday recalled forward Matt Read from AHL Iowa under emergency conditions. Read, 32, has a goal in six games with Minnesota this season, and 31 points (15-16—31) in 50 games in Des Moines.

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