Defenseman Nate Prosser, who's finally getting consistent ice time, rewarded his coach's faith in him by scoring for the first time in 68 games.
Wild players celebrate a second-period goal by defenseman Nate Prosser, who snapped his 67-game goalless drought in Thursday's win over the Oilers.
Marilyn Indahl / USA TODAY Sports
By Brian Hall
ST. PAUL, Minn. --Nate Prosser could hear the restlessness growing from the Minnesota Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center during Thursday night's second period.
The Edmonton Oilers were controlling play and keeping the puck in the offensive zone for a good portion of the second period. Only Edmonton was held scoreless during the stretch and couldn't mount much of an offensive threat, forced primarily to cycle the puck on the outside.
Minnesota finally broke free from the Oilers' forecheck and Prosser scored shortly thereafter in what ended up being the first game-winning goal of his career in the Wild's 4-1 win on Thursday.
"Yeah, we hear those fans," Prosser said. "We know that our play wasn't up to par there for a while in the second. We weren't executing the way we should. As soon as that turned around, we had a few shifts in their zone and (Jason) Pominville made a nice pass to me and I was just trying to get it high up over the goalie's shoulder and it happened to go in."
Prosser's goal was the first of three straight to break a 1-1 tie for the Wild, who have now won six of their last eight games. Pominville had his team-leading 19th goal and added an assist. Justin Fontaine scored his 12th of the season and Jason Zucker set a team record for fastest goal in a period by a Minnesota player on home ice, scoring his fourth of the season just eight seconds into the third period.
"I'm just kind of smiling because I remembered walking out for that third period and I was thinking, âBoy, it'd be nice to grab another goal here quickly,'" Yeo said to open his postgame press conference.
Prosser's goal started the rally and snapped a 67-game goalless drought for the defenseman. He hadn't scored since Feb. 7, 2012.
He didn't know how long the stretch had been, but knew it had been a while, calling his first career game-winner an "unbelievable" feeling.
"I knew it was getting up there," Prosser said. "It feels good to get one. It's not about goals or points for me, it's just about playing good, solid defensively and getting pucks through. That's all I was trying to do."
Just getting into the lineup had been difficult for Prosser this season. He played in 12 of Minnesota's first 28 games, despite being on the roster all season.
Yet, after 13 straight games being a healthy scratch, he's played in 12 games in a row. Over the last seven games, while Jared Spurgeon has been on injured reserve with a foot injury, Prosser has played at least 15 minutes a night. He's finished with an even or positive plus-minus rating in each game.
"He is an unbelievable professional," Yeo said of Prosser. "He's an unbelievable team guy. And this is what we said: It was not easy to scratch him. There's no question that he's made the absolute most of this opportunity. He's a guy that wins. He does little things right, and obviously we're incredibly happy for him to score that goal tonight.
"But even if he didn't score that goal, he's going to go out and give you a great chance because of the way that he plays, the way that he defends and manages the puck well. He competes hard every night. You can win with guys like that."
Prosser had the winning edge Thursday, recording a career-high plus-3 and playing 20 minutes, 9 seconds, just his second 20-minute game of the season.
Finally getting into the lineup on an every-game basis, Prosser is relishing his chance and feeling more comfortable.
"Yeah, just feeling good," Prosser said. "Just feeling good about my game. I feel confident every night. Our whole D-corps, even our team, I think everyone's got their swagger going right now and it feels good in here."