ST. PAUL, Minn. — Devin Setoguchi was almost on one knee as he let the shot go and then he dropped to both knees and thrust his arms in the air. The relief from Setoguchi, the Minnesota Wild forward who had been dropped to the fourth line earlier this week, and the rest of his team was let out with one big goal.
Setoguchi, as much as any other Minnesota forward, has represented the Wild’s struggles to score. The veteran forward, acquired last season to be a top-six forward based on his goal-scoring past with the San Jose Sharks, was held without a goal the first 10 games of the season. Minnesota entered Saturday tied for the second fewest goals in the league.
Then, with one big shot from Setoguchi, Minnesota and the immense weight on its shoulders seemed to drop for one night. Setoguchi scored his first goal of the season on the power-play in overtime and the Wild ended their three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators.
“This is what we talked about, a clean slate,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I don’t care what happened the first 10 games or whatever. We’re not for making excuses, but at the same time there was no training camp, there was no exhibition and it takes some guys a little time to get going. That’s a real thing. Let’s hope this is the point it starts to take off.”
Setoguchi, who had scored 31 goals his first full season in the NHL with San Jose and was acquired along with Charlie Coyle and a draft pick for Brent Burns during the 2011 draft, is a three-time, 20-goal scorer. He slipped to 19 goals in his first season in Minnesota last year, but was primed for a top scoring role this season playing on the second line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikael Granlund when the season started.
Setoguchi had an assist in the season opener and then, like the rest of the Wild’s offense, the struggles began. He eventually found himself playing on the fourth line with grinders Zenon Konopka and Mike Rupp. But in the past three games, Setoguchi has found his way, if not the back of the net.
He was second on the Wild with five shots against Nashville and none was more important than his game-winner, just this third point of the season.
“A lot of props to Mike for giving me a chance in overtime to score on that power play,” Setoguchi said. “It feels nice, obviously. Now I’ve just got to keep doing those same things, getting those chances to score and I know that the puck will keep going in.”
The slow start was certainly new territory for Setoguchi, at least when it comes to scoring. The first five seasons of his career, Setoguchi had never gone more than two games into a season without a goal.
Setoguchi’s appreciation for being in the spot to score came after working his way back up to the second line following his tough start. Setoguchi acknowledged he hadn’t played well earlier this season when he received his demotion. The past three games have started to show a turnaround for him.
“There was things in my game in the first six or seven games that weren’t good,” Setoguchi said. “To have three games in a row now where I feel like I’ve done the right thing and gotten the chances, it feels good. Anytime you can do that and get rewarded, it’s nice.”
Cal Clutterbuck added his second goal of the season for Minnesota, which had scored one goal each of the last three games. Yeo had also stressed a shoot-first mentality this week and the Wild finished with 32 shots Saturday, their highest total since the second game of the season.
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom, responding from being pulled in Thursday’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks, had 25 saves and the Wild killed off three big penalties with the score tied in the third period, including a high-sticking double-minor from Setoguchi in which his stick was lifted by a Predators player and errantly hit defenseman Scott Hannan in the face.
“As an individual, he’s got five shots, he could be easily frustrated,” Yeo said of Setoguchi’s game Saturday as a good example for being focused. “I thought it was a real tough call on him, they lift the stick in the guy’s face. There’s a lot of things that could have led to frustration for him, but he was able to just stay focused on the fact that he’s playing a good game. And when you do that and you’re not caught up in the results, then you don’t have the frustration and you’re ready and eventually you’ll get rewarded. It’s the same feeling with our team.”