It's apparent that the fight for the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference playoff race will be a photo finish between the Wild, Coyotes and Avalanche.
If the playoffs started today, the Wild would be in by the slimmest of margins – one point – after passing the Coyotes and Avalanche with a 2-1 road win over the defending champion Washington Capitals on Friday night.
- Wild - 79 points (7 games to play)
- Coyotes - 78 points (8 games to play)
- Avalanche - 78 points (8 games to play)
- Blackhawks - 74 points (9 games to play)
"We're in a playoff spot," said head coach Bruce Boudreau. "We've gotta do it again tomorrow."
Jordan Greenway's highlight-reel goal gave the Wild a 1-0 lead in the first period and Luke Kunin scored the game-winning goal with just under eight minutes to go in the third period when Ryan Donato forced a turnover at center ice and got it ahead to Zach Parise who found Kunin all alone in the slot.
Minnesota's road success could prove vital down the stretch with four of the final seven games away from Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild have struggled this season.
"I think they believe they can win on the road right now, and at home they're holding their sticks way too tight because they want to win so badly at home," Boudreau said. "It's amazing what the mind can do and I think the belief is there that they can win on the road."
Saturday will be a huge day of hockey in the playoff push with the Wild in action at 6 p.m. against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Coyotes at New Jersey for a noon game, and the Avalanche at home against the Blackhawks at 2 p.m.
If the Blackhawks beat the Avs Saturday and again on Sunday, they could be right back in the thick of the wild-card race.
Ideally, the Coyotes and Avs lose Saturday and the Wild win in Carolina to grow their lead in the wild-card race to three points.