Facing the sloppy Vancouver Canucks didn't hurt, either. Branko Radivojevic scored twice and Brian Rolston had a goal and an assist to lead Minnesota past Vancouver 5-2 on Tuesday night for a split of their home-and-home series. Pavol Demitra and Mark Parrish also scored for the Wild, who won in regulation for only the second time in 21 games. Minnesota has five other wins during that stretch.
Trevor Linden and Kevin Bieksa scored for Vancouver, which was coming off three straight home wins but has lost four in a row on the road. The Canucks have been outscored 20-6 in those losses.
Coming off a winless three-game swing through western Canada during which it scored just four goals, Minnesota improved to 13-3-1 at home with its fourth straight win in the Xcel Energy Center. Only Anaheim (14) has more home wins.
"We played better on the road than we had been but didn't get any results, so this was a big win," said Keith Carney, who had an assist.
The Wild moved one point ahead of Vancouver in the tight Northwest Division, where all five teams were separated by two points entering play Tuesday.
"I hate to say it this early in the year, but these games are desperate games, and we didn't play like that," said Willie Mitchell, who was traded by Minnesota to Dallas late last year and signed with Vancouver as a free agent. "It wasn't (Minnesota's) 'A' game. It was a blown opportunity by us."
Rolston was pleased with the two points, but he knows success must also come in other rinks.
"We're not going to be a successful hockey team or make the playoffs if we can't win on the road, so it's obviously very, very important that we keep winning at home, but we got to get 'er going on the road," he said.
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said the effort was equal to that in Vancouver on Saturday, but the result was obviously better.
"Maybe we felt a little better because we are home and the crowd is there and we got support, we got reasons to do well. It was a great effort by all the guys," he said.
Demitra, who scored Minnesota's lone goal in Saturday's 2-1 loss in Vancouver, put the Wild up 1:47 into the game when his slap shot from the blue-line beat Roberto Luongo low on the glove side.
Luongo, who allowed as many goals against Minnesota as he did during his three-game winning streak, stopped 22 shots. Manny Fernandez stopped 20 for Minnesota.
Rolston, who has three goals in three home games against the Canucks this season, made it 2-0 at 2:01 of the second period.
Luongo couldn't control a shot from Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Rolston poked the rebound to the left side of the crease where he wristed it into an open net.
"We sit back a bit on the road. We had guys jumping on the forecheck tonight, and that's what we need, all five guys jumping," Rolston said.
Leading by example, Rolston aggressively got a stick on an attempted clearing pass to set up his goal.
"Butch throws one at the net, which is a good play by him, and it was just a juicy rebound," he said.
Linden scored for the second time in two games for Vancouver nearly five minutes later when his slap shot from the right circle found the top corner of the net. Ryan Kesler screened Fernandez, preventing the goalie from seeing the shot.
Radivojevic scored his first point in 11 games when his slap shot got by Luongo late in the period.
The goal came after Minnesota had three excellent chances while short-handed - including a breakaway by Wes Walz - only to be stopped by Luongo each time.
"Special teams are a game within a game," Carney said. "We did gain some momentum there and we kept that going and were able to score a big goal. That was a timely goal for us."
Parrish tipped a shot from Todd White past Luongo midway through the third period after a pass from Rolston, who was behind the net.
"We made way too many mistakes. We know how to play against these guys, get the puck in deep. Do to them what they did to us," Vancouver's Markus Naslund said. "It was a crucial game. There's no reason we couldn't have a good effort. We took a big step back tonight."
Bieksa scored on a two-man advantage with 4:43 to play, but Radivojevic scored an empty-netter at 18:04.
Notes: Minnesota is 8-0 when Rolston has a multipoint game. ... Although he practised with the team Monday, Vancouver D Sami Salo missed his sixth straight game with a shoulder injury. ... D Kurtis Foster skated hard before Minnesota's practice Tuesday, but missed his ninth straight game with an injured larynx. ... The game was the first of three in four days on the road for the Canucks against teams from three different divisions. Vancouver is at Boston on Thursday and Columbus on Friday. ... Three of Minnesota's next four games are against Detroit, including a home-and-home set Friday and Saturday.