The Gophers found little entertainment value in their film session Sunday morning, when they reviewed a performance at Wisconsin that left them with their first loss of the season. From an educational standpoint, though, the screening was just what they needed.
Studying the hard-charging Badgers gave the Gophers a template for a 5-3 victory Sunday at LaBahn Arena in Madison. After being outworked in Saturday's 3-1 loss, they vowed to match or surpass their rivals' effort in the series finale. That powered the top-ranked Gophers (11-1) to their 13th victory in their past 14 games and showed coach Bob Motzko the response he hoped to see.
Sammy Walker, Blake McLaughlin and Bryce Brodzinski each contributed a goal and an assist in a back-and-forth game. After Walker scored on the Gophers' first shot, the No. 12 Badgers (6-6) answered with two goals for a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. McLaughlin and Jonny Sorenson put the Gophers back on top with a pair of goals in a span of 3 minutes, 2 seconds late in the period, and Ben Meyers scored the winner on a power play early in the third.
The Gophers played without one of their top scorers, Scott Reedy, who sat out because of an undisclosed injury. Motzko did not have an update on Reedy's condition, or any information about how long he might be out.
"That was a gut-check game [Saturday]," Brodzinski said. "[Wisconsin] played really hard. They outworked us in a lot of areas. That was one of our things in film, winning those loose puck battles and working a little harder.
"They showed us how we need to play in that first game. Coming out of that and winning this game was really big for our season."
Motzko was unhappy with Saturday's effort, which ended the 10-game win streak that started the Gophers' season. He felt they were not ready to play at the start, and said too many players didn't "come with the fight" required to win a Border Battle game.
With Reedy out, Motzko reconfigured his lines. Brodzinski said the players needed to make only a few changes, starting with their work ethic. Walker's goal 81 seconds into the game got them off on the right foot.
The Badgers tied it 1-1 when Sam Stange's pass deflected off the stick of Gophers defenseman Matt Staudacher and slid past goalie Jack LaFontaine. Brock Caufield gave Wisconsin a 2-1 lead at 11:58 of the second period, but the Gophers responded with three consecutive goals to take command.
McLaughlin scored a backdoor goal on a pass from Walker, and Sorensen took advantage when a bad line change left the Badgers outmanned. Meyers made it 4-2 on a power play at 2:35 of the third period, sniping the puck past Robbie Beydoun.
Cole Caufield pulled the Badgers within 4-3 at 4:12 of the third before Brodzinski's late goal. LaFontaine finished with 29 saves, while Beydoun tallied 19 as Wisconsin outshot the Gophers 32-24.
"We got pushed back [Saturday], pushed down hard," Motzko said. "We needed to respond, and that's what we did.
"It sure wasn't fun, with how hard we all take losses. But I think it could end up being a great lesson for our team. Wisconsin played so hard both nights, and we needed to respond to that. And we did."
• The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.