EDMONTON, ALBERTA – After a week off for the Wild and Edmonton Oilers because of the All-Star break, Wild coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday morning, “You’d expect probably both teams execution-wise to not be completely sharp.”
That was certainly the case of the Wild, which managed the puck poorly and wasn’t exactly crisp offensively for longer than Yeo expected Tuesday night.
In a game against the NHL’s worst defense and second-worst team, the desperate Wild was in a dogfight because of that until Charlie Coyle scored a sensational breakaway goal with 4 minutes, 23 seconds left to lift Minnesota to a 2-1 victory.
“Charlie’s goal couldn’t have come at a better time,” Yeo said. “We had started to lose some momentum because of the turnovers we had.”
After the Oilers missed the net on several golden opportunities, Jordan Eberle passed the puck into teammate Matt Fraser’s skate and Coyle took off for a breakaway. When Viktor Fasth challenged, Coyle actually skated himself well past the goal line before deftly using his long reach to slip his sixth goal inside the post.
“He came out a little more than I expected,” Coyle said. “Once I got down there, I was too close. I pulled it back and luckily I put it away.”
Devan Dubnyk, traded by the Oilers last season, faced his ex-teammates for the fourth time this season and improved to 4-0 (including three 2-1 victories) with 113 saves on 117 shots (.966 save percentage). He made 23 saves and was huge as the Wild killed 1:22 of an Oilers 6-on-4 power play to end the game. The Wild won for the ninth time in its past 10 visits to Edmonton.
“It’s always a fun challenge,” Dubnyk said. “I know how skilled they are. Fortunately, I’ve been on the right side.”
Nino Niederreiter, who hadn’t scored since a Dec. 16 penalty shot in Chicago, ended a 17-game goal drought midway through the first when Justin Fontaine stole a puck from Nail Yakupov.
“Definitely a big relief,” Niederreiter said. “Fonzie made the big play happen.”
But the Wild couldn’t build on that lead despite spending large chunks of the first and second periods in the offensive zone. In fact, despite a lot of offensive-zone time by Minnesota in the first 12 minutes, Fasth had to play more pucks off penalty-kill clears than Wild shots.
That ineffectiveness eventually hurt Minnesota when Boyd Gordon tied the score at 1-1 late in the second period. His off-the-mark wraparound attempt slid through the crease to the far side before caroming off Wild center Kyle Brodziak’s skate and in for the goal.
It was a shame because Dubnyk, the 14th overall draft pick by Edmonton in 2004, did a lot to give Minnesota a chance to stretch its lead. Early in the second, Yakupov flew into the zone and Dubnyk denied him point-blank. Later, after defenseman Justin Schultz flew in on a breakaway, Dubnyk stacked the pads before gloving Schultz’s attempt over the cage. Minutes later, after Brodziak, Fontaine, Matt Cooke, Nate Prosser and Christian Folin were jelly-legged and in dire straits during a long shift, Dubnyk froze the puck so his tired teammates could get a line change.
“Duby was great,” Yeo said.
Yeo didn’t like the way the Wild managed the puck. But he loved how players competed, exemplified by Zach Parise spitting blood onto the ice after being hit by a puck in the first period. As he stared down, Parise comically picked up a tooth and handed it to athletic therapist Don Fuller with the hope of saving it.
“I thought maybe there was a chance, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to go back in,” said Parise, with stitches on his lower lip. “It’s really hard [playing after so much time off]. You haven’t felt the puck and you don’t have your legs. That first game coming back is always a tough one.
“Regardless, for us to get two points, it’s important.”