It was only two days, but the span between Tuesday’s loss to Winnipeg and Thursday’s victory over Montreal felt like an eternity to Matt Dumba. The Wild defenseman wished he could have immediately made up for Tuesday’s much-discussed mistake; instead, he had to wait until the next game.
Dumba got back into the good graces of coach Bruce Boudreau with a fine game in Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Canadiens. He finished with two assists, including one that was originally ruled a goal, as well as two hits and two blocks. After several shaky performances this season, he was technically solid defensively and finished plus-two.
Afterward, Dumba thanked his teammates for easing his heartache over his ill-considered drop pass, which was intercepted and turned into the goal that gave Winnipeg a 2-1 victory Tuesday. He was relieved to repay them, raising his level of play by improving his focus and attention to detail.
“I was looking forward to (the game) ever since the last one,’’ Dumba said. “I wanted to redeem myself and be better for my teammates. I’m so thankful that I have good teammates. They all backed me up after that game and really supported me, and that’s what made me able to come out here and play with some confidence tonight.
“It’s tough. Everyone at some point in their life wishes they can go back in that time machine, but you can’t. So you just put that back behind and move forward.’’
Boudreau said Thursday morning he had spoken with Dumba and was confident he would improve. Dumba said the coach reminded him to play simply, and he gave the defenseman a boost of confidence.
“He said he needs me, and needs me to play the minutes I’m capable of,’’ the defenseman said. “It’s little things. You’ve got to start by making the little plays, and then it just carries on from there. I know I’m a good player, and I can make special plays when it needs to happen. But I can’t be trying to do that or force it every time.’’
Boudreau said that by keeping things simple, Dumba had his best game of the season—something that has to continue for the Wild to succeed.
“When he plays a simple game, his skills come through,’’ Boudreau said. “We can’t go anywhere without him being really good. He’s one of our top four defensemen, and we need our top four defensemen to perform every night. I thought he had more to give, and he was great tonight. I’m the first one to tell him he did a great job.”
The biggest surprise Thursday was the ineptitude of the Canadiens, starting with goaltender Carey Price. One of the NHL’s top goalies for years, Price has gotten off to a bad start this season and looked nothing like his usual self against the Wild.
His movement was slow, his reflexes were dull and he made a lazy clearing attempt early in the game that Dumba intercepted and fired on net. Nino Niederreiter got a stick on it and was given final credit for the goal, after it was credited to him and then changed to Dumba.
Price stopped 21 shots and has one of the worst save percentages in the league (.877). Unsurprisingly, he was extra-touchy after the game. The Montreal media tried to give him excuses, asking if he was injured (no) or if his equipment was faulty (no, again).
Asked if he felt his technique is where it usually is this time of year, he snapped, “What do you think? It doesn’t look like it right now, does it?’’ Price settled down to say he “just has to find a way’’ to stop pucks, though forward Brendan Gallagher noted the team shares the blame because it did not play well in front of Price.
Coach Claude Julien called the Wild’s first two goals—scored within 10 seconds of one another early in the game—“bad goals,’’ though he was gentle in his assessment of Price’s play.
“I think at the end of the day, we all know that Carey is a much better goaltender than he’s showing right now,’’ Julien said. “The only thing he can do, and we can do, is keep working with him, and him working hard and find his groove again. Because he’s definitely the key to us getting back into the race here and being a playoff contender.”
Other notes from Thursday’s game:
--Boudreau was pleased with the play of his fourth line, which scored twice. Matt Cullen got the Wild’s first goal and set up linemate Tyler Ennis for the third.
The group slowed down later in the game and was on the ice for two Montreal goals, but Boudreau still gave them high marks. “The first period, I thought they were really good,’’ he said. “We had a couple giveaways, one in the second and one in the third, that sort of put a damper on the whole overall look of their game. But the first period, I said to myself, ‘If the fourth line can play like that, we’re going to win a lot of hockey games.’”
--The Wild had not scored a power-play goal in its past four games, going 0-for-16 over that span. It got one Thursday when Jared Spurgeon scored on its fourth and final attempt of the game. Spurgeon now leads the Wild with nine points this season.
“They moved the puck around fast,’’ Boudreau said. “And the other thing they did, they shot and they played to the inside of their guys. They were getting shots through. When you do those things, good things happen.”