It didn’t rewrite history, erasing the sting of a first-round playoff exit last spring or even the disappointment from a rough loss a week earlier.
But what the Wild’s 2-1 overtime triumph over the Blues on Saturday in front of 19,107 at Xcel Energy Center did was give further evidence the team is rediscovering its defensive groove — a development more relevant to its current pursuits than any past missteps.
“This is what we’re about, and we gotta start getting those feelings of low-scoring games,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “As long as we keep their score low, we’ve showed that we can score in flurries on the other end. It’s going to be big for us.”
Better defending has headlined the Wild’s to-do list lately, and it had ample time to work on that against the Blues — adopting a bend-don’t-break philosophy before defenseman Matt Dumba polished off a give-and-go with center Charlie Coyle just 39 seconds into the extra period — a finish that pushed the Wild to 5-0-1 in its past six home games.
“I just knew there was going to be ice in front of me,” Dumba said. “There’s only three guys out there so might as well get it moving up ice. I told [defenseman Jonas Brodin] from the get-go I was going up ice and taking those chances. It just worked out that Charlie was coming with me, and I was able to get it to him.
“After that, it was kind of a blur.”
The Wild fell into an early hole in its previous meeting with the Blues last Saturday en route to a 6-3 defeat, the same circumstance that triggered its demise in the playoffs. So the team circled a lead as its prime objective, and it accomplished that in the first period.
Just 4:26 after puck drop, defenseman Ryan Suter capitalized — scooping up a rebound off a Jason Zucker shot, skating around the net and banking the puck off Blues goalie Jake Allen’s skate and over the goal line.
“I was just trying to get it back at the net,” Suter said. “I knew [Mikael Granlund] was coming there, so it was either coming to Granny or it went off the goalie and in. I’ll take ’em. They don’t ask how.”
The Blues amplified the pressure in the second, and on their third power play of the game, they found the equalizer on a seeing-eye shot through traffic from winger Patrik Berglund at 17:41.
A string of penalties in the third gave St. Louis plenty of opportunity to score another, but the Wild survived the pressure to finish 4-for-5 on the penalty kill. It also went 0-for-3 on the power play.
“You’re not going to kill off that many penalties without guys making big plays in front,” Dubnyk said. “That was definitely the case. Those ones in the third period were huge, especially when we had been kind of hanging in there all game.”
Nine of Dubnyk’s 41 saves, which tied a season high, came with his team shorthanded. Allen had 23 stops for the Blues.
“When your goaltender’s your best penalty killer, you usually succeed,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “and that’s exactly what happened.”
The ice remained tilted in the Blues’ favor. They outshot the Wild 16-8 in the third, but the Wild hung on to force extra time — the backdrop for Dumba’s third career overtime goal and second point of the night.
“That’s how we have to win games, two goals or less,” Suter said. “Usually, when we can keep a team to two goals or less, we end up winning.”