First place in the West, a 21-point cushion on a playoff spot, willing to go “all-in” on a headline-making trade, perhaps things were just too cushy for the Wild.
Excited to put forth a full lineup one day after acquiring Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, the Wild was naturally struck with its second mumps outbreak in three seasons.
That stunning news, along with Zac Dalpe being plucked off waivers, put Monday’s lineup against the Los Angeles Kings into a state of chaos. But despite a mishmash bunch of lines that included one forward playing his third game in three days and the team coming off its five-day bye, the Wild nobly rallied four times from one-goal deficits for the third time in franchise history during an exhilarating 5-4 overtime win.
“Sometimes you have to just grit it out and let emotion take over, and I think that’s what we did,” coach Bruce Boudreau said after the Wild’s 40th victory to move three points up on Chicago with two games in hand.
Leading scorer Mikael Granlund, playing his 300th career game, scored the fastest overtime goal in franchise history. Just 12 seconds into 3-on-3, Granlund single-handedly beat a quartet of Kings earning a collective $35.45 million for a highlight-reel, 20th goal of the season.
Granlund skated through Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty before gorgeously tucking a breakaway goal by Jonathan Quick. In typical understated tone, Granlund said, “There was just a little lane, room in the middle and I got lucky there weren’t any sticks there. Yeah. Nice two points.”
Boudreau said, “Every time he touches the puck, I think he has the ability to make a play or put it in the net.”
The Wild, 5-2-1 on its eight-game homestand, avoided consecutive regulation losses for the first time since Nov. 1 and 5. The Wild has won nine straight games following a loss (15-3-2 this season).
Despite the hype that came with Sunday’s Hanzal trade, his Coyotes counterpart, White, stole the show with his sixth career multi-point game. White was one of four Wild players who scored tying goals – Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Jason Zucker, who forced overtime with his 19th goal 7:04 into the third.
White, a former Calgary Hitmen star acquired to play the fourth line, “double-checked” the locker-room white board when he saw he was playing alongside Niederreiter and Eric Staal.
“I haven’t seen that too many times in my career,” White said.
Boudreau kidded that he came up with the line by rolling the dice. But Boudreau indeed had a tough time coming up with a lineup after finding out Zach Parise and Jason Pominville joined assistant coach Scott Stevens with the mumps.
Boudreau’s day became harder once Dalpe was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That meant Tyler Graovac, who played back-to-back games in Chicago for AHL Iowa and bused back to Des Moines on Sunday night, would get called up at noon for his third game in three nights. Graovac played well and will have “no choice” but to play a fourth game in four days Tuesday in Winnipeg.
Boudreau said he filled out four different lineup before scratching that one out and jotting down names aimlessly.
“It seemed like every 15 minutes something new was happening,” Boudreau said.
Hanzal and White had a whirlwind day. They arrived from Phoenix in the afternoon, but they first had to get physicals in Bloomington. They arrived at Xcel Energy Center at 5:15, met their new teammates and got three minutes of systems work.
“They just kind of gave us the base of what was going to happen out there and just told us to go out there and play hockey,” White said. “I think that’s the way to go about it on a day like this. That’s what I was telling myself all day that it’s just hockey.”