Mayhem in Denver as the Wild defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 to gain a three-point cushion on eighth and move a point from Winnipeg.
In a nasty, physical, action-packed, playoff-like affair, the Avalanche tried to run the Wild out of the building.
“I’d probably be frustrated too if we played a team and hadn’t scored on them in four games except on a dump-in,” Zach Parise said, grinning (you’ll understand what he’s referring to in a few paragraphs). “They’re taking their frustration out on us. We played a good game in spite of what they were trying to do.”
Twelve periods and 240 minutes of hockey now this season, and the only goal the Avalanche has scored against the Wild in four losses (outscored 12-1) arguably should have been wiped out by referees Chris Rooney and Dean Morton tonight.
Just 1:32 into the second period, a Maxime Talbot dump-in ricocheted awkwardly off the glass, into the crease and pinned under Devan Dubnyk’s right pad. Cody McLeod came charging in trying to jam at the puck and pushed Dubnyk over the goal line.
The ref blew the play down signaling no goal. But they went to review, and the NHL Situation Room correctly determined the puck lodged under Dubnyk’s pad when it went over the line. Tying goal.
However, Dubnyk’s pad only went over the line because McLeod pushed him over the line. Before it got to video review, Rooney and Morton probably should have disallowed the goal. That part of this was not reviewable.
“The ruling, I guess, was that McLeod had nothing to do with me going into the net, which is somewhat mindboggling,” Dubnyk said. “It didn’t seem to matter in the end. For us to respond like that after a goal that probably shouldn’t have counted, that’s a sign of a great hockey team.”
Erik Haula set up Justin Fontaine to make it 2-1 later in the second and Jason Pominville snapped a seven-game point drought in the third.
I paint the above picture though because fast forward to three seconds left with the Avs trailing 3-1. Coach Mike Yeo threw his players on the ice and Patrick Roy countered with five skaters, including Cody McLeod, who was running around all game long, getting into skirmishes by the bench, trash-talking constantly.
Basically, he was doing was Cody McLeod does.
The puck’s dropped and McLeod, from the left wing, skates right at center Mikael Granlund and drives him to the ice, then goes right after Charlie Coyle and gets into a fight.
“I should have saw it coming,” Coyle said. “He backed up and went right after Granlund. Just a stupid play on his part.”
This is textbook instigating, and in the last five minutes, warrants a one-game suspension and $10,000 fine for Roy if upheld by the NHL’s hockey ops department IF the refs call it instigating.
So what do you think Rooney and Morton determined after McLeod jumped a skilled player and started a fight and nearly triggered a brawl by the benches, one that including Gabriel Landeskog taking a swipe at Mikko Koivu from bench to bench?
That McLeod would indeed get a 2-5-10, but the two would be unsportsmanlike conduct, not instigating.
“I didn’t know what was called, but it’s got to be [an instigator],” Coyle said. “That guy’s out there with how many seconds left? Have to know that’s coming.”
There are rules in place to prevent what McLeod did, but you need the refs to actually call it.
“That’s garbage is what it is,” Yeo said of McLeod’s antics. “You feel it was going that way all game long. They were obviously very emotional all game long. In an emotional type of game, we did a good job of keeping our focus and I really think that was the difference in the end.”
Asked what he thought of Roy putting out McLeod, Yeo said, “We’ve seen the league respond to things like this. There’s rules in place to try to prevent things like that and I’m quite certain that they’ll take a good long look at that.”
We’ll see if the league does examine this and determines the only thing that kept this from being an instigator with less than five minutes left is that the refs decided not levy one for some unexplained reason.
(Note: I did not get to question Roy after the game because of a tight deadline due to 9 p.m. game and the fact his availability was during the Wild’s availability).
But the tone was set early in the game when the refs let a lot of stuff go, especially on Thomas Vanek and Coule. In the third, Nathan MacKinnon broke his nose on a check from Sean Bergenheim. The Avs accused Bergenheim of a head shot, but a screenshot I tweeted appears to show MacKinnon being nailed by his own stick.
Nate Prosser said, “We weren’t into the [stuff] after the whistles. We just wanted to stay levelheaded and get the win. They’re coming late. But we just wanted to make sure we were focused on getting the win before getting any extracurricular stuff.”
Added Erik Haula, who for the second game in a row scored a goal and assist, said, “We kept it cool and played the game the right way.”
Added Yeo, “We’ve proven, they’ve tried to do that against us in the past too and I think we respond pretty well to that. I think in some ways it gets some guys even a little bit more into the game. We’ve dealt with that before. I’m pretty impressed with the guys and have confidence they’ll have no problem dealing with that again.”
The Avs close the season series in Minnesota next Sunday. Maybe Stu Bickel will be in the lineup that day and we’ll see if McLeod would fight him instead of going after guys like Granlund.
In the meantime, as Yeo said, “Once the dust settles, we’ll be able to sit back and realize that was a really big win for us. ... In an emotional game, we did a good job keeping our focus and I really think that was the difference in the end."
The Wild beat Colorado for the eighth time in the past nine games including the playoffs and improved to 15-3-3 in its past 21 regular-season games in Denver.
The Wild killed seven penalties, including two abbreviated 4-on-3’s, a 5-on-3 and a 6-on-4. The Wild’s penalty kill is now 43 for 44 during the Wild’s 13-2-1 streak since the All-Star break.
“The penalty kill was huge,” Yeo said. “I feel bad for Duby. I thought Duby was great right from the start of the game and it’s a shame. I didn’t feel that their goal should have counted. I felt that he was clearly pushed into the net. It would have been nice for him to get the shutout. Overall I thought he played a real strong game, obviously backstopping the penalty kill, but those guys were huge, especially in that second period.”
Dubnyk made 33 saves and is an NHL-best 15-3-1 since Jan. 15 with a 1.64 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and five shutouts.
He has got to be one of the frontrunners for February First Star of the Month. He was 11-2-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and three shutouts.
Wild fans packed the Pepsi Center tonight and “DOOOOOOOOOO”ed after all his saves. He was impressed.
“When we were scoring goals, the place was erupting. It’d pretty cool to have that kind of support,” he said.
In the meantime, two big road wins at Nashville and Colorado, said Parise. “It’s something for us to feel really good about.”
The Wild has won seven of its past nine on the road.
Haula and Justin Fontaine scored goals and Kyle Brodziak had a long empty-netter wiped out. But that line was again terrific and Haula said the confidence with the three keeps growing. Jason Pominville also snapped a seven-game point drought with a big third-period goal.
Marco Scandella did seem to get injured. I thought it was from Matt Dumba’s stick because that was his final shift, but before that, he looked like he may have hurt himself when Matt Duchene cut to the net. Yeo said afterward there was too much discomfort for him to continue, to the Wild, already without Jared Spurgeon, played with five defensemen for half the game.
“We keep coming together as a group,” Prosser said. “Big loss of Scandy, we need him and Spurge, but us five took the bulls by the horns and picked up the slack and it was a big two points for us.”
The trade deadline is Monday at 2 p.m. The Wild already wanted a defenseman. We’ll see, depending on his severity, if this further forces the Wild’s hand and it gets one. Also, Tim Erixon and Dave Schlemko can be nabbed off waivers Sunday if the Wild valued them.
Yeo did say this morning that Spurgeon started to work out today.
Intense game to say the least. There was even a nasty fight in the stands between I believe a female Wild fan and male Avs fan.
That’s it for me. The Wild isn’t practicing Sunday. I’ll hop on here and blog if there’s any news, whether from a player acquisition standpoint or if the league chooses to hand out discipline from this game.
I’ll be on Fox 9 with Dawn Mitchell at 10:35 p.m. Sunday.