If the Wild would have been able to complete the comeback tonight by winning in overtime or the shootout, it would have been the Wild’s first comeback from three goals down to win on the road since March 5, 2009, in San Jose.
I’m pretty sure I had a coronary that night, too.
This was one of the weirdest games I’ve ever covered. The Wild rallying back from three-goal deficits or blowing three-goal leads was so October or November. It seemed to happen every other game or so. It happened a few times last year, too.
But this was a weird one (not as weird as in Dallas earlier this year when the Wild blew a three-goal lead in like five minutes and actually fell behind in the third before coming back and winning). I say it was weird because the Wild trailed 4-1 after two periods yet may have given up six scoring chances.
I say that because for the eighth time in 46 games this season, coach Mike Yeo had to pull his starting goalie, yet nobody with eyes could blame Devan Dubnyk for really any of them. Yet, he was pulled at the 27:25 mark after giving up four goals on 10 shots.
The first goal came off a world-class one-timer from the most prime shooting position there is. The second goal came through a screen. The third and fourth goals were going wide, but Gustav Nyquist perfectly redirected one shot and the other one pinballed off Justin Fontaine’s skate.
Against the NHL’s fourth-best defensive team and a team that has 22 goals during a five-game winning streak, the Wild had the better of the chances and had allowed 13 shots through two periods.
But as is the case so often, the Wild has to work so, so, so, so very hard to score. Take Ryan Carter tonight. He had, by his own admission, two open net attempts just prior to Thomas Vanek scoring an awesome goal in the third period and the second couldn’t lift a puck with Detroit’s goalie on his belly.
But in the third, Zach Parise scored the Wild’s second power-play goal of the game (Mikko Koivu tied the score at 1-1 in the first) and then after Vanek scored a sensational, highlight-reel goal after taking Ryan Suter’s great pinch/exchange and dangling through the slot to score a roof-job, Parise scored the type of goal that exemplifies him.
Standing in front of goalie Petr Mrazek, Parise first went to the right of the cage and stuck his stick horizontally right. He then stood in the center as Jonathan Ericsson took forever to execute a controlled breakout.
Finally, Parise turned his stick and jutted it out left. Ericsson shot it right into the shaft and Parise knocked it down and turned to the net. Ericsson desperately tried to dive. Parise backhanded it over the defenseman, jumped over him and batted at the puck until it finally went in.
Suter told a funny story about how he was part of this once against Atlanta. In Nashville, he said they were so excited about this new breakout and decided to try it one night. He gave the puck to Dan Hamhuis and the same exact thing happened.
He said it’s just a helpless feeling as a defenseman but embodied the type of player Parise is – tenacious.
In the shootout, Pavel Datsyuk and Nyquist scored. Parise and Koivu couldn’t, so Datsyuk’s goal was the deciding one and he actually tied Parise and Koivu with 38 shootout goals for the most in NHL history.
Darcy Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced in 37:35 before the shootout. I’m not sure if playing precludes him from a rehab stint that the Wild was hoping he’d actually take after the All-Star break.
He told me he’s open for whatever, but he also feels he worked hard while he was hurt and felt ready tonight.
Obviously, the Wild was bummed to not get the extra point tonight. Parise was a realist and said the Wild can’t afford to be leaving points on the table anymore. But the tone of the rest of the guys for the most part was that while it disappointed, it has to take positives from not quitting when down 4-1 and coming out with a pushback in the third.
Parise and Vanek combined for 14 shots for the second straight road game coincidentally. Parise has goals in four straight now. Suter was plus-2 with two assists. Kuemper played well in relief for the first time since Jan. 6. The Wild, prior to tonight, had scored three goals or fewer in 13 of its previous 14. So, things to build on.
It is amazing how easy so many teams make it when they score and how difficult it is for the Wild. I’ll be writing about that in Thursday’s paper.
All players stuck up for Dubnyk, including Kuemper, who said it was “just kind of weird bounces. We were due for a comeback. We hadn’t had one in awhile.”
Suter said, “Too bad we couldn’t pull it out, but that’s the type of hockey that we need to play. That was a good way to go into break. It would have been easy to just say, it’s over after being down 4-1.”
Some of the other quotes, you can read in the gamer.
I will say, the Wild needs to start taking a page out of the Red Wings’ book with kids like Tyler Graovac and Matt Dumba, who was sent down after the game (maybe temporarily; it’s just to play games during the break, but if he’s recalled, it’s because Yeo wants him in the lineup in Edmonton).
But while the Wild has arguably rushed players into the NHL the past few years, the Red Wings are the kings of finding diamonds in the rough in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, nurturing them and letting them bake in the minors.
Take Teemy Pulkkinen, who scored his first NHL goal Tuesday. Drafted 111th overall in 2010 (Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle’s draft year), Pulkkinen played his sixth game of the season at age 23. He spent three years playing in Jokerit, then two years in Grand Rapids.
At the time of his recall, Pulkkinen was leading the American Hockey League with 20 goals and riding an eight-game goal scoring streak.
In Detroit, they compare Pulkkinen to Hall of Famer and former Red Wing Brett Hull. The way he scored his goal looked like a carbon copy.
Between the circles, Pulkkinen stepped into a Stephen Weiss drop pass and rocketed a one-timer that looked so much like Hull’s right-shot swing, the Red Wings’ telecast immediately showed a replay of a Hull one-timer side-by-side with Pullinen’s blast.
The Red Wings are littered with home-grown guys who paid their dues like Jason Zucker and Marco Scandella, who may be the Wild’s best surprises this season.
Heck, look at Nyquist. Taken 121st in 2008, spent time maturing in Grand Rapids before breaking out last year.
Lastly, the Iowa Wild signed Ruslan Fedotenko to a pro tryout. The two-time Cup champ wants to make an NHL comeback somewhere and GM Chuck Fletcher is letting the good citizen play in Iowa to mostly be a good influence on the kids. But it seems doubtful that Fedotenko, whose wife is from the area, will be a fit at some point with Minnesota. He hasn’t played all year, but maybe the 36-year-old will latch on somewhere at some point.
That’s it for me. Barring news, there may be no blogs for awhile. I’ll have a story in Thursday’s paper, an enterprise piece in Sunday’s paper, my Sunday Insider and then I’ll pick up the team in Edmonton on Monday.
There could also be news this weekend regarding the stadium series game the Wild is getting next season.
I better get out of here. I have a very early flight and it’s 12:30 in the morning and they’re locking up the press room. Enjoy your All-Star break.