After Jason Zucker scored a breakaway goal 5:03 into the second period Saturday night to cut the Wild’s deficit to the Anaheim Ducks to 3-2, I looked down at the far net and saw Devan Dubnyk bent over and staring at the blue paint in front of him for what felt like 30 seconds.
You could almost see him getting zoned in.
That’s when I tweeted this about a goalie that had given up 26 goals in nine games:
As Bruce Boudreau said after the Wild’s shocking 5-3 come-from-behind win against his old team, you could see Dubnyk buckle down and change his demeanor after the Ducks took a 3-1 lead early in the second on Corey Perry’s power-play goal.
Not long after Zucker’s goal and with the Wild buzzing but unable to get the tying goal, Dubnyk robbed Perry on a breakaway. That allowed the Wild to continue to battle for that elusive tying goal, which seemed like it would never come when Mikael Granlund hit the crossbar from point-blank range in the second period and Marco Scandella hit the upper left post on a one-timer in the third.
But the Wild, which has the best record in the Western Conference, also leads the West with 150 goals and 3.33 goals per game. It has scored four or more goals 19 times in 45 games, something it did 20 times all of last season. Since Dec. 13, the Wild’s averaging 4.17 goals per game.
So the Confident Comeback Kings did it again. Facing a team that was 17-0-1 when leading after two periods, the Wild entered the third trailing for only the eighth time this season and pulled off the win for a third time.
And, yet again, for the third time in a 7-1-1 January, the Wild rallied from two goals down to win. Trailing 3-2 after 2, Erik Haula, Ryan Suter (plus-4 to match his career-high on his 32nd birthday, league-best plus-30) and Zucker scored 1:59 apart – the Haula tying and Suter go-ahead goals coming 36 seconds apart starting with 6:21 left in the third.
The win was the Wild’s 30th this season. It’s now 19-2-1 since Dec. 4 and 13-0-2 in its past 15 against the West heading into Sunday’s homestand finale against Nashville.
Haula’s goal, which was his second of the game, came on a redirection of Suter’s slap pass. It was Haula’s third goal in three games (second in the third period), and this coming after Boudreau said he wanted more from Haula.
The Suter goal came after a ridiculous 5-on-2 the Ducks coughed up. Nino Niederreiter took a shot that deflected into the corner, and Suter chased down the puck and banked it in off Jonathan Bernier from the left trapezoid.
The Zucker goal – his 14th of the season and fifth in six games – came after he gave the puck to Granlund for a 2-on-1. Granlund saucered it to Zucker for a pretty breakaway goal.
Most impressive to me is the Wild needed to ramp up its intensity after the Ducks came to play and battle. The Wild did just that in the second period and improved its Hockey Day Minnesota record to 8-2-1.
Per @stateofstats on Twitter, 5-on-5, Zucker was on for six shot attempts against, Granlund on for five and SELKE TROPHY CONTENDER Mikko Koivu on for four.
What a line.
Boudreau: “They came out really hard and physical. All we said in between periods is this isn't our game, our game is skating. We can't hit with them, they're bigger than us. So let's start skating. And then between the second and and third we just said let's keep shooting and eventually they're going to go in. If we go to the net and shoot the puck they're going to go in and that's what happened.
Boudreau on Zucker’s first goal: “We were pretty dead. And when he scored it's like anything else it gave us life. And then Duby's save on (Corey Perry) on the breakaway to keep it 3-2 was a really big moment in the game. When we came in in between the second and third knowing we were only down a goal and knowing our history we didn't think we were out of it.
Boudreau on Zucker’s play lately: “Outstanding. When he's moving his legs he's a very, very dangerous player.”
Zucker on his play lately: “I’m just trying to play consistent every night, making sure I can play that same way night in and night out and that’s the hardest part about playing in this League is being consistent. I’ve been leaning on Granny and MIk [Koivu] and trying to play strong as a line every night and if we do that we’ll be fine.”
Zucker on his first goal: “I don’t remember the last time I got a fortunate bounce like that that just gives you a little breakaway so it’s always nice when you see those.”
Zucker on his second goal: “That’s Granny. That’s why I gave him the puck right away because I knew he was probably gong to make a nice play and it turns out he did.
Suter on it being a matter of time: “We couldn’t really get it going the first two periods. We had spurts where we were going, but we were able to get it together in the third. That’s all that matter. We kind of stuck to the gameplan. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done there. They were flying early, they were physical, and I think we weathered that storm. They were very physical, they got a lot of hits, I think they were outhitting us 2 to 1 at one point, so we knew that. We knew that if we picked it up a little bit we’d have a good chance.”
Suter on the comeback: “That was fun. It was loud, the crowd was into it, it was a lot of fun. It was a good ending to a great day for Minnesota.”
Dubnyk: “We’ve been coming back all year and we’ve talked about not changing anything, not trying to press for it but just sticking with our game and see what happens and just getting more pucks to the net. I say it time and again but these guys allow me to just stay with it regardless of how the game’s going, knowing that I gotta make the next save because we’re very capable of coming back.”
Dubnyk on Anaheim’s physicality: “Yeah we talked about that first and that’s a big strong team, that’s part of what they do. Some of their most skilled players are big bodies that can hit hard so we just wanted to keep moving our feet and make sure we weren’t getting involved in stuff after whistles and that’s what we do. It’s easier said than done but I thought we made a good effort at first.”
Dubnyk on Perry save: “It’s nice, tough start to the game, just not a ton of shots, not a ton of flow for me. If you get an opportunity to make a big save to keep them in it, it only matters if we come back and tie, and the guys did it for me. … I started to feel a little bit better, a little more flow as that game went on the second half of the second period and into the third I started to see some more pucks and feel a little better. Like I said, these guys always let me know to make the next save because they’ll come back.”
That’s it for now.
No morning skate Sunday. Availability is at 5. I’d assume Darcy Kuemper starts.
I’d think Tyler Graovac gets back in for Kurtis Gabriel. Graovac was scratched for Jordan Schroeder tonight.