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Michael Russo gives you complete coverage of the Minnesota Wild and the NHL

Plenty of unsung heroes in Wild's trip-ending victory

The Wild played 20 minutes of dump and change hockey, sending in one forechecker most of the time and relied on Devan Dubnyk to snag it two points Wednesday night.

Duby did, stopped 17 of 17 Toronto shots in the third period while the Wild only registered three during a 3-2 win.

Not a single soul was apologizing how the Wild gutted this one out tonight, not after a five-game, 12-day trek that started TWO SATURDAYS AGO in St. Louis and continued to four cities across the great white north.

(quick update: Practice canceled Thursday morning, but the team did send winger Teemu Pulkkinen back to Iowa.)

Decent 2-1-2 trip, what’s a shame is the Wild had a two-goal lead in Vancouver only to lose in regulation (after rallying from a two-goal deficit), had a third-period lead in St. Louis before losing in a shootout and had a first-period lead in Calgary before losing in a shootout (although it rallied to get to overtime).

In other words, the trip could have been much better. But, it’s felt like this team has been on the road all season and it has managed points in seven of its past eight games (4-1-3) as it returns to Minnesota to open a three-game homestand Friday against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

Dubnyk, making his 300th start, made 35 saves for his 70th win in 126 games with the Wild. Jason Zucker, Chris Stewart and Eric Staal scored, Staal’s goal becoming his 50th game-winner to snap a 12-game goal drought. It was his 799th career point, too.

Zucker now has seven points in his past seven games, Mikko Koivu has eight points in his past eight games and Mikael Granlund picked up his first point in five games and was dangling all over the ice after a tough first three games of the Canadian portion of the trip.

Also, Kurtis Gabriel, who grew up in Newmarket, registered his first career point on the Stewart goal with his mom, brother, step-dad, best friend and a former coach in the stands.

The Wild improved to 6-7-4 in one-goal games.

Ryan Suter was plus-3 and had five hits and three blocked shots. He now is plus-18 since Oct. 25, which is tied for first in the NHL in that span with the Rangers’ Michael Grabner. In his past 19 games, Suter has had one minus game.

Big blocked shots late by Charlie Coyle and Nate Prosser, which got the bench rocking and rolling in the waning seconds. Prosser has been playing outstanding with Christian Folin sidelined to injury.

Some quotes

Boudreau on the win: “I told the guys, ‘It may not look it, but my insides are really happy right now. We held on. We didn’t do anything in the third period, but at the end of [a 12-day] trip to win in a tough building to win in was pretty good.”

On if the way it held on was the product of just wanting to get two points out of a long road trip, he said, “When we went in, there was not a lot of celebrating or anything. They were just tired from being on the road, and had to gut it out, and when you get two blocks in the last 20 seconds and everybody on the bench stood up, you could tell they wanted to win pretty bad.”

On Scott Stevens putting Prosser on the ice in the final seconds: “He must have had a gut feeling that he was going to get the job done.”

On Stewart’s breakaway goal in his third career trip to his hometown of Toronto: “That was pretty cool. I’m sure his family and friends in Scarborough were all watching and pretty happy for him. He almost had two.”

On Dubnyk and if he should be getting Vezina talk: “If he was in Toronto, there would be no Carey Price … I’m just saying media-wise. I mean, he hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any game he’s played this year. He’s held us in all the time. … To answer your question, yes, he would be.”

On Kurtis Gabriel: “He’s making the team bigger. He gets his first point tonight, gets into a fight, does a good job, cheers on the bench. That’s pretty good stuff, and he’s making Stewy play better, too.”

Staal on the relief of ending his goal drought (first since Nov. 10): “You can tell by the celebration, you never want to let it slide that long. I wasn’t totally disappointed with how I’m playing, but you always want to score goals, you always want to contribute offensively. I’m in that role. It was big to get that one tonight.  … Hopefully this is a start of a few in a row.”

Staal on hanging on: “It’s been a long grind. I mean, this is a long trip. We gutted it out. I like that we did. We’ve got a veteran team, we’ve got guys that understand what it’s going to take certain night, and tonight was a certain night where we had to gut it out. Kudos to a lot of guys who stepped up in big spots to make plays defensively. It’s a big win to go home feeling good and hopefully start a good stretch at home.”

Dubnyk on hanging on: “On the road sometimes that's the way the game is going to go. We got some big plays all the way through the third period. We worked until the end. It's been a long road trip. So it's nice to see it pay off at the end.”

Dubnyk on playing so well on Canadian trek: “I love playing in Canada. Obviously growing up playing hockey in Western Canada I always dreamed about playing in the NHL. To get to come back and visit these rinks and play against these teams that I watched as a kid it's always special. It doesn't matter how many times I do it.”

Stewart on scoring in Toronto: “I’ve been thinking about that one my whole life. There was a lot of family in the building and I grew up a Maple Leafs fan. It's definitely nice to get that one off the bucket list.”

Stewart on winning on the road trip: “It meant a lot. We started off a little slow here on the road trip. ... We capped it off with two big wins here and we're going to go home and hopefully carry it over onto home ice.”

Stewart on not making things easy: “They aren't going to ask how. We have been on the road for 11 days. We will take the two points however we can get them and worry about that other stuff when we get home.”

Stewart on Dubnyk: “You can definitely feel it. He gives us a chance to win every night. We are lucky to have him here.”

Gabriel:

On the assist: “Seeing Stewy go up the ice and watching him tuck that between his legs, like that was an unreal goal. That’s what I’ll remember. … The way it was going, I thought there was going to be a rebound next for a goal or something because all my buddies said I’d get a Gordie Howe hat trick.:

On fighting Roman Polak in defense of Stewart: “He’s my big brother, and sometimes little brother has to stick up for big brother. He said I beat him to it, so obviously he was going to go after him. I love playing with him. He’s made me really comfortable, even off the ice, away from the rink, he’s been great.”

Gabriel got four stitches on his finger from the fight. Boudreau loves him and he gives the Wild a dimension it doesn’t have and he handles the puck real well. He had a solid game in Calgary and was great tonight.

Means Teemu Pulkkinen will probably get sent back to Iowa. He was called up today in case a sick Wild forward, believed to be Koivu, couldn’t go. He did.

That’s it for me. Kent Youngblood covering practice Thursday if it’s not canceled.

Devan Dubnyk making 300th career start tonight in Toronto

Wild at Leafs tonight at 6:30 p.m. CT

FINALLLLLLLLLLLLLY, this trip is coming to an end. Please give yesterday’s blog a read for lineup details, but the Wild looks to end the 1-1-2 trip on a high against a high-powered opponent on home ice. In the Leafs’ last four home wins, six, six, six and four goals!

So Devan Dubnyk, making his 300th career start tonight, probably will have to be good. The Wild typically play tight games, but its 5-7-4 one-goal game record is actually the fifth-worst one-goal game winning percentage in the NHL (.313). Of the Wild’s 12 losses, 11 have been one-goal losses, which is kind of nuts in a league where there are usually a lot of empty-net goals.

Dubnyk didn’t realize it was his 300th and hopes he doesn’t have to put any money on the board tonight (players hitting milestones, in their hometown, playing against a former team typically put a sum of money on the locker-room whiteboard that usually goes to the guy with the game-winning goal).

“Don’t tell any of the guys that. It’s been an expensive trip already,” Dubnyk joked. “It’s a lot, and I guess most of them probably piled up the last couple years. It’s been fun, and fingers crossed there can be some more.”

Since coming to the Wild, he is 69-41-11 with a 2.05 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and 14 shutouts in 125 games, leading the league in games, shutouts, save percentage and goals-against average and ranking second in wins in that span amongst goalies with at least 65 games.

CRAZY.

I remember writing after the Penguins loss Jan. 13, 2015, how it was more than time for Chuck Fletcher to acquire a goalie.

I was chatting with TSN/ESPN's Pierre LeBrun this morning. We were in a Courtyard Marriott lobby in Buffalo writing together in the late afternoon Jan. 14 when the Wild traded for Dubnyk. My reaction to him, "Devan Dubnyk?"

I think it's worked out.

Dubnyk leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.63), save percentage (.946) and shutouts (four). Yet, what’s so cool about him is how relaxed he is on gamedays.

Not kidding you: this morning he held court with the media for probably a half-hour, then took pictures with a ton of kids, including goalies, and signed autographs.

One of the kids was Chuck Fletcher’s 12-year-old nephew, Will, a goalie who won his peewee game last night. Fletcher went. Very cute story, but the goal song for their games is Chelsea Dagger. So the night before, Will and his 11-year-old brother, Owen, who runs the music in the rink, were talking how there’s no way they can play the Chicago Blackhawks’ goal song with their uncle in the crowd.

So, they dug up the Wild’s old goal song, “Crowd Chant” by Joe Satriani, and played that.

Not much more to say after yesterday’s blog, which has all the details on tonight’s game.

Bruce Boudreau and John Anderson grew up in the Leafs system and return here as coaches on the same team for the first time. So they were very popular today. Boudreau assisted on Anderson’s first junior goal and first Leafs goal, but Boudreau joked that most their best moments in Toronto “are untellable.”

I’m writing my game notebook on how well Nino Niederreiter is playing. He has been an analytics star for the Wild since he arrived in Minnesota, but ask him about analytics, and “I don’t know a whole lot.”

Pretty interesting stuff.

That’s it for moi. Did I mention how much I can’t wait to get home tomorrow?

BY the way, the latest Russo-Souhan Show can be heard here. The next live show will be at Hell’s Kitchen on Monday, although the time has been changed to 6 p.m. now because Jim’s returning from Jacksonville late. PLEASE, PLEASE, COME ON DOWN!

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Army at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

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  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    6 pm

  • Edmonton at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Georgia Southern at Gophers men's basketball

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    2 pm

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  • Vikings at Jacksonville

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  • Gophers women's basketball at South Carolina

    2 pm on SECN, 88.5-FM

  • Northern Illinois at Gophers men's basketball

    4 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

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  • Florida at Wild

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  • Belmont at Gophers women's basketball

    12 pm on 88.5-FM

  • LIU Brooklyn at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Wild at Nashville

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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Today's Scoreboard

No MLB games today

  • Oakland

    Kansas City

     

    - 4th, 1:01

    13

    21

  • Denver

    Washington

     

    - F

    85

    92

  • Minnesota

    Toronto

     

    - F

    110

    124

  • Portland

    Memphis

     

    - F

    86

    88

  • Philadelphia

    New Orleans

     

    - F

    99

    88

  • Golden State

    Utah

     

    - F

    106

    99

  • San Antonio

    Chicago

     

    - 4th, 6:08

    78

    84

  • Colorado

    Boston

     

    - F

    4

    2

  • St. Louis

    NY Islanders

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • Edmonton

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    5

    6

  • Pittsburgh

    Florida

     

    - F

    5

    1

  • New Jersey

    Montreal

     

    - F

    2

    5

  • Vancouver

    Tampa Bay

     

    - F

    5

    1

  • NY Rangers

    Winnipeg

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • Nashville

    Dallas

     

    - F

    2

    5

  • Calgary

    Arizona

     

    - 3rd, 0:23

    1

    1

  • Carolina

    Los Angeles

     

    - 2nd, 11:39

    1

    0

No MLS games today