CALGARY, ALBERTA – Winger Matt Read may not be with the Wild for long, since he was recalled from the minors under emergency conditions, but he’s making the most of the opportunity while he has it.
Read scored his first goal with the Wild, sparking a three-goal, third-period outburst that sealed a 4-2 win over the Flames Saturday in front of 19,289 at Scotiabank Saddledome that signaled the Wild’s fifth straight victory, which ties a season-high, and nixed Calgary’s seven-game tear.
With 70 points, the Wild sits in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference – just a point shy of the Dallas Stars for the first seed.
“It doesn’t matter who’s really in the lineup,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “As long as we play with commitment, structure and sacrifice, you find ways to win.”
Penciled in because winger Zach Parise was unable to play after blocking a shot with his foot Tuesday in a win over the Winnipeg Jets, Read converted 4 minutes, 13 seconds into the third to break a 1-1 tie.
After goalie Mike Smith got tied up behind the net, the puck bounced out in front where Read got a piece off it to nudge it off Calgary center Mark Jankowski’s skate and into the empty goal.
The goal was Read’s first with the Wild in six games this season and first in the NHL in almost a year (March 20, 2018).
“Obviously, that’s my goal coming up here – to help out as much as I can,” Read said. “If it’s being smart defensively, penalty killing, whatever it is. Just be out there and do the right things, help the team win at the end of the day is my goal and enjoy every second of it.”
At 11:07, defenseman Ryan Suter wired a drop pass from winger Jordan Greenway by Smith to give the Wild an insurance marker that turned into the game-winner after defenseman Travis Hamonic pulled the Flames within a goal with 5:31 to go. Greenway ended up with two assists.
Winger Ryan Donato responded with a five-hole goal at 18:18, his seventh point during a five-game point streak that ties Parise for the second-longest to start a Wild career. The Flames challenged Donato’s goal, but the play was deemed on-side.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk posted 35 saves, while Smith had 19.
“Guys are battling,” winger Jason Zucker said.
On the heels of a pregame ceremony that retired former Flames captain Jarome Iginla’s No.12 by lifting it to the rafters, the Wild siphoned the energy out of a building that was previously pulsating with emotion by opening the scoring.
Just 3:17 into the first period, center Eric Staal one-timed a feed from Zucker by Smith for his 19th tally of the season, a goal that extended Staal’s season-high point streak to five games – a span in which he’s accumulated seven points.
Zucker’s assist also continued his season-best point streak to four games. It was also the first time the Flames had trailed in 430:41.
“It was huge,” Zucker said. “We wanted to make sure we had a good start, especially against this team.” Later in the frame, winger Austin Czarnik buried a loose puck in front by Dubnyk but the Wild issued a coach’s challenge to determine if Dubnyk was interfered with on the play.
And he was, as winger Sam Bennett bumped into Dubnyk as he carried the puck to the net to turn Dubnyk.
It was the Wild’s third successful challenge this season in eight tries, with two of those wins against Calgary.
“I was frustrated enough that we even had to challenge it,” Dubnyk said. “You could argue there were two separate cases of interference there. It’d be nice if we didn’t have to challenge it but at the end of the day, we got the right call.”
The Wild received a five-minute power play in the second when winger Garnet Hathaway was hit with a match penalty after he slammed winger Luke Kunin’s head into the top of the boards in front of the Wild’s bench.
Kunin left the game but returned later in the second.
While he was gone, the Wild couldn’t convert on the prolonged man advantage – managing just two shots before a Kevin Fiala holding penalty negated the final 1:37.
And just as that abbreviated power play expired, the Flames tied it at 1 when center Sean Monahan directed in a pass from winger Johnny Gaudreau at 9:08. Calgary finished 0-for-3; the Wild went 0-for-2.
A make-or-break third could have looked dangerous for the Wild considering the Flames have scored the most goals in that period in the NHL and had yet to lose in regulation when tied after two, but the Wild went on the offensive instead of settling into a defensive shell and the aggressiveness paid off.
“We just stuck to our systems,” Donato said. “We all were creating chances. There were a few things we tried to change, just get pucks behind their ‘D,’ possess the puck a little more. They’re a very offensive team so if we could limit that as much as we can, we’d have success.”