RALEIGH, N.C. – “Third time’s a charm.”
That’s what defenseman Ryan Suter said to teammate Jason Zucker right after the two connected for the speedy Wild winger’s first career regular-season overtime winner Thursday night, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2.
Almost like a carbon copy, in a span of 33 seconds, Suter hit Zucker three times. The first deflected off the post, the second deflected wide of the net. But instead of heading off for a line change Zucker badly needed, he spotted Mikko Koivu hitting Suter on a regroup for a potential 3-on-1 that turned into a 3-on-2.
Suter’s third try to find Zucker ended with a bull’s-eye as Zucker’s deflection just sneaked inside the right post with 70 seconds left for his second goal of the game and the Wild’s first-ever 3-on-3 OT winner.
“Suts just made a great pass,” said Zucker, who had his stick held by goalie Cam Ward moments before. “I honestly didn’t really do much.”
The Wild, 7-1 at home, opened a four-game road trip that continues to Dallas, Pittsburgh and Boston. If the Wild expects a successful road trip, a win against the Hurricanes was one it needed.
Facing the third-worst team in the Eastern Conference, a team that ranked 28th in goals for, 22nd in goals allowed, 27th in goal differential, 28th in shooting percentage and 28th on the power play, the Wild got off to a terrible start but rallied on goals by Zucker and Thomas Vanek.
Devan Dubnyk deserved kudos. In winning his third consecutive game, Dubnyk made a season-high 37 saves for his league-leading 10th victory despite the Wild being outshot 19-5 in the first period and 39-21 for the game.
“We just had to get out of the first period still breathing,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It was not very pretty at all. Duby held us in there.”
In overtime, Dubnyk, who robbed Jeff Skinner twice and Joakim Nordstrom once in regulation, made two saves, including a game-saving stop on Victor Rask on a 4-on-3 after a Suter hooking penalty.
“That’s more normal than a 3-on-3,” Dubnyk said. “It feels more comfortable. At least it’s like a stretch that you’re used to seeing.”
The Wild got terrific play on the penalty kill from such players as Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle and Ryan Carter.
For some reason, when the Wild comes to Raleigh, it always seems to be outplayed dramatically in the opening period. That was the case again when the Wild couldn’t make a pass and was sloppy with the puck throughout.
Justin Faulk and Andrej Nestrasil scored less than four minutes apart, Nestrasil’s coming after referee Dean Morton overturned his wipeout of the goal because of incident contact.
Carolina challenged, and Morton felt defenseman Matt Dumba pushed Jay McClement into Dubnyk.
Regardless, the Wild rallied when Suter banked a perfect pass to Zucker. He flew by an aggressive Faulk and cut the deficit to 2-1.
But Dubnyk was sensational until the red-hot Vanek tied the score at 2-2 with his seventh goal and third in the past two games midway through the second.
“You give up 19 shots in the first, … and you’re just shaking your head like, ‘What the heck just happened?’ ” Suter said. “[Dubnyk] kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win. That could easily have been 5-1, 5-0 after the first period.”