VANCOUVER – When he saw winger Alex Galchenuk was next up for the Wild in the shootout, goalie Devan Dubnyk felt encouraged about the team’s chances.
In practice on Sunday, Galchenyuk scored on Dubnyk in a shootout drill near the end of the session not once but twice.
“Lightning fast backhand and up,” Dubnyk recalled. “So I was happy to see him over the boards when we had a chance to win it.”
Dubnyk’s instincts were spot on.
After pushing the game to extra time with his first goal as a member of the Wild, Galchenyuk capped off his best performance since his trade from the Penguins by scoring the decisive goal in the fifth round of the shootout — giving the Wild a 4-3 comeback victory Wednesday night in front of 18,871 at Rogers Arena that pulled the team within five points of the second wild-card seed in the Western Conference.
The victory was also the first for interim coach Dean Evason since he took over last Friday after the team fired Bruce Boudreau.
“I just looked up at my three kids sitting in the front and watched their reaction, and all three of them jumped up in the air so I knew we scored,” Evason said. “Pretty cool.”
Evason’s children and many of the players’ dads were in the crowd, with the team bringing the fathers and other special guests on this two-game trip through Western Canada. And the Wild’s entourage situated in a corner suite high above the ice watched quite a show.
“To win the way we did is [an] extra special feeling, especially with the dads in the crowd,” Galchenyuk said.
Before Galchenyuk’s attempt, wingers Ryan Donato and Mats Zuccarello converted for the Wild — using speed and quick hands to fool Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom.
“I saw those guys, they put in a lot of moves and the guys scored a good goal,” Galchenyuk said. “So I knew I wasn’t going to just go up there and shoot.”
After flying up ice and deking the puck, Galchenyuk flung it over Markstrom with his backhand.
For the Canucks, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller scored on the team’s first two attempts before Dubnyk was airtight the rest of the way. Overall, he made 31 saves. Markstrom ended up with 25.
“It’s huge for him,” Evason said of Galchenyuk, who was playing only his fourth game with the Wild since he was traded from Pittsburgh on Feb. 10 for winger Jason Zucker. “Anytime you get traded, you come over and you have some success for the team, I think it is absolutely huge for him. We hope that obviously continues and jumpstarts him to continue to do it.”
Just like its last shot, the Wild’s first of the game was also successful.
A throw up ice by defenseman Matt Dumba rolled into Vancouver’s end and once winger Kevin Fiala caught up to it, he flung the puck off the crossbar and behind Markstrom for his 15th goal of the season 1 minute, 3 seconds into the first period.
Over the last eight games, Fiala has 11 points. Since Feb. 4, his six goals are tied for third in the NHL.
That lead held for the rest of the first, but the Canucks upped their pressure. And early in the second, they were rewarded.
At 1:31, and just after killing off an abbreviated Wild power play, Vancouver scored the equalizer when Jay Beagle redirected in a feed from Quinn Hughes.
Both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play.
The Canucks continued to test the Wild, but it was the Wild that scored next.
With 6:57 to go in the second, defenseman Brad Hunt sent a behind-the-net pass to center Luke Kunin and his one-timer squeaked by Markstrom and over the goal line to reinstate the Wild’s lead.
But the Wild had trouble growing that cushion the rest of the period and especially in the third after the Canucks came out with a heavy push that culminated in a pair of goals by Miller before the period hit the five-minute mark.
At 1:28, Miller redirected in a slap pass from Tyler Toffoli — who was making his Canucks debut after being acquired in a trade from the Kings on Monday. Only 3:15 later, Miller gave Vancouver its first lead of the game on a shot that handcuffed Dubnyk.
“I’ve been on the bench all year,” Evason said. “There’s been sag. Tonight there wasn’t. Tonight there was just calm.”
The Wild continued to work for opportunities, and it finally persevered on Galchenyuk’s marker with 4:45 to go — a wrap-around that caromed in off Vancouver defenseman Troy Stetcher. The goal was Galchenyuk’s first since Jan. 14, which came against the Wild while he was with the Penguins. Zuccarello recorded his second assist of the night on the tally.
And only minutes later, Galchenyuk would one-up his own highlight with the game-deciding play.
“The second I got traded here I knew I was going to have a great opportunity,” Galchenyuk said. “I gotta stick with it, work hard and do the best I can to help the team win. I’m happy I contributed.”