Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk doesn’t usually watch hockey on TV after he’s just finished up a game, but he made an exception Tuesday night.
“It obviously matters,” he said.
After rolling by the Jets 5-1 at Xcel Energy Center to stay in playoff contention, the Wild had to wait to find out if the Avalanche would deliver the knockout punch. And it did, with Colorado cruising by Edmonton 6-2 to halt the Wild’s streak of postseason appearances at six.
The team’s season will conclude Saturday in Dallas against the Stars. Before then, it’ll host the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
“Obviously not the situation we wanted to be in,” Dubnyk said. “We talked about it today. We have a lot of things to play for still. We want to fight until the very end. The only thing we could do tonight is win the hockey game. We also owe our fans a couple good efforts here at home. We haven't been able to provide that for most of this year. That was a good start. This is a place we love playing, and we owe them a couple. We got one tonight, and we'll see what happens in the other game.”
That the Wild finally pushed back after getting backed into its tightest corner of the season was a bittersweet response.
It was encouraging for the team to get that type of performance, with the five goals being the most it’s scored since March 16 and the group snapping a three-game slide in St. Paul. But had this type of showing popped up sooner and on a more consistent basis, the Wild might still have a hope of advancing.
“Unfortunately we're in this spot right now,” winger Zach Parise said. “I think everyone wishes we would have given ourselves a little bit more of a chance and wouldn't be chasing like we are.”
While the next two games won’t change the Wild’s fate, they should be intriguing to watch.
It’s unclear if Parise will continue to play. He returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing the previous four games with a lower-body injury.
“It wasn't pretty,” Parise said of playing through the issue. “But it didn't hurt, so that was the most important thing."
Parise hadn’t thought about the possibility of not suiting up the rest of the way if the team was eliminated and planned to reevaluate Wednesday. Coach Bruce Boudreau said he’d check in with Parise to see how he feels.
“If there’s anything wrong with him, we’re not going to risk him getting more hurt,” Boudreau said.
The Wild bench boss is anticipating newcomer Nico Sturm to make his NHL debut Thursday.
Sturm couldn’t dress Tuesday since he didn’t have a work visa in place, but Boudreau anticipates that will be resolved by Thursday.
The 23-year-old college free agent the Wild signed Monday isn’t the only youngster who could make an impression these final two games.
Center Joel Eriksson Ek continued a solid second half by tallying a career-high seventh goal against the Jets, a fitting reward for how helpful he’s been to the team in the absence of captain Mikko Koivu while Koivu recovers from a torn ACL and meniscus.
“It’s a confidence booster for him,” Boudreau said. “He’s a good player. Since he’s been getting a lot more ice time and now he has a role … I hope it gives him a lot of confidence going into the summer and hopefully he comes back here with a lot of confidence knowing what he’s capable of doing.”