VANCOUVER – As winger Alex Galchenyuk made his way toward the Canucks net in the fifth round of the shootout, Wild interim coach Dean Evason’s gaze was pointed at the crowd.
He knew where the suite was that was holding the dads, family members and other guests of the team during its road trip this week, and he kept his eyes trained on his three children.
And once he saw them leap into the air in celebration, he knew the Wild had won 4-3 Wednesday night and he had his first career victory in the NHL as a head coach.
“It’s amazing,” Evason said. “You hear things happen for a reason and all of those things. To have my three children here was awesome.”
The Wild was unsuccessful in Evason’s first crack last Saturday; it didn’t even score a goal – getting blanked 2-0 by the Sharks at home.
But the vibe was different Wednesday, even though the Canucks controlled parts of the play for stretches at a time. Still, the Wild didn’t go away and that helped it gain ground in the Western Conference playoff race – moving five points out of the second wildcard spot.
The team also made history in the process.
“I’m very happy for him,” winger Kevin Fiala said of Evason. “I saw him pumped up every goal we scored, so I’m very happy for him.”
Before Fiala dazzled with his stick, scoring his 15th goal of the season on the Wild’s first shot just 1 minute, 3 seconds into the game, he had to part with a stick.
During warmups, he spotted a kid holding up a sign challenging him to a game of rock, paper, scissors for one of his sticks. Fiala obliged and after a few games, he skated off to the bench to grab one of his twigs and handed it off.
Wild's Kevin Fiala got snookered by a kid for a stick playing Rock Paper Scissors �� pic.twitter.com/R6ZYiTkps6— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 20, 2020
“I kept winning,” Fiala said. “I always did the same. In the end, he won. I was always the rock, and then he figured it out. Always got to do paper.”
The Wild could have avoided the extra-time theatrics had it held onto a third-period lead, but it was forced to rally after giving up a pair of goals to the Canucks less than five minutes into the third.
Despite the momentum shift, the Wild didn’t retreat and that gave it an opportunity to prevail in the shootout.
“These are the kind of games you can really build off,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “Obviously being up a goal going into the third, we’d like to finish it that way. But it doesn’t matter one way or another. When you battle to tie it up and win it like that, it can be a boost for us. So, it was definitely a good feeling.”
This was easily Galchenyuk’s best game since he was added in a trade with the Penguins.
His game-tying goal was just his sixth this season, but he definitely showed flashes of the player who’s scored 30 in the NHL in the past – especially on his slick backhand shot in the shootout.
“System’s are systems,” Evason said. “It’s not necessarily anything that he hasn’t done before, but I actually liked the way that he’s played the game structurally. And then to get rewarded is extra special.”