EDMONTON, ALBERTA – Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella are besties.
They rarely do anything without the other, so it was fitting Friday night that one game after Spurgeon was lost two shifts into his night in Calgary, Scandella limped off the ice in Edmonton after only three shifts.
With nine days before the March 2 trade deadline and the Wild’s blue-line depth thinning, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher’s cellphone may have gotten a first-intermission workout.
That’s why it was such a relief to see Scandella sprint onto the ice one stoppage into the second period of a precision-like 4-0 victory over the Oilers at Rexall Place.
“That was just a really, really good road game by us,” former Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk said after having to make only 15 saves to become the fastest goalie since 1967 to post five shutouts (16 starts) with one club. “We methodically chipped away at the game. We didn’t give them much of anything.”
The Wild, for the 11th time in 12 games, scored the game’s first goal courtesy of a Justin Fontaine redirection, the first of two goals by the Alberta native elevated to the Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund line. Nino Niederreiter and Jordan Schroeder also scored for the Wild, which is an NHL-best 12-2-2 since the Dubnyk era began Jan. 15.
Thanks to a 10-1-1 run since the All-Star break, the Wild again is within one point of San Jose for the second wild-card spot with two games in hand. Calgary and Vancouver, two teams the Wild also is chasing, both lost as well. And as importantly, after the All-Star break, the Wild was 14 points back of the Winnipeg Jets. The Wild has trimmed that deficit to three with two games in hand.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” coach Mike Yeo said. “One thing we’ve done well, we win a game, we put it behind us. We lose a game, we put it behind us and get ready for the next one.”
That comes Sunday against Dallas.
The Oilers had no legs, but the Wild did a terrific job playing keepaway with the puck. Dubnyk barely had to strain himself in his 16th consecutive start and improved to 5-0 with a 0.79 goals-against average and .970 save percentage (128 saves on 132 shots) against his old team this season.
He has allowed 25 goals (1.6 a game) in 16 games with the Wild, setting a career-high with his 21st victory. Of those, 12 have come with Minnesota (1.61 goals-against average and .938 save percentage).
“The guys make it so easy for me,” Dubnyk said.
Captain Mikko Koivu assisted on two goals for his 114th career multipoint game, tying Marian Gaborik’s team record. “It was good from the start to the last shift,” Koivu said of the Wild’s performance.
It started scarily. Scandella was injured eight minutes in on a goalmouth pileup when former Wild farmhand Ryan Hamilton fell into his leg. Scandella had trouble getting to his feet, then hobbled to the bench in pain. Turns out Scandella took a skate blade to his left ankle and was sliced open.
“Gross feeling,” he said, adding his “first thought” was how his pal Spurgeon is also sidelined with what’s believed to be concussion-like symptoms.
The Wild mixed the five remaining defensemen like Bingo numbers the rest of the period.
“I thought it was going to be a long night,” said Ryan Suter, who was ecstatic to see Scandella return in the second.
Rookie Christian Folin, playing with Suter, assisted on Fontaine’s first goal. Five minutes later, Ben Scrivens served up a bad-angle Koivu shot for Niederreiter’s 19th goal and fifth since the All-Star break. The Wild breezed from there.
The western Canadian swing that started poorly with a loss in Vancouver ended nicely with consecutive wins. The Wild is 5-1-1 now since Jason Zucker and Ryan Carter were injured. Several players have stepped up since, like Fontaine, Schroeder and Niederreiter.
“The big guys continue to play well and we needed these guys to step up and fill the void,” Yeo said.