It’s been quite the coming of age for defenseman Matt Dumba since Jared Spurgeon sustained a concussion seven games ago.
That night in Calgary, the Wild rookie scored in his front of his family and made two great defensive plays that led to goals, including a game-saving one.
Ever since, he has averaged 19 minutes a game, has been punched in the face by his childhood idol, Jarome Iginla, and Tuesday night skated alongside Jordan Leopold, whom Dumba watched “when I was a young kid in Calgary” during the Flames’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004.
Dumba was 10 then. He’s 20 now, and Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators at Xcel Energy Center, Dumba scored both goals in regulation before the Wild pulled out a 3-2 shootout victory after blowing that two-goal lead.
“Right to the last seconds of overtime, it was back and forth. It was a fun game to play in,” Dumba said after the Wild improved to 14-2-1 in its past 17 games.
After watching Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville beat red-hot goalie Andrew Hammond on the glove-hand side, Charlie Coyle chose to shoot the same spot. That produced the decisive goal of a five-round shootout that was sealed when Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk denied Mike Hoffman.
Dubnyk made 31 saves and was especially saved by his buddy, the right post, on a third-period penalty kill.
“I think it was three. The [Mika] Zibanejad shot kind of grazed the outside of the post. [Erik] Karlsson’s was dead-on. And, … and, … I don’t remember the other one,” Dubnyk, who started his franchise-record 21st consecutive game, said, laughing.
The Wild, which killed four penalties and is 47-for-48 on the PK in the past 17 games, looked disorderly at times, something expected after Monday’s trade-deadline pickup of Chris Stewart forced coach Mike Yeo to alter a couple of cohesive lines against a Senators team that had won five in a row.
Stewart assisted on Dumba’s second goal, Mikael Granlund on Dumba’s first, but Zibanejad scored 28 seconds after Dumba made it 2-0. Bobby Ryan tied it shortly after.
“It’s tough when you’ve got a two-goal lead and bang, bang, it’s 2-2,” said Dubnyk, 16-3-1 with the Wild. “But we have no doubt in here. We have been able to respond to just about everything during this stretch. That’s a great attribute to have because a lot of things can be thrown at you.”
Dumba had to step up again because with Spurgeon and Marco Scandella (oblique) out, defense partner Nate Prosser left the game after the first period because of illness. Prosser tried to gut it out by taking intravenous fluids before the game knowing the Wild only had five defensemen.
As dynamic as Dumba is offensively, Yeo loves his maturing defensive game.
“I’ve got confidence putting him on the ice against any matchup, any pairing,” Yeo said.
Ryan Suter logged 33 minutes, 46 seconds, Jonas Brodin a precision-like 29:18. Leopold logged 17:19, saying “it was an absolute wonderful feeling to come home. Baby steps for me. … My back hurts. It’s been a long 36 hours. Lot of sitting on planes, a lot of sitting in cars. My body’s not what it used to be.”
Once Prosser left, Dumba, a die-hard Flames fan growing up, got to play with Leopold and said, “I tried to pattern myself after [him] as a defenseman. It’s crazy sitting next to him now in an NHL locker room.”
Since acquiring Stewart, both Yeo and General Manager Chuck Fletcher confessed that a fair criticism is the Wild wasn’t big enough. Stewart brings toughness that will be needed not only in the playoffs but down the stretch when the Wild plays teams like St. Louis, Winnipeg, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
“I’ve seen it many times where teams think they’ve got an edge on us physically, and they try to impose that in the game,” Yeo said.
Stewart got a rise out of the crowd in the first period when he blew up Patrick Wiercioch and got into a skirmish with Kyle Turris.
“We’re not necessarily a physically imposing team. I think Stewy changes a lot of that identity,” Yeo said.