DALLAS – “Let’s get it to overtime.”
That’s what coach Bruce Boudreau thought Friday night as the Wild readied for an offensive-zone faceoff with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining in the third period of a tie game with the Stars.
Not only had the Wild flaked before in a situation like this, but it was on the road finishing off a back-to-back against a rested opponent. Securing one point while vying for a second would have been a job well done.
“I was ready to take our chances,” Boudreau said.
But in a matter of seconds, the Wild went from hoping for a tie to celebrating a win.
Joel Eriksson Ek scored his second goal of the night at 19:33 to cap a 3-2 comeback victory in front of 18,532 at American Airlines Center that moved the Wild within two points of a playoff position in the Western Conference, continuing a torrid week by the team.
The victory gave the Wild its first three-game winning streak since it rattled off three in a row Dec. 1-5 as part of a season-high five-game run and overall 11-game point streak. It has a chance to go 4-for-4 Sunday at home against the Avalanche.
“These are important points for us,” Eriksson Ek said. “We have to put more games together and keep winning. This was a step in the right direction.”
Whistles had haunted the Wild all evening, with penalty trouble contributing to the two-goal hole. But a no-call while the Wild battled with the Stars for a puck along the boards behind the net helped set up the winner. The puck eventually worked free and after a wide shot by Jonas Brodin, Eriksson Ek scooped up the rebound and jammed it between goalie Ben Bishop’s skate and the post.
“I saw the goalie was all the way to the far post, so I tried to get it on as quick as possible on the rebound,” said Eriksson Ek, who registered his second game-winner of the season and first career multi-goal game.
Part of the reason why the Wild was in position to win was the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk. In his first start in nearly a week, Dubnyk was solid — racking up 31 saves, including an impressive blocker stop on Radek Faksa in the third.
“This was a big game for us,” Dubnyk said. “That’s a special way to get it done.”
Bishop finished with 27 saves for Dallas.
Dubnyk looked strong from the get-go, even while the Wild fell behind.
With 4:32 to go in the first period, Joe Pavelski put back a Tyler Seguin rebound. The Stars doubled their lead on a one-timer from Denis Gurianov 2:51 into the second, just a second after a Wild penalty ended.
But the Wild stayed out of the box the rest of the period, and that helped the team chip away at its deficit.
Eriksson Ek got the ball rolling at 8:25, jamming in a loose puck, and by 12:09, the score was even. Ryan Donato fooled Bishop after he flung a bad-angle shot at the net from along the boards.
The goal was Donato’s 10th, tying his career high set last season.
“We’ve had a lot of times where we say a lot of things that we want to do to get back in the game, but this time we actually executed,” Donato said.
Before the Wild could go on the attack late in the third period, it was on the penalty kill for a seventh time. But it prevailed, finishing 6-for-7, in part thanks to Dubnyk’s highlight-reel save on Faksa. The Wild power play was 0-for-2.
“He saved our bacon,” Boudreau said of Dubnyk. “… Hopefully that’s the start of something good for him.”
The Wild already seems to have found its groove, but there’s still more work to be done.
And the team knows it.
“This was just one week,” Eriksson Ek said. “We have to put more together to be in this race.”