There was a time during his 33-game goalless drought that the funk weighed on the Wild’s Matt Dumba, occupying his thoughts.
“It was getting to me,” he recalled.
But within the last month, the defenseman realized he had to move on and decided to focus instead on how else he could help the team besides scoring goals. He could bring a competitive edge to the lineup, make sure his passes were on the mark and put his teammates in positions where they could succeed.
“Then the other stuff will come,” he said.
And that’s exactly what ended up happening, with Dumba’s overtime finish in the 3-2 victory over Chicago on Tuesday the latest highlight in a recent string of strong showings for the 25-year-old.
“He has played good the last four, five games,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s starting to get back to where he was. It gives you not only an extra weapon but a really good top-four [defense], and that’s what we need out of him.”
Aside from scoring his first goal since Nov. 12, Dumba also tallied an assist against the Blackhawks for his second multipoint effort in the previous three games.
As the games without a goal piled up, Dumba studied video with coaches, but he also didn’t want “to go reaching” for solutions. He felt the struggle became more mental.
Ultimately, Dumba stayed true to his style and kept putting pucks on net. Over those 33 games, he registered 88 shots — the most on the Wild.
“I still got lots of pucks off,” Dumba said. “We play against good players. They make good saves and get in shooting lanes. I hit probably 100 posts, so I knew it was going to come eventually.”
Shortly before winger Kevin Fiala scored his second of the game Tuesday to put the Wild up 2-0 in the second period, goalie Alex Stalock made a key stop to preserve the team’s lead — turning aside a shorthanded breakaway for the Blackhawks’ Ryan Carpenter.
It wasn’t the first time this season a clutch save preceded a Wild goal, a pattern that seems to underscore the impact momentum can have on a game.
“When you make a big save as a goalie and they go down and score, you feel good because maybe you chipped in on the scoring chance,” said Stalock, who was back in net Thursday as the Wild beat the Canucks 4-2. “… But it started in our zone. We had to win a draw and get it out. We made a good play, and obviously I think it was Kev’s goal. He made a good play.”
The Wild recalled defenseman Matt Bartkowski from the American Hockey League ahead of Thursday’s game.
Bartkowski didn’t play against the Canucks, but the Wild was down to only six healthy defensemen leading into the second half of a back-to-back Friday in Dallas because Carson Soucy was sidelined by illness Thursday.
Home sweet home
This matchup vs. Vancouver was the end of a season-high run of seven consecutive home games, but the Wild will soon get comfortable again at Xcel Energy Center — beginning a four-game stint in St. Paul on Sunday against Colorado.
Overall, the nine home games the Wild plays in February are the most for any month in team history.