EDMONTON, ALBERTA – With the Wild in the midst of a weirdly scheduled, five-game, 12-day trip with two days off before three of the games, the Wild has had to bide time by eating out ... a lot and staring at hotel room ceilings.
“It feels like we’ve been on the road a month,” cracked Zach Parise.
It’s especially long when you’ve yet to win on the trip, so Sunday night, the Wild was happy to get to play in one of its favorite cities. The game wasn’t played inside one of its favorite arenas, though.
The Edmonton Oilers moved into the sparkling new Rogers Place before the season, boarding up the old, storied Rexall Place that the Wild had grown to love with 11 victories in its final 12 visits.
The Wild’s mojo didn’t immediately carry over to the downtown rink, but it was able to rally from an early deficit and take a 2-1 victory — its seventh in a row in Edmonton — on Mikko Koivu’s overtime winner.
The captain scored on a pretty deke and backhander after Charlie Coyle set him up to tie Brent Burns with a team-record fifth career overtime goal.
Had the Wild lost, it would have fallen out of the top eight in the West. After a third overtime in four games, the Wild improved to 1-1-2 on a trek that ends Wednesday in Toronto.
“I’ll tell you what, the division and the conference and everything is so darn close, every win, two points, feels like a mountain,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I suspect it’s going to go like that from now until April.”
Koivu was exceptional for the Wild, which is 6-6-3 in its past 15 games. He won 21 of 23 faceoffs (91 percent), saying he got into a “rhythm” early and credited his linemates and defensemen.
“It’s not just the centers,” the team-first Koivu said.
“I’ve never seen that kind of percentage for that number taken,” Boudreau said. “He was out there every time there was an important faceoff. He controlled the game when he was out there. He was a true leader [Sunday].”
Nino Niederreiter was reunited on the top line with Eric Staal and Coyle on the final shift of the first period and instantly set up Coyle for the tying goal. Boudreau made the move after Kurtis Gabriel somehow goaded Zack Kassian into fighting him despite the Wild looking slow and sloppy early and trailing 1-0.
Forty seconds later, Niederreiter’s hard forecheck resulted into Coyle’s team-leading ninth goal.
“To do that and show that toughness that he brings is huge,” Coyle said of Gabriel. “It definitely gets everyone going.”
With Gabriel off, Boudreau moved Parise off the line after two tough games on the top line and seeing how on the previous shift the three were hemmed in the defensive zone.
The change “did everybody good,” Boudreau said, because even though Parise didn’t score, he had multiple scoring chances. Also, the coach added, “Charlie the last two periods played the way we expect him to play. He was outstanding. It did work. It gave them a jump start, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Former Oiler Devan Dubnyk made 28 saves. In his 299th start, he won his 10th game and improved to 3-0 in Edmonton. He leads the NHL with a .946 save percentage and is second with a 1.63 goals-against average.
His best save was denying NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid on a 2-in-1 with 3:16 left.
“Not the player I want to see coming for sure,” Dubnyk said. “I kind of prepared for a shot. He had made some pretty crazy passes on some rushes that just missed all game. So I figured that he was probably tired of that and was going to rip one at me.”
The Wild needed the victory.
“We wanted to redeem ourselves here and get back to playing our way,” Coyle said. “It wasn’t a perfect game by any means. At the end of the day we get two points and that’s huge on this road trip.”