Coach Bruce Boudreau was referring to a goalie when he declared he’d like “somebody to get this team on a roll,” after the Wild sagged in its return from a nine-day break, resuming its dicey playoff push by getting schooled on home ice.
But in its first chance to reply to that grim 6-1 takedown by the Bruins last Saturday, there was more than one player who set the tone for a much-needed, bounce-back 3-2 overtime win Tuesday over the Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center.
“It was a complete game,” Boudreau said.
Defenseman Matt Dumba snapped out of a 33-game goalless skid in the extra frame, breaking a 2-2 tie after he crashed the net and the puck flipped over goalie Corey Crawford at 2 minutes, 21 seconds.
“I knew right when I jumped off the bench, their high guy that was kind of following [Mats Zuccarello], he was kind of gassed and I jumped in behind him and I was just trying to go to the net as fast as I could,” said Dumba, who also had an assist. “I was thinking I was going to [one-time] it at the start, but it was kind of back of my stance because I was going kind of fast. And then I just wanted to just take it right to the net.”
Winger Kevin Fiala supplied the offense before that, scoring twice for his second two-goal game of the season.
The other also came vs. Chicago.
Fiala came close to securing his first career hat trick in overtime, getting off three shots in an eyepopping 1:40 shift to start the extra session.
“There's nights you look at Kevin, and he's so dynamic,” Boudreau said. “He's bringing people out of their seats, quite frankly. If he can continue to do that, it'd be pretty special.”
And the Wild did get the boost in net Boudreau was seeking.
Backup Alex Stalock was steady, making 27 saves to pick up his team-leading 12th victory in his career-high 24th start of the season.
“I thought he played exceptional, stopped two or three breakaways,” Boudreau said. “So, it was one of those games you need.”
Stalock had a few tense moments, though, both in the first period.
Early in the game, he skated to the bench after thinking there was a delayed penalty against the Blackhawks but there wasn’t.
“I thought I saw [the referee] move his arm,” said Stalock, who was able to get back to the net before the Blackhawks could take advantage. “So, that’s why I took off.”
Later in the first, Stalock was motionless on the ice after Chicago captain Jonathan Toews kneed him in the head as he rushed to the net.
“That play happens quite a bit,” said Stalock, who remained in the game after getting checked out on the ice. “It’s a for sure hockey play, and I had to go all out and try to do anything I can to get in his way. It ends up being your head that takes the blow. It’s scary anytime you get hit that good.”
These individual performances, however, weren’t the only keys for the Wild.
-The Wild’s penalty kill went a perfect 3-for-3 after getting tagged for three goals in the previous game.
“I just loved the way we pressured all around the wall and didn’t give them much time for their star players to get settled in and feel the puck,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “That’s how we have to penalty kill, and it was nice to get the zero today.”
-Boudreau’s new lines looked shrewd, with each unit making its presence felt – balance that Boudreau felt fueled the team’s energy.
-And the start was strong.
The Wild assumed control early, putting nine shots on net by the time Chicago registered its first 12:38 into the first.
“We talked about it,” Fiala said. “We want to start as a better team and get the lead [and] not always chase the game. In this league, it's tough to chase the game. The goalies are too good, and they can save games. We don't want to always have to score two or three goals in the third period. We are too good of a group of players. We don't have to always wait. We can just go right away.”