This 5-2 Wild win over Nashville had it all: Goals, scraps, goalmouth scrums, persistent skirmishes and, afterward, a well-executed, very calm Devan Dubnyk rant.
It occurred to me while he was in the middle of his 2-minute soliloquy, this was actually the first time all season Dubnyk went on and on about goalie interference, which maybe just shows how good of a season he’s in the midst of having.
Remember, last season, it felt like he angrily ranted five or six times about incidental contact and stuff. This season, this was the first that I can remember at least, and as I said, it was actually quite composed (more on that in a bit).
Good win against a Predators team who came to play and didn’t look sluggish or in my opinion out of sync despite coming off their five-day bye and not practicing the day before.
The Wild’s 3-0 lead became 3-2 in a 2:09 span of the third, but Jason Zucker’s breakaway goal capped a three-point night for No. 16 with 3:19 left. Eric Staal scored a much-needed empty-netter for himself personally. Snapped a 13-game drought and maybe can kickstart him now.
All in all, the Wild won its 39th game in just 58 total games, topping last season’s 82-game total.
The Wild’s now one point behind Washington for the most points in the NHL. With 84 points, the Wild’s three points from last season’s total. The Wild’s now eight up on San Jose in the West, nine up on Chicago for the Central.
The Blackhawks come to town Tuesday, then the Wild heads out on its five-day bye before resuming its schedule with back-to-back home/road games (vs. L.A., at Winnipeg, then at Columbus).
This is a cut and paste from Wild PR, so thanks Carly Peters for the legwork: The Wild leads the Western Conference with 195 goals scored this season and 3.36 goals/game. In its last 31 games since Dec. 13, the Wild has scored at least four goals in 17 games (54.8%), and at least five goals in 13 games (41.9%). Minnesota has scored at least four goals in 25-of-58 games this season (43.1%), after reaching the milestone in 20-of-82 (24.4%) games last season.
Since its first game of December (Dec. 2 at CGY), the Wild has points in 31-of-36 games (28-5-3). In that 36-game span, Minnesota has outscored its opponents, 133-86, scoring at least four goals in 17 of those 36 games (47.2%), and allowing two goals or less in 21 contests (58.3%).
Minnesota’s plus-62 goal differential ranks second in the NHL and is nearly triple the next-best goal differential in the Western Conference (San Jose, plus-23). The Wild’s single-season franchise record for goal differential is plus-41, set in 2006-07 (Elias Sports Bureau). Minnesota’s 133 goals allowed this season are second-fewest in the NHL (WSH, 124).
Back to me:
The Wild’s now 14-4-3 vs. the Central after being 14-10-5 against the division last season. The Wild’s 24-8-5 against the West.
The Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund line roasted Nashville’s top line of Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen. They were minus-4. The Wild’s “second line” was +3, combined for seven points and Granlund and Koivu each scoring a goal and assist and Zucker two goals and an assist.
Koivu snatched point No. 600 to tie Jonathan Toews for 34th among active players.
Since Nov. 25, the line has 43 goals, 67 assists and 110 points and is plus-84.
Crazy. Kent Youngblood will write about the line for Monday’s paper.
Some quotes, then the Dubnyk rant.
Zucker on his first goal, a carbon copy of the Granlund to Zucker goal last road trip in Calgary: “I’ll take those passes from Granny all day. I think he slid it through Rinne’s stick, through the triangle of Rinne. So, I mean, that’s a pretty ridiculous pass. … I just put my stick on the ice and I know he’ll probably hit it.”
Koivu said Zucker’s breakaway goal to ice the game was a classic goal for that line, going from defense to offense. Zucker agreed, saying, “We want to preach defense and make sure, like I said, shutting down that line we’re playing against, and make sure they’re getting very limited shots and scoring chances. If we do that, we’ll try to create our own offense out of it.”
Dubnyk on that line: “It’s every single game. If they’re not scoring, unbelievable chances and they’re responsible at the same time. That’s what you get from Mikko. You can’t really have him on the ice. he’s so good all around. I don’t think he gets enough credit for how all around of a player he really is.”
Dubnyk on missing on a poke-check on Ryan Ellis’ first-period shorthanded breakaway but making the save with the old-fashioned, two-pad stack: “Throw it at em once in awhile. Sometimes I just decide at the last moment. Play dead and see what happens. It worked that time.”
On 600 points, Koivu said, “When you know that you’ve had it, it’s a nice thing. But at the end, I think it’s more important for myself to be able to be with the same team and being around this city and these fans; that part is more important for myself than anything else.”
Koivu on Dubnyk, who made 37 saves and leads the league with 32 wins, a 1.97 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage: “I thought he was good throughout the game. They had those chances there and he was great. But at the end, after that second goal, I thought we really tightened it up and I thought we were really good in front of him. And I don’t want to take anything away from him, but obviously at the end, they had some good, quality chances. He was just calm and the way he’s been all year long.”
Koivu said the Predators’ second goal with them getting physical with Dubnyk fired everybody up (more on this later): “I didn’t really see the play but I think always, when you see your goalie ... them getting physical on him, I think you want to protect him always. So for sure, you want to. But like I said, I think we kept them away from the quality areas after that and I thought our defensemen blocked them out well. Great for them for that.”
Bruce Boudreau on the nail biter at the end: “We make things so hard on ourselves.”
Boudreau on how it turned: “It's like anything else. You've got a 3-0 lead and you think you're in full control of the game. You give a team one goal (Marco Scandella turnover) and momentum swing so quickly and then all of a sudden they get the next one and it's like, 'Uh oh.' Game on. They were coming ... and I think Zuck's goal took the wind out of their sails.”
Boudreau on the Wild standing up for themselves: “It's strength through numbers. YOu get everybody in there. We thought they were taking liberties with Duby first on the first shift and on the goal that they got. I thought Neal would've been attacked at that point but everybody was wondering what went on. Is it a goal? Is it not a goal? I don't know if they even saw Duby get a shoulder to the head.”
Boudreau on Staal ENG: “You could see it on his face that it was important for him. SOmetimes that's all it takes is one goal. I thought he worked hard today and he deserved a couple goals. Sometimes when you deserve and you don't get them and you get the empty goal and they say it's lucky but you deserved it previously.”
Chris Stewart on the volatility of tonight: “That’s playoff hockey. At the end of the day, you have to avoid that after the whistle and I thought we did that well, playing between the whistles, and I think they got a little frustrated.”
Stewart on sticking up for Dubnyk when Austin Watson got in his face: “Yeah, exactly. That’s a potential playoff matchup too. We’re going to protect our teammates, especially Dubs. Guys aren’t going going to get to stand in front of him and chirp him, especially young guys. The guy is an All-Star, show some respect.”
Stewart standing up to Preds: “This time of year, there’s different kinds of toughness. We’re a team that can go hard to the net, take a punch in the head, draw a penalty and score on the power play. That’s the kind of team we are. We’re not a retaliatory team. We’re not going to go and try to even the score, we’re going to try and make you pay on the scoreboard.”
FINALLY, without further ado,
With 9:35 left, P.K. Subban beat Dubnyk with a blast, but referee Ian Walsh initially wiped out the goal because James Neal nailed Dubnyk in the head.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette challenged, however, and after inspecting the video, Walsh overturned his decision citing that the contact happened after the puck sailed past Dubnyk.
On replay, that appears correct. Dubnyk reacted angrily and after the game vented that there wasn’t at least a penalty afterward. Boudreau insisted the other ref, Jean Hebert, told the bench if Walsh reversed the call, there’d be a penalty.
That didn’t happen.
Dubnyk: “This is what I don't understand. I have a ton of respect for the guy that made the call and he was very patient with me after as well when I was really upset. So I don't want to stand here and rip into him. I don't even know what the rule is anymore. A couple things: If you want to find a clip of a goalie just getting scored on a straight shot from there it's going to be tough to find. When I know I'm about to get my head taken off, I don't know how that doesn't qualify as able to make a save. So that happens and he makes the right call there.
“They challenge it. They go to look at it and I don't know who was talking to him or again what the rule is. You know, he's in the white and I'm in my blue. It doesn't matter if the player is in the white if I'm in my paint. Like, I'm where I need to be. And regardless of that, if that play happens to a player in the middle of the ice, that's going to be a suspension. Like, he almost killed me. And I'm not saying that he wants to. He's a guy that goes hard to the net. That is part of his game. That is why he's a good player. He's not trying to hurt me. He's trying to go to the net. It doesn't matter, though. You can't tell me that's (OK). That's a dangerous play. So even after they go and decide that I just let that shot straight in, they all forget that that's a penalty regardless of whether the puck went in first or not. The puck could've gone in three seconds earlier. That's a dangerous play. I bet if there's no such thing as a review, it's no goal and a penalty. Instead now there's all these distractions, they're trying to figure out if the other team is challenging, then they go over and they're looking at it and they're thinking about all these things and it gets forgot about. That's interference on anybody. Not even goalie interference. If that play happens in the middle of the ice to a player, it's a suspension. It just doesn't make sense to me. I don't know what else to say.”
Amen, brother. To me, on replay, I think it should have been good goal, penalty.
Some more mostly cut and paste from Wild PR, so thanks:
The Wild’s 39 wins are tied for first in the NHL.
Minnesota is one win shy of reaching the 40-win milestone for the seventh time in franchise history. The Wild has posted points in 18 of its last 22 games (16-4-2
Minnesota holds a 21-7-1 record at Xcel Energy Center, ranking T-3rd in the NHL in wins and T-4th in points (43). Minnesota has outscored its opponents 100-58 on home ice, including 24 power-play goals. The Wild has netted 13 PPG in the last 13 games in Saint Paul. The Wild leads the league with a 28.9 home power-play percentage (24-for-83) and ranks second in PPG scored.
Koivu had his 134th career multi-point game (10th this season), posting back-to-back multi-point games, three in the last four contests and four in the last eight matches. The captain becomes the eighth all-time Finnish-born player (INCLUDING BROTHER SAKU) to reach the 600-point milestone (178-422=600) while being the franchise leader in games played (820), assists, points, multi-point games and shots (1,894) since entering the league in 2005. The center netted his fourth game-winning goal of the season, matching his career high for the third time. He owns 44 points (17-27=44) in 57 games this season, ranking second on the team in GWG and T-3rd in goals and T-3rd in scoring.
Granlund notched two points (1-1=2), a plus-3 rating and two shots in 18:39 TOI for his 37th career multi-point game. He has recorded at least one point in 16 of his last 19 games, totaling 22 points (7-15=22) since Jan. 12. The center owns 53 points (17-36=53) in 58 contests this season, leading the team in scoring, assists and multi-point games (13) and T-3rd in goals. He also ranks T-5th in the NHL in assists and T-12th in points.
Zucker registered his fourth career three-point game, third this season including his 100th career point with the Wild’s second goal of the game. He has 41 points (18-23=41) in 58 games this season, already setting career highs in goals, assists, points and games played. The winger ranks second on the Wild in goals and plus/minus (+35) and sixth in points.
Nino Niederreiter tallied the primary assist on Granlund’s goal to set a career-high 24 assists this season. He has seven points (4-3=7) in the last seven games and 19 points (10-9=19) in the last 19 games. The winger ranks T-1st in the NHL in goals and T-6th in points since Jan. 12. He has tied his career-best 43 points (19-24=43) in 58 games this season, leading the Wild in goals, PPG (8) and hits (91) and fifth in scoring. The Swiss-native’s 43 points rank T-9th amongst all-time active Swiss-born players.
Ryan Suter recorded two assists for his 56th career multi-assist contest. He owns three points (1-2=3) in the last two games and 33 points (8-25=33) in 58 games this season. The defenseman ranks second on the team in blocked shots (77) and sixth in assists while ranking first in the NHL with a plus-35 rating.
Jared Spurgeon tallied the second assist on Zucker’s goal. He owns six points (2-4=6) in the last eight games and 28 points (8-20=28) in 54 games this season. The blueliner has hit the 20-assist mark for the third time in his career, just one shy of his best set in 2013-14 while one point shy of his career best set in 77 games last season. He leads Minnesota in blocked shots (106) and ranks second amongst team defensemen in scoring.
Jason Pominville tallied the primary assist on Staal’s goal. He has 11 points (2-9=11) in the last eight games and 19 points (4-15=19) in the last 15 contests. The winger has surpassed his assist and point totals set in 72 games last season with 37 points (10-27=37) in 58 matches this season, ranking T-3rd on the Wild in shots (126) and T-4th in helpers. He leads the NHL in assists and scoring since Jan. 19.
Dubnyk earned his 32nd win of the season, matching his win total set in 67 games last season and is just one win shy of tying the second-most wins by a Wild goaltender in a single season in franchise history. He is 32-10-2 with a 1.97 GAA, a .934 SV% and five shutouts in 45 games this season, leading the NHL in wins, GAA and SV% and is T-4th in shutouts.
I’m sleepy, and holy heck, I just looked at the clock. Nighty night. Off-day Sunday. No blog, barring news. Talk to you after Monday’s practice.