One of the coolest parts of the Wild’s now-11-game winning streak is the fact that every night, it seems a different player steps up.
Tonight, it was the most unsung of heroes, Jordan Schroeder, playing his third game since coming up for the Montreal-New York trip, assisting on two goals, including Jared Spurgeon’s first career overtime winner, to lift the Wild to a 3-2 win over Nashville.
Don’t look now, but the Wild is one point back of Chicago for the Central Division lead with THREE games in hand.
The Wild hosts the Islanders on Thursday night. A win there, plus a Blue Jackets win, and New Year’s Eve, there could be an epic battle between 2000 expansion cousins with the Wild riding a 12-game winning streak and Columbus a 14-game winning streak.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE!
Not only was Schroeder elevated to the first line with Zach Parise and Eric Staal in the third period (replacing a very sluggish Jason Pominville), he was called upon in OVERTIME!
Even Schroeder, who has seen more ice on I-35 going to Iowa than in NHL overtimes, was shocked. But the guy who hasn’t been claimed by 29 other teams off waivers in the past year-plus, teed up Spurgeon after also assisting on Chris Stewart’s second-period goal.
“It’s fun,” Schroeder said. “That’s the capability I think I have to make plays each and every night. When you get the opportunity to move up, to try and take advantage of it, it’s fun playing that way, playing with confidence. You just keep going.”
Bruce Boudreau, who has now coached three different teams to winning streaks of at least 11 games, figured Schroeder’s speed would be a threat in 3-on-3. He was right.
Schroeder, who also scored a big goal in Montreal, said, “I wanted to come up and contribute. That was my main goal, and not just come up and be OK. I want to keep this going and keep making plays. You have to have that attitude. Otherwise, you’ll just blend in, and I don’t want to blend in.”
On the pass to Spurgeon, Schroeder said, “Coming across the blue line, I saw the lane there. Anytime you can make the goalie move and Spurge obviously got the shot off quick, that’s really hard to defend. If it was there, I was making it. I was thinking, go to the net, but he gave me the [passing] lane, so I took it.”
Spurgeon comically said he didn’t even know where he shot it. He said Schroeder got the pass over so hard, he just wanted to get the shot off quick.
The Wild also extended its franchise-record point streak to 12 games (11-0-1) since Nov. 29 and its 11 wins in December is a first.
Devan Dubnyk made 12 of his 28 saves after the second period to extend his winning streak to a career-high and franchise-record nine games and point streak to a career-high 13 games (11-0-2). He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game since Nov. 26 (10 starts).
Parise also scored a first-period power-play goal, Staal extended his point streak to eight (his longest since 11 in 2013) and Charlie Coyle, who has 11 points in the past seven games, had two assists to tie Staal for the team scoring lead with 29 points.
Boudreau on why he moved Schroeder up: “Well I mean I thought he was playing well. With his speed, I thought, in overtime if I gave him a chance he might get a breakaway. As long as he plays within the confines of what we want to do he's going to get opportunities to score. I thought there were a couple guys that from the three-day break and no practice looked like they were struggling with their legs. That is one of the reasons I moved him.”
Boudreau on Parise: “He was good. He gave more than I thought he'd be able to give coming out of a sickness not being on the ice for five days. He had a great tip in front and I thought he was strong on the puck.”
Boudreau on the win: “They played to win and not to lose. They weren't playing to get into overtime. They played smart and weren't giving them too many chances. That's the way we need to play. To me, we have to go for it. When we get the opportunity we have to go for the win rather than hope to hang on. We did that tonight.”
Boudreau on Dubnyk: “No matter when he gives it up it's sort of like, 'That's it. That's all.' I know it's going to break at some point. I hope it doesn't. I know logic says it's going to. That is why he's one of the best in the league.”
Boudreau on being proud of this team: “I've been proud of them for most of the year. ... There has been one game that we've lost by more than one goal (Islanders, Oct. 23). They have been pretty consistent. So it's not hard to be proud of them. Now we get home, get a good practice under our belt, and get some games at home.”
That’s it for now. Please read the gamer and notebook.
Kent Youngblood is covering practice for me Wednesday. I’m writing a big story on Staal for Thursday, so please give that a read.
Also, please come down to Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the latest Russo-Souhan Show taping.