Big two points here in Buffalo today.
For only the first time since opening night way back on Oct. 8 in Denver, the Wild won a game when trailing after two periods. The Wild was 1-18-5 until Mikko Koivu’s game-tying power-play goal with 5:41 left, then Jason Pominville’s shootout winner delivered a 3-2 victory over the Sabres, the Wild’s fourth consecutive win.
The ridiculously-hot Nashville Predators (points in 12 straight games) rallied to beat the Avalanche in Denver, so the Wild now has a two-point lead on the Avs in the wildcard race with a game in hand.
That game comes Sunday night at home against the St. Louis Blues, who have been off since Tuesday, are 9-2-1 in their past 12 and have won six of seven on the road and have points in 11 of 13 on the road.
The Wild got 30 saves from Devan Dubnyk, including a game-saving stop on Evander Kane’s breakaway in overtime. Dubnyk only gave up a Jack Eichel goal in the shootout. He and the Wild did get lucky when Sam Reinhart slipped a puck through his legs, but that puck found the post.
Coach John Torchetti, 8-3 as Wild coach, said he had a blast coaching his first 3-on-3 OT with the Wild. He deployed the speedsters for the most part in overtime, including Erik Haula and Jason Zucker, who saw limited OT ice time in the past.
The Wild was 1-10 in OT/shootouts (1-8 in OT) and improved to 2-10 with its first shootout win out of three. Torchetti let assistant coach Andrew Brunette choose the shootout shooters.
Normally, Zach Parise always goes second. He went third. Down 1-0, Brunette went with Charlie Coyle, and he tied the score 1-1 with his third career shootout goals. After Parise missed, Pominville, the ex-Sabres captain, brushed off the boos and a muscle strain, and scored his 25th career shootout goal.
Coincidentally, Koivu and Parise, who are both searching for their 40th career shootout goals, are each 0-3 this season in shootouts.
Yet again, the power play bailed out the penalty kill. Coyle drew the Wild’s only power play of the game late in the third, and Matt Dumba made a great play to set up Koivu’s 15th goal and ninth on the power play.
The Wild’s power play now ranks 13th in the NHL at 19.3 percent after scoring in 16 of the last 20 games. The Wild extended its franchise record with a power-play goal in 12 straight road games.
The penalty kill is a different story. Yet again, the Wild was disciplined today, taking only one penalty, a Nino Niederreiter double minor for high-sticking. The Sabres scored on both the power plays to take a 2-1 lead after a fantastic first period by the Wild.
David Jones gave the Wild a 1-0 lead early with his first goal with the Wild, then the Wild left a couple goals out on the ice. Parise, who has one goal in his past 17 games, couldn’t bury a rebound, then Robin Lehner robbed Coyle twice and Zucker once.
The Wild’s PK now ranks 28th at 75.8 percent and has been scored on eight times in the last 13 chances and 16 times in the last 46.
It must get better, obviously. So does the Wild's way-too-common poor second periods.
I’ll have more on the PK in Monday’s paper. In the meantime, check out Sunday’s paper or startribune.com/wild later tonight for my game story, notebook, recap box, advance box and Sunday Insider on my visit to the Situation Room on Wednesday, a second visit in the last two seasons to see how coach’s challenges work. There could be changes coming in relation to camera positions for offside challenges as you’ll read.
That’s it for now. Jim Souhan and I will be hosting our podcast at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub. Earlier than normal so I can get to Torchetti’s availability since it’s doubtful there will be a morning skate.
Please stop on by.