Jonas Gustavsson got a little pokecheck happy and it finally cost him.
Not long after he stopped Zach Parise in overtime for a second time in the game on a breakaway by using the good ole pokecheck to ruin No. 11’s chance, Gustavsson tried to do the same thing later in overtime against Mikko Koivu.
But the captain pulled back the puck, dance to his right and swept a backhander into a gaping net for a 2-1 Wild win and his fifth career overtime goal (first since 3-on-3 was implemented) to tie Brent Burns for the team record.
Charlie Coyle set it up with a nice little drop pass after Matt Dumba made a good play to retreat, then get the puck in the zone after a line change.
“I had just jumped out there and they were a little late seeing me,” Coyle said. “Dums passed it up over the blue line. I looked up and saw Mikko and he gave me the head nod that he was going to come over, so I tried to cut to the middle to cause some confusion and he picked it up and had a half step on the guy and made a great move. That's a big win.”
On the head nod, Koivu said, “Don’t trust what he said.”
The Wild won for a seventh consecutive time since 2013 in Edmonton and improved to 12-1 in its past 13 visits here (but its first to the new rink).
The Wild improved to 1-1-2 on the five-game trip that ends in Toronto on Wednesday.
How crazy are the standings right now? Had the Wild lost in any fashion, it would have fallen out of the top-8 in the West. With the Wild, it’s technically back in the third spot in the Central with 28 points, but the top and bottom wildcard teams also have 28 points, as does the ninth-place team in the West.
So, in other words, the Wild – like the others – are kind of on a precipice right now, although the Wild has played FOUR fewer games than eighth-place Winnipeg and ninth-place Calgary.
“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. It's nice to win a one goal game and I'm hoping we gain confidence from it.”
Turning point tonight? A shrewd fight by Kurtis Gabriel.
Wild was lifeless, sloppy and looking poor in the first period. Somehow, Zack Kassian did the no-no. Playing a out-of-sync team lacking confidence and at home, he fought Gabriel with a 1-0 Oilers lead.
Not bright. Forty seconds later, in the final minute of the first, Coyle tied the score and the Wild escaped a badly-played period tied and feeling good.
Gabriel got mad props in the locker room for the move, and the fight was definitely in response to Gabriel crushing an Oiler his previous shift. Boudreau felt the turning points of the game came in the first with Gabriel’s hit, then Gabriel’s fight, then a Chris Stewart big hit.
Boudreau felt it gave the team confidence.
Something else happened. With Gabriel in the locker room after the fight and a few shifts left in the period, Boudreau took the opportunity to take Zach Parise off the top line with Eric Staal and Coyle. He reunited Nino Niederreiter, who was on the line before Parise’s return from a knee injury last month, on the line and Niederreiter immediately set up Coyle on their first shift back together.
Niederreiter flew in on the forecheck, Staal passed to Niederreiter, Niederreiter took a shot from the side of the net, gobbled up the rebound and found Coyle when things opened up.
Boudreau said the line change worked good for everybody because Parise had a ton of scoring chances – he was snakebit, hitting a post, missing a goal on a delayed penalty and not scoring on two breakaways, but it was the most active he’s looked since the Pittsburgh game – and Coyle played “outstanding” the final two periods.
Another turning point?
Connor McDavid was pulled from the game by the concussion spotter after his chin hit the ice in the second period on a Jared Spurgeon tripping penalty. Then, Nate Prosser took a delay of game penalty that led to another power play, including a 9-second 5-on-3. The Oilers were forced to play without their best player for the final 8:14 of the second.
McDavid was held to three shots and Devan Dubnyk, who made 28 saves, also denied McDavid on a 2-on-1 with 3:16 left. Boudreau said comically he could not wait to get the two defensemen off the ice on that shift (don’t remember who they were).
“Not the play 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. He can shoot the puck so it was nice to get that save.”
Dubnyk fell back like the puck got by him. It didn’t.
“I was like 95 percent sure that I had it,” he said. “It was in my armpit and I could feel it. It was better off to turn around on that in case it does trickle out.”
Dubnyk leads the NHL with a .946 save percentage and is second with a 1.63 goals-against average.
Koivu, who has four goals and seven points in his past seven games, was rock solid, winning 21 of 23 in the circle (91 percent). Boudreau said he’s never seen a percentage that high for that number of draws and said Koivu controlled the game all night when he was on the ice and was a true leader tonight.
“Some nights it’s always better than others,” Koivu said. “It’s like anything, when you feel good, there’s a good rhythm when you go in there. There were a lot of faceoffs tonight. Defensemen and my wingers have been great all year. They did again tonight. It’s not just the centers.”
On the win, it relieves some pressure with the team finally getting a win on this endless trip.
“We definitely wanted it,” Coyle said. “We wanted to redeem ourselves here and get back to playing our way. 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.”
That’s it for me. The Wild has a travel day Monday to Toronto and isn’t practicing. Same with me.
I’m shadowing the NHL Situation Room for the third time Monday night in Toronto, so maybe I’ll tweet from there. Otherwise, talk to you after practice Tuesday. Also, pay attention to Twitter for questions for Tuesday’s Russo-Souhan Show. Later.