The Wild (0-5-1 in its past six overtime/shootouts) was obviously disappointed not to get that second point tonight, but after playing the night before in a win over Vancouver and having to overextend its bench because it was down two forwards for most the game, the Wild was at least pleased it could grind out a point in tonight’s 2-1 OT loss here in Winnipeg.
Dustin Byfuglien, always a thorn in the Wild’s side (ask Mikael Granlund), is back at forward since tossing Evander Kane’s clothes in the shower and it certainly worked tonight when he scored the overtime winner with 59.3 seconds left.
Jared Spurgeon sent a reckless, spinning pass from the left circle up top to a tired Mikko Koivu (Koivu and Jason Pominville were on the ice 1:16 the final shift of the game, which would be long in regulation, let alone OT). Big Buff read it, picked it up and sprinted out of the zone past a desperately-diving Koivu.
Ryan Suter did a good job denying the pass and Buff looked like he was skating himself into too tight of an angle, but then he wristed a beauty toward the far post and in to beat Devan Dubnyk.
Uncharacteristic mistake for Spurgeon, and he took a swan dive on the knife when I grabbed him after the game. But he was hardly the only Wild player who made a tired mistake tonight.
Yeo recognized the lack of energy early, and he expected it. The Jets, knowing the Wild played the night before and knowing the Wild’s depth is ravaged right now with Jason Zucker out for the season and Ryan Carter at least a month, came out pressuring early, came out hitting and spent almost the entire first period in the Wild end.
Devan Dubnyk, the Wild’s savior since his Jan. 14 arrival, was the savior again in the first with the Wild looking like it was in survival mode from the opening puck drop. Winnipeg had the first 10 shots, a 13-1 shot lead at one point and a 15-3 shot lead at one point. But Dubnyk got the Wild out of that period and the second period scoreless.
The Wild did have plenty of chances, too. And Michael Hutchinson was good. But 2:29 after Toby (used to be Tobias) Enstrom scored on a point shot that deflected in off Nino Niederreiter’s stick (first Wild deficit in 419 minutes, 32 seconds since Jan. 20), Zach Parise forced a turnover with a nice stick check and Jason Pominville, who was having a tough game to that point, unloaded on the loose puck for his second goal in two games after none in the previous 12.
That forced a big point that at least pulled the Wild within two of a playoff spot. But because of Byfuglien’s winner, the Wild is seven back of Winnipeg instead of five. The Wild has played three fewer games though and still this is quite a chop into Winnipeg’s lead when one recalls the Wild was 14 back of the Jets as of Jan. 27.
So the six-game winning streak is history, but the Wild is 8-1-2 in its past 11.
On the Big Buff winner, Dubnyk, like he’s so good at, dissected the play for us and what he was thinking.
“He’s got a dangerous shot. I’ve seen him coming down. I want to make sure I can get out on him because he can tee that up, too. When he got down there in tight, I thought he was going to take it to the net and go to his backhand. I flattened out a little bit and he flicked his wrists over and made a nice shot. You always want to save them, but nice play by him. Leave it at that and move on.”
And that was the message after the game.
The Wild will have a much-needed rest day Wednesday and now plays every other night the next nine games. The Florida game on Thursday is the third game in four nights and traditionally for most teams when it’s three in four after a home-road back-to-back, that third game could be hairy.
So Yeo said the Wild has a big challenge in front of it and must dig deep and find the character to get back on track and continue this streak going. The Wild has a brief two-game homestand before hitting the road for Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton – the opposite route of the recent western Canadian sweep.
Yeo changed his lines in the second period and moved center Charlie Coyle with Parise and Koivu at right wing, moved Mikael Granlund to the middle of Niederreiter and Pominville and had an all-Gopher line with Jordan Schroeder, Erik Haula and Thomas Vanek.
It seemed to have its desired effect because at least the Wild started getting some offensive chances and eventually turned that 15-3 shot deficit into a 20-20 shot tabulation.
But Yeo said after the game that he didn’t know if the team would come back with that and the coaches have started talking as to how to get the best out of the players with Zucker and Carter out. Add Matt Cooke to that, and the Wild’s minus three left-wing, penalty-killing guys who love to go north.
That’s where the Wild could be lacking bigtime with these guys all out long-term at once. It’ll be interesting to see if the Wild call upon Tyler Graovac at some point because he has size, can skate and has skill. But Zucker’s speed will be missed bigtime (not to mention his offense) and so will Carter’s grittiness on a team that is more finesse.
The Wild’s depth will be tested the rest of the season, that is for sure.
Dubnyk said it’s imperative the Wild just puts this behind it and gets ready for Thursday. He said most important now is to get points, and to get a point in a tough game like this was big.
“It was a huge game against a team that we’re chasing, but we’ll have to continue to win games down the stretch and we’ll do the same thing we’ve been doing,” he said.
That's it for me. I have a 6 a.m. flight back to Minnesota, so I should get out of here. No practice Wednesday, but I'll have a decent follow in Thursday's paper that I'm sure will interest you. Barring news, next you'll hear from me is Thursday morning as America's team, the Florida Panthers come to town.
Star Tribune Guys Night Out is Thursday night before the game, too, but I think it's sold out.
If you want to check out Jim Souhan and I do our live podcast, we’re doing one at the Local in Minneapolis on Wednesday night at 5 o’clock. It’s also on souhanunfiltered.com.
Also, if you want to see a special private screening of Red Army at the Lagoon in Uptown on Wednesday night, check this link out. I'll be moderating a Q and A afterward.
Michael Russo to host Q&A with director Gabe Polsky and Olympians Lou Nanne/John Harrington at Red Army screening: http://t.co/Q7JzQfKkXr— USA Hockey (@usahockey) February 11, 2015