The Wild won its sixth straight game and improved to 8-1-3 in its past 12 tonight thanks to a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators.
Amazingly, the one regulation loss in there was the game in Vancouver where the Wild rallied from 4-2 down in the third to tie it and looked like it was heading to overtime until a shot going a million feet wide pin-balled in against Darcy Kuemper.
The next day, Bruce Boudreau made the Wild practice in Calgary rather than scrap it as a reward, and the Wild has points in seven straight since (6-0-1).
Tonight, the score looks like a blowout, but that’s because of empty-net goals by Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund. This thing was a hold-on-for-dear-life game for the Wild after a three-goal first period, including two goals 29 seconds apart by Charlie Coyle and Staal in the final 1:23.
But Devan Dubnyk, especially after Mike Fisher scored on a power play in the first half of the second period, was brilliant yet again. He finished with 34 saves despite the Wild being outshot 23-9 the last 40 minutes. And, remember, two of those nine shots were the empty-netters.
His best save was a thievery on Ryan Johansen on a third-period power play that Bruce Boudreau said lifted the team the rest of the way. The Wild did give up very little the final seven minutes after that stop.
Nino Niederreiter screened Pekka Rinne on the first goal – a Jonas Brodin power-play goal – and had the first assists on goals by Coyle and Staal. For Coyle, it was his 10th goal in his 300th game. For Staal, it was the first in his second two-goal game of the season.
Remember, he told me he’s in a heated battle with brother Jordan for most goals this season. Eric went from seven to nine tonight, putting him three up on his Carolina Hurricanes bro for an expensive bottle of red wine.
Boudreau pulled out the, “They’re not all Picassos, right?” line again. “The two points were very important. To come out of there with that, it probably frustrated them a little bit. We weren’t at our best, but our goalie was.”
Asked what happened the last two periods, especially when Rinne was so bad late in the first, Boudreau said, “We stopped playing offense. We were trying to defend. They probably got a little heat between periods … We held on. It was really important to come out of the second period with a one-goal lead.”
On Niederreiter’s play, Boudreau said, “I was really happy in the first period.” That was code for he wasn’t happy with the last two periods. “I thought like a lot of guys, it was a couple different games out there. One period would be really good, the other period would be pretty average. But I thought in the first he was a real horse.”
Ryan Suter had another outstanding game despite being booed by his old Predators fans from start to finish. He was plus-2 in 26:37 and was just ridiculously good defensively. So many puck retrievals and just little plays to get the Wild out of trouble. Seemed he was never on the ice during the frantic Nashville shifts.
Boudreau said, “Especially tonight in the third period or when things got a little ragged, to put him out there and to settle things down I thought was really good. He had a really good game.”
My gamer is heavy on Dubnyk … again.
This guy has still not given up more than three goals in the game. This is the stat I dug up that I love to put things in perspective.
Rinne, Nashville’s star goalie, has given up 25 goals in his past seven starts. Dubnyk has allowed 26 goals in his past 15 starts, 28 in his past 20.
Dubnyk leads the league still in goals-against average and save percentage.
On why things turned tonight, Staal said, “They pushed hard. … They came at us real well and put some pucks in areas where they can get a sustained forecheck. We stopped making plays. We just didn’t make the passes that you need to make against an aggressive team. You’ve got to be confident in making some plays to the middle and just didn’t do a good job of that in the second…. I thought we did the right things in the third period to make sure we got the two points.”
Dubnyk said, “Sometimes it's not perfect. We did a good job of hanging on. We got some big plays at the end. … My job doesn't change. We talk about all the one-goal games. My job doesn't change if we're winning by 10 or if it's 0-0. I need to stop the pucks the exact same way when it comes across the blue line. That doesn't change.”
That’s it for me. Please read the game story and game notebook.
We have a video show at Hell’s Kitchen Friday at 4 p.m. with me, Souhan and Lavelle. Hopefully I get back. I hear the weather’s gonna be yucky? I already have a flight delay, and it’s not even tomorrow yet!
I’ll also be on Barreiro on KFAN at 5:15.
1 p.m. game Saturday against Dubnyk’s old Coyotes. Jason Gonzalez is covering Wild practice Friday.