The Wild’s fantastic run has ended at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are the first team this season to really handle the Wild easily.
Other than the second of a back to back in Brooklyn back when the Wild was still learning what type of team it had early in the season, the Wild has amazingly been in every single game the rest of the way.
Tonight, the Jackets really showed everybody why they’re 12-2-3 on the road, why they’re so good defensively on the road, why they’re the league-best offensive team and why they’ve lost three times in regulation since an 0-2 start.
Kudos to them. They’ve won 15 games and counting (points in 17 in a row since Nov. 23), and are two wins from tying the 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins for longest winning streak in NHL history.
“You love playing in games like this,” Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray said. “The building right off the bat you could tell everyone's ready to go, the fans are going nuts, the players are loving it. You have those two fights back to back. That's what hockey is. That's exactly why you play the game.
“We want to keep it going, obviously. It's in the back of our minds and you want to ride that momentum we've got.”
Some turning points tonight:
Zach Parise half-fanning on the shot with a wide-open net and hitting the post in the first.
Christian Folin’s pass in Jason Pominville’s skates at center, then Erik Haula overskating the puck en route to Cam Atkinson’s breakaway goal.
And Matt Calvert goading Matt Dumba into a fight as Chris Stewart and Josh Anderson were being escorted to their respective penalty boxes. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Dumba didn’t know the rule that a secondary altercation resulting in a major right after an original one is a game misconduct. The left the Wild with five D for the final 37:32, and the Jackets quickly turned the 1-0 lead into a 3-0 lead with goals by Jack Johnson and Atkinson 15 seconds apart.
“It really impacted us,” Boudreau said. “A right-handed offensive defenseman. We don't have a lot of them. Not that we got a lot of power plays but It sort of skewers that too. Dumbs looked like he had a lot of energy tonight the first portion of the game. I think it hurt us. Taking nothing away from Matt Calvert but it's so much easier to replace a forward than it is a defenseman.”
John Tortorella agreed.
“Great stuff,” Tortorella said. “I don’t know what it was with either one. It probably started off this faceoff there, but great stuff by our team. Stewart’s a tough kid. Andy stood right in there with them. Calvy didn’t hesitate as far as what happens there. I think it’s a good trade for us. We take one of their better D off the ice. We lose Calvy, although he’s a good player, but losing a D. I thought out bench was 10-feet tall after that. And that gave a little momentum with a couple quick goals.”
Said Anderson of his fight, “I just saw him take a run at him from the blue line, straight for the hash marks there. You can't be doing that to our top players. It's not OK with any of us. I just wanted to respond the right way. I think it helped our team score two goals after that so it was just a good effort by everyone.”
Brandon Saad, who had two assists, said, “I think anytime you get teammates sticking up for one another, especially when Andy [Josh Anderson] hopped in there I mean we’re full of excitement. The pucks just seem to go in after but after that we just seemed to take over on our forecheck and create some chances.”
Boudreau bemoaned the Wild’s lack of crashing the net tonight and the fact this team suddenly has given up four goals three times in the past four games. I’ll write about that in my Sunday for Monday follow.
But Mikael Granlund, who had a goal and assist for his eighth multi-point game and fourth in the past five games, said, “ We played a real good team, and they’re playing good hockey, and maybe we weren’t at our best tonight. But we can’t win them all. Let’s just get ready for the next one.
Added Erik Haula, “The crowd was great. The guys felt great. It just didn't go our way. It was going to end at some point. Now we have to start building on another one.”
Boudreau joked, “Christmas was really good. New Year's (Eve) ain't that good. We are all ticked off in there and everything. But if we sit back and look at the whole picture what Columbus is doing is really amazing. But what we did was pretty good too. As long as we can get back to the way we were playing, then we'll continue to be successful. If we play like run and gun we're not.”
Jason Zucker, who scored his seventh career goal in the first minute of a period to make it a 4-2 game 24 seconds into the third, said the Wild was sloppy in giving up two goals 15 seconds apart right after the Stewart and Dumba scraps.
“We didn’t cover our guys. I think the first one, I think I could’ve been a high F3 and kind of eliminated that odd-man rush. So I think I wasn’t sharp on that one. And then after that, our D-zone coverage wasn’t on point and they got two pretty quick,” Zucker said.
Added Zucker, “They’re a great team. They showed it tonight, they’ve been showing it for a little while. It was a battle. I thought we came on strong in the third, but it was just a little bit too late. I think we were a little bit more crisp to start the game, and [if we would’ve kept that] through the second, we would’ve been better off.”
Some Devan Dubnyk quotes:
“It was fun, fun atmosphere. Our crowd is always great here and that was fun to have that playoff atmosphere in a game against an eastern opponent. It was a fun setup and we came out good. I thought we had a real good first period and they got a key bounce for the breakaway there. We got away from it in the second from what we’ve been doing. That’s a quick pouncing team and that’s what happened.
“They’re good. I just think we’re easily right there. They play a lot like us. They’re relentless and they turn pucks over in the offensive zone and they make quick plays. If you’re not solid and ready and you turn pucks over they make you pay for it and that’s what happened in the second period.
More on the atmosphere, Dubnyk said, “Just the atmosphere and the buildup, it’s not often that you get that in the middle of the season. It’s important that we enjoy it and I think we all did. I think we were all ready for it, and it wasn’t much. It was just a little bit of getting away from what we’ve been doing in the second period and that was really it. Other than that we played hard.”
Streak’s over. Wild starts a trip Thursday in San Jose. Day off Sunday. Monday, the Wild has an outdoor practice at Braemar, so enjoy that because it’s open to the public.
You’ll probably next hear from me Tuesday. Happy New Year, everybody!