Get to the bottom of this blog for some Joel Eriksson Ek news, but with 8 ½ seconds left Thursday night, Tomas Plekanec spoiled what would have been a historic night.
Up 7-0, the Wild was instants from its most lopsided victory at home in franchise history and equaling its most lopsided victory as a whole in franchise history (Devan Dubnyk’s Wild 7-0 debut in Buffalo almost two years to the day earlier on Jan. 15, 2015).
But on a Canadiens’ power play after Chris Stewart took a cross-checking penalty on Paul Byron, Plekanec scored to ruin Dubnyk’s chance at a league-leading sixth shutout and 25th of his career. That meant a 7-1 win, meaning the Wild tied the home record for largest margin of victory and was one goal of tying the team record as a whole.
Fourth time, Dubnyk recalled, that he has lost a shutout this season in the waning minutes.
This one stung, and Stewart, who was standing up for Dubnyk after he had been run a couple times late, apologized.
“You know what? Duby will take that,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “The first guy should’ve got a penalty for running into the goalie. The ref said he was pushed in. I mean, ‘My God,’ and then when they did it again, [Stewart] said, ‘Hey, listen, we can’t let them take liberties with our goalie.’ And you’ve got to do that.
“I’m glad there was no fight because he might’ve got an instigator in the last five minutes, but he stood up for us and said, ‘Hey, you’re not going to hit our goalie anymore.’ Now, it cost us a goal, but at the same time I would much rather take that than let our goalie go unprotected.”
When I reminded that an instigator in the last five minutes unless rescinded is not only a suspension for Stewart but a $10,000 fine for the coach, Boudreau said, “Do I get fined too?”
When I gave an affirmative, Boudreau said, laughing, “Oh, I would’ve killed him. I didn’t know that. Hmm. OK. Good move by Stewie.”
Dubnyk said losing the shutout wouldn’t keep up tonight. It was a pretty easy game for Dubnyk to be a part of tonight. The league’s leader with a 1.77 goals-against average and .940 save percentage made 20 saves to improve to 15-1-2 in his past 18 starts. His 22 wins rank second in the NHL.
It wasn’t that fun a night for Carey Price, the Canadiens star goalie who was in for all seven goals on 24 shots (the fifth time in his career he has given up that many).
Christian Folin would have had his first career winning goal until Plekanec scored. That meant Eric Staal, who had his second three-point night in the past four games, got his sixth winning goal, which is tied for second in the league. Jordan Schroeder, after a gritty shift and being cross-checked to the ice, scored a goal 39 seconds after Staal in the second. Nino Niederreiter scored two goals and Ryan Suter and Jason Zucker scored the others.
Matt Dumba had a career-high three assists.
“When he gets a point or so early, he lights up, and what’d he get three tonight?” Boudreau said of Dumba. “So that’s good for him.”
Fourteen Wild players had points five games after a franchise-record 15 Wild players had a point against the Islanders. The Wild scored at least four goals for the 16th time in 40 games this season after 20 times in 82 games last season.
The Wild’s now 17-2-4 in its past 23 (86-54 goal edge). The Wild’s now 13-4-1 against the East after going 13-16-3 against the conference last year. The Wild’s now two points behind Chicago in the Central with four games in hand and a conference-leading .713 points percentage. The Wild now hits the road for back-to-back games at Dallas and Chicago on Saturday and Sunday. The Wild has points in 10 straight games on the road, but Boudreau said the Wild better be a lot better than it was tonight.
Frankly, Boudreau said, the Wild took advantage of a very tired team that played the night before in Winnipeg. He didn’t like the turnovers and lack of legs early.
But, hey, a win’s a win and the Wild’s 3-0-1 since losing to Columbus.
“I was happy I was on my end,” Dubnyk said. “I felt like every shot we got was a scoring chance down there. Guys were more than solid for me in my end and allowed me to feel comfortable all game.”
On beating Price like that, Dubnyk said, “Of course you’re not going to enter a game and expect that, but I’ve seen us do that to a lot of good goalies. Especially in this building, sometimes we can be overwhelming for teams. However many shots, it felt like everyone was a Grade-A chance and that’s not a fun game to be a part of.”
Schroeder on his goal: “I’ll take them any way I can them, right? I was fortunate enough to get a stick on that shot. I think [Jared Spurgeon] was looking for that tip anyways. Just like on the Zucker goal, he’s always got his head up. He’s so good back there.
“Anytime you can put [seven] goals up on a goaltender of that caliber, we’ll take it any day.”
Boudreau on bouncing back after the Columbus loss: “We talk about those things a lot, about getting back on the horse. You know good things when they go through something really positive and lose a game they don't sag. They jump right back up and don't let things like that affect them. I thought especially going out to the West Coast we did a real good job against three good teams. And if we were lucky we could've won all three.”
Some great Christian Folin stuff
On the late goal taking away his first game-winner- “I’m sure it will come eventually. Keep searching for it.”
As fired up as you’ve been after a goal? “I don’t score too often, so I try to be a little fired up. I remember it was like two years ago and I scored against Washington back here, I was fired up too. It’s fun scoring goals. You’ve got to get a little fired up. It’s tough to score in this league.”
On his goal: “[Staal] was screaming for it. Staalsy was banging his stick, so I had to move it down there otherwise I would have heard it forever (kidding). He was calling for it and I just decided to jump through, try to do like Spurgeon does all the time. I watch him every day in practice. It worked out. He gave me a nice pass and I was glad I got my first goal for the season.”
Staal, who leads the Wild with 38 points in 40 games and has 20 points in the past 14 games, said, “Not too often that’s going to happen. He’s definitely one of the best. I think we caught him on a tough night. They had a big game last night in Winnipeg and tonight, I thought we got stronger as the game went on. They were quick and we capitalized and I think it really to the wind out of their sails as we went. But you don’t score seven on him very often. Great effort by the guys to get better as the game went on.”
There was some chatter out there today that the Wild’s considering bringing Joel Eriksson Ek back from Farjestad before Sunday’s Swedish Elite League roster deadline. I would have figured if the team was truly considering that, it would have brought him back right after the world junior championships.
GM Chuck Fletcher admitted to me that they’ve discussed it internally only because the deadline’s looming, but he still doesn’t think a 19-year-old should play on the fourth line for the Wild and he’s better off in Sweden. He also said bringing him back would be the 49th Wild contract out of 50, which could severely limit the Wild’s flexibility at the trade deadline, and would mean the Wild burns the first year of his contract (which doesn’t concern him as much).
If the Wild sustained a serious injury to a center in the next two days, it’d be a no-brainer, but right now, it doesn’t sound Fletcher plans to recall Eriksson Ek for the rest of the season.
Maybe something changes in the next few days, particularly if the Wild suffers a significant injury in Dallas, but as of now, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen.
“We’ve taken a long picture view of this, and I believe that’s the right way to go,” Fletcher said. “But, as Lou Lamoriello says, ‘I’ve got a five-year plan and it changes every day.’”
That’s it for me. Kent Youngblood is covering the game in Dallas (so follow him on Twitter at @bloodstrib), I’m covering the game in Chicago.
Reminder, we’re doing a video podcast at Hell’s Kitchen at 4:15 p.m. Friday. I’ll be on KFAN at 5:55 p.m. as well.
Also, Saturday night during the Stars game, I’ll be on Fox Sports North from their studios during the pregame show, intermissions and postgame show.