The Wild won for the sixth time in seven games, eighth in 10 and 14th time in 17 (14-2-1) since the All-Star break by pulling out a 3-2 five-round shootout victory over Ottawa after quickly blowing a 2-0 second-period lead.
Matt Dumba scored both goals in the second period, the first off a great pass by Mikael Granlund after the Wild pressured Erik Karlsson into a turnover. The second goal came on a pinch to the goalmouth where newcomer Chris Stewart set him up.
The Wild promptly gave up the lead in 3 minutes, 43 seconds, but survived a tense third and Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle scored in the shootout. It was Koivu’s 39th of his career, tied for second all-time behind Jonathan Toews. It was Pominville’s 23rd and it was Coyle’s second. Both of Coyle’s shootout goals (the other last year in Winnipeg) have been “determining goals.”
Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves, has allowed 34 goals in 21 consecutive starts (franchise record), is 16-3-1 with the Wild and has a 1.65 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
He was helped in the third period by three posts on one penalty kill, but the Wild’s PK was 4 for 4 and is now 47 for 48 in 17 games since the All-Star break.
The Wild did this by yet again playing with five defensemen. Nate Prosser, who has been so good, was sick and tried to take IV’s before the game because the Wild only has five defensemen on the active roster with Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon hurt. He had to leave after the first period, but Dumba stepped up bigtime, Ryan Suter logged 33:46 (only the second time in 17 games since the break he has topped 30) and Jonas Brodin logged a great 29:18. Christian Folin logged a career-high 21:50 and Jordan Leopold, in his first game, logged 17:19.
“The way guys have stepped up and it’s pretty incredible,” Dubnyk said of the D. “When you’re five defensemen it seems to be every other game, that’s a lot of minutes for guys, especially when the points are as important as they are, they’re crucial minutes. You just got to hope that trend does not continue because we need our guys healthy.”
My game story is a lot about Dumba and his playing with Leopold, so please check that out.
“I told ‘Leo’ that I watched him when I was a young kid in Calgary during that Stanley Cup run,’’ Dumba said. “He was part of that, a big part, and as he was a player that I tried to pattern myself after as a defenseman.
“It’s crazy to be sitting next to him now in an NHL locker room.”
Dumba is coming of age, especially defensively, and Yeo said he loves how he’s maturing defensively, how he has confidence to put him on the ice against anybody and how he is showing he can play big minutes.
Leopold, who had some great offensive shifts and a couple defensive scares, said, “It was an absolute wonderful feeling to come home. Baby steps for me. I haven’t played a lot in the last couple months. You aren’t going to play a perfect game by any means. Anybody that’s ever been traded, it’s not easy to come into a locker room and come in and play a sound game.
“You don’t know personnel as much, you don’t know the systems as much. You’re really just out there trying to read and play hockey.”
On playing more than he thought after being scratched 26 times in Columbus, Leopold said, “I come here at the tail end of my career. Whatever they need me to do, I can do. I’ve played every role on many different teams. It’s about winning games. If it’s playing with young guys, playing with old guys, filling a void when somebody goes down, it’s the game of hockey.”
Asked how he felt after the game, Leopold, 34, said, “My back hurts. It’s been a long 36 hours. Lot of sitting on planes, a lot of sitting in cars. My body’s not what it used to be.”
Dubnyk said it was a tough game because they’re playing a team they’re not familiar with, so “you’re not quite sure.”
No doubt the lines will have to be worked on. Yeo switched Thomas Vanek and Sean Bergenheim in the third, putting Vanek on the Nino Niederreiter-Coyle line because he was not meshing with Koivu and Stewart. But Yeo is very intrigued by Koivu with Stewart and things that can be a formidable duo if given a little time to play together.
Yeo didn’t feel the Wild’s convoluted play was so much about the chemistry being messed with as much as the Wild just getting into trouble by playing east-west against a strong neutral-zone team. That led to turnovers (especially by Zach Parise and Jason Pominville) and counterattacks and momentum. Yeo said he loved the Wild’s game when it went north with speed.
He felt it was just players trying to make something happen in a tight game, and because the outs and puck support wasn’t always spot-on, it made for sloppy play.
Yeo credited the five D for stepping up with Prosser sick. Remember, the hope is Spurgeon can return in Washington, where the Wild plays Thursday. However, the Wild’s not practicing Wednesday, so we’ll see what the status is of Prosser and Spurgeon.
Big game at Washington. The Wild has won seven of nine on the road, but the Capitals are playing great hockey and Alex Ovechkin is just sensational right now. He is lapping the rest of the league from a goal-scoring standpoint, scoring 26 in 29 games since Jan. 1!!!!
Oh, and as Parise pointed out after tonight’s game, they have Nicklas Backstrom, too, who isn’t too shabby.
No practice Wednesday. No blog unless there’s news. I’ll have an advance on the Caps game in Thursday’s paper. Later. I have an early flight to D.C., and if all goes well, I have a tour at the Pentagon!