I always try to help out by lowering expectations, which is why I tweeted before the game that the Wild was 1-9-1 since 2003 in its annual day before Thanksgiving game.
I’ll save the day after Thanksgiving tweet for Friday.
Wild, 3-1 victors tonight against the Winnipeg Jets. Give my gamer a read please, but...
As Jets coach Paul Maurice said, “We were just about an inch shy on just about everything that happened for us tonight.”
Well said. He was referring to the fact that it was a Jets penalty killer that deflected in Jonas Brodin’s point shot for a 2-0 Wild lead and it was Nikolaj Ehlers’ skate that was about an inch off the ice as the Jets entered the zone before Blake Wheeler thought he tied the game at 1-1 before Brodin’s goal.
But for the second time in three home games, Bruce Boudreau challenged and, like the Boston game, the Jets were indeed offside entering the zone and Wheeler’s goal (he eventually scored anyway to trim a 2-0 lead to 2-1) was overturned.
“It was a hard fought game,” Maurice said. “There were only moments of open play, really. Both teams were competing pretty hard on that puck and it was hard to get pucks to the net. The margin for error there was real small.”
The Jets are 0-4 on their five-game trip, and the Wild held them to 16 shots despite a couple bigtime talented forwards and one Big Buff on the back end.
Big win for the Wild because instead of falling out of the top-8, the Wild inched back out of a wildcard spot and into third in the Central. That’s somewhat significant because almost 80 percent of teams since 2000 that are in a playoff spot on Thanksgiving Day end up reaching the playoffs.
Mikko Koivu snapped a 0-0 tie with 59 seconds left in the second period when Boudreau made a little line shuffling. With Jason Zucker going well, Boudreau elevated Zucker to the Koivu line and dropped Tyler Graovac to the fourth line.
Koivu didn’t even realize he was on their line until they were leaving the D zone. Zucker chipped the puck deep, Zucker was first in on the forecheck, Mikael Granlund came to help out and Zucker sent a bouncing puck to the slot and Koivu potted his first goal since Oct. 27. It was Zucker’s first point in 10 games.
Granlund now has a point in nine of his past 14 games, which is pretty, pretty good considering the Wild’s goal scoring issues.
Koivu was impressed with the job Zucker and Granlund did on the forecheck, saying, “I think to key to that is it was not just one. They both went. … With their speed, it makes a difference. They really wanted that puck and they did a great job obviously.”
On why he moved Zucker up, Boudreau said, “I’ve had a couple good talks with Zucks this week and I thought he was skating. I knew I was going to go down to three lines, so if he was skating and I was going to go down to three lines, I wanted him to play.”
Zucker said, “You’re always trying to contribute to the team in any way you can, and for me, it was nice to get that chance with those two guys. They’re great players and we had a bit of success tonight. I’m not sure what the plan is moving forward, but regardless of where I’m playing, I’m going to be ready to go and try to play the same way every night.”
On how tough a stretch this has been for him, Zucker said, “There’s certain things that you look for in your own game that you want to excel at and keep moving forward with. For me it was about doing those little things right and making sure I was playing to the best of my abilities, skating fast, shooting pucks and battling hard.”
The wiped out Wheeler goal was loco. It seemed like he tipped the shot from behind the net.
On the goal being overturned, Dubnyk said, “It was a nice feeling especially after the tip that defied physics there. I'm still trying to figure out what happened right now. That was a pretty spectacular play by Wheeler but fortunately for us it was offside. I thought he was behind the net. I'm still trying to put the pieces together in my head. We will sleep on that one. I don't think I'll ever figure it out. That was a great play by him. And fortunate for us.”
Boudreau said after the goal was scored, Chris Stewart and Jared Spurgeon instantly said they thought Winnipeg was offside. Boudreau and John Anderson ran to the on-bench TV, and in concert with video coach Jonas Plumb, they challenged and were correct again. It was close.
Zach Parise scored an empty-net goal and had five shots. Take a look at my game notebook in Thursday’s paper, but he’s been sick and obviously hurt lately, so it was a real good sign that he looked so energized tonight.
“I felt a lot better than I did the other night in Dallas. I'm hoping that the sickness is behind and I can keep feeling better and improving,” he said.
On his goal, Parise said, “I thought our line deserved that. We did a lot of good things. We had a lot of good chances. We made a lot of good plays. ... Sometimes we get rewarded with an empty netter. We will take it. I thought as a line we had a really good game.”
Couple other tidbits:
-- Brodin now has five career power-play goals and seven points in 19 games this season. He had seven points in 68 games last season.
“That’s the first time he’s had a chance to play the power play for a while,” Boudreau said. “A very important goal. But his skating is so good, it’s really getting us out of trouble a lot of times. He’s established with him and Folin, a pretty good 3-4 behind Suter and Spurge.”
Because Brodin’s back on the power play and Marco Scandella returned, the Wild reassigned Mike Reilly after the game to Iowa.
-- Granlund’s been great lately. Two more assists tonight, drew the power play before Brodin scored.
Said Boudreau, “I don’t want to talk to him because I just want him to keep doing what he’s doing. Every time he touches the puck, you think he can beat a guy. He’s a pretty special player.”
-- Dubnyk registered his eighth win of the season. He has allowed 13 goals in his past 11 games, stopping 319-of-332 shots in that span for a 1.20 GAA, a .961 SV% and four shutouts since Oct. 25. He is 8-6-1 with a 1.55 GAA, a .948 SV% and four shutouts in 15 starts this season – ranking first amongst NHL goalies with at least 10 games played in GAA and SV% while his 23 goals against this season are tied for the third-fewest.
That’s it for moi. Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Talk Friday, barring news. Planning a cool story for Friday’s paper.