Like all NHL coaches after a long offseason, Mike Yeo is trying hard to get his team to go from summer mode to winter mode.
Two games into this season, even though that has proved to be easier said than done, the Wild is sitting at 2-0 for a second consecutive year after hanging on to beat the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night 3-2 thanks to a strong goaltending performance from Devan Dubnyk in the team’s home opener.
One game after Dubnyk looked rusty in a 5-4, come-from-behind victory at Colorado, Dubnyk stopped 12 of 13 shots in a third period that featured one measly shot by his teammates.
“The other night we found a way through offense,” said Thomas Vanek, whose originally credited 300th career goal in the second period was ultimately changed to a Charlie Coyle winning goal. “Tonight we found a way through goaltending to win a game. Both a little bit different, both ugly.
“We have four days [off] here. I’m sure we’ll put some good work in to make sure we’re better.”
That’s Yeo’s plan. Despite the Wild improving to 13-0-2 all-time in home openers, the Wild coach wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance.
“Third period, it looked like a number of times we forgot to take our smart pills,” he said. “We were just making things hard on ourselves. But all in all, it’s good to be 2-0.”
The subpar play was surprising. Normally trustworthy players didn’t get pucks deep late, committed what Yeo called “silly turnovers,” made poor decisions on the penalty kill and managed the puck and the game situations erratically.
“Just complicating things on ourselves,” Yeo said. “These are little things that you don’t have to think about all summer long when you’re playing shinny hockey. It’s habits we have to build back into the guys.”
Coyle scored two goals, including a highlight-reel, backhanded, top-shelf beauty with eight seconds left in the first period that broke a scoreless tie. Zach Parise scored his fourth goal in two games, including his second power-play goal, and Dubnyk made 30 saves for his 99th career win.
He will get a crack at win No. 100 against his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, on Thursday.
Yeo said if Dubnyk’s Avs’ victory was an “average grade,” then Saturday’s effort was “well above average.”
Dubnyk, a Vezina Trophy finalist and Masterton Trophy winner a season ago who faced only 54 shots in three preseason wins, said it was good to get work. He still wasn’t happy with either goal he allowed to Alex Steen or Vladimir Tarasenko, “but I’m comfortable where I’m at. I’m trying to build. … I said in Colorado, I’ll be happy to win every game 5-4. I probably won’t be getting nominated for any awards, but I’ll have a pretty good record.”
With 18 seconds left in the first period, the Wild got a defensive-zone draw. Yeo threw Coyle on the ice just in case Mikko Koivu got thrown out of the faceoff circle. He didn’t, instead tying up Paul Stastny for Jonas Brodin to gather the loose puck. Brodin threw it ahead for Coyle, who chipped it off the wall behind Carl Gunnarsson.
Coyle raced for the puck and finally his hard forecheck forced Kevin Shattenkirk into a turnover. The only Wild player in the Blues end, Coyle found the puck in the right circle and roofed a backhander over Jake Allen’s glove.
The Blues tied the score early in the second and controlled half the period until taking three straight penalties. That turned the game around. Parise and Coyle scored 21 seconds apart, Coyle’s coming when Vanek tried to bank Ryan Suter’s clanked-post rebound off anybody.
He did: Coyle.
Yeo plans a hard practice Sunday.
“Our only mindset right now is we have to get better,” he said. “It’s nice to win games right now. It’s really important. But if you win 10 games in a row and you don’t get better, then you’re going to still be in a bad spot.”