If it’s true good teams find ugly ways to win, the Wild’s one awesome team.
If you thought Saturday’s finish against St. Louis was ugly and didn’t catch tonight, the Wild brought it to a new level in the third period.
The Wild built 3-0 and 4-1 lead in the second, but allowed Arizona to turn into a game with an unforced error of sorts by Jared Spurgeon with nine seconds left in the second.
Max Domi, impressive all night, made it 4-2 and you knew things would get tense.
Nate Prosser, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin took minor penalties and the Wild managed a too many men penalty on a power play. The Wild should consider itself lucky the refs caught Steve Downie and Domi hooking the Wild into turnovers in the Wild end twice late to negate power plays and potential point-blank chances on Devan Dubnyk.
Michael Stone made it 4-3 with 4:48 left, but the Wild held on to improve to 3-0 this season. It’s one of five unbeaten teams heading into what is bound to be a tough game Friday night in L.A. The Kings will be desperate and the Wild’s legs could be mush after killing so much in the second half of the game. But the good news is the Wild’s penalty kill, which had allowed three goals in the first two games, went 7 for 7. And, it scored a shortie.
Tonight, Dubnyk (25 saves) got his 100th win, Zach Parise scored a goal (his league-leading fifth goal and third on the power play) and assist to extend his point streak against Arizona to 12 games, Thomas Vanek scored his 300th career goal for real this time, Mikko Koivu scored his 10th career shorthanded goal (four off Wes Walz’s team record and his first in almost four years) and Mikael Granlund scored a gorgeous winning goal 22 seconds after Anthony Duclair made it 4-1. Yes, the winning goal because the Wild nearly melted down late.
“Most of two periods looked a lot like the way that we should be playing the game,” Yeo said. “It’s nice that we’re 3-0, but we’re still short of playing a full 60-minute game so far.”
Yeo said the Wild started to get sloppy, started to stretch its shifts and got caught up in Steve Downie’s antics and lost their focus. He was just out of control all night.
“Another good lesson for us,” Yeo said.
Yeo said, “We weren’t real pleased with the way the third period went, but to build the lead, to get four goals again tonight and we needed that game from our penalty kill. That was huge.”
Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Nino Niederreiter had tough nights. Jason Zucker was solid and his hustle, along with a nice play by Marco Scandella, helped create Koivu’s big shortie.
“Great play by [Zucker],” Koivu said.
So much has been made about the young guys all preseason, but Parise is off to a torrid start, Koivu was solid tonight, Vanek now has two goals (he took an elbow or stick to the mouth in the second period and was unavailable after the game to talk about Goal No. 300 because of it), Ryan Suter has been terrific.
Yeo said the veterans have been “huge.”
One concern may be Dubnyk. He has allowed nine goals in three games and was very shaky in the third. Fans on Twitter bemoaned the second goal he allowed with nine seconds left in the second, but to me, that’s still on Jared Spurgeon. He gloved the puck right to Max Domi, fell over himself and suddenly Dubnyk has Domi in front of him in the final seconds when he never could have expected that play to develop.
Regardless though, as you know, I thought Dubnyk was shaky in Colorado even when it was 0-0 and tonight through the third everything bounced off him and he was late with reads, it appeared. It just seemed like he was hanging on, like the team in front of him.
“I’m not worried about him,” Yeo said. “He’s got three wins. Like our team, there hasn’t been perfection there. We’ve got time to keep working on things, and that’s our focus.
Dubnyk was happy with win No. 100, saying, “Hopefully a lot more to come.”
On the Wild playing so poorly in the third, Dubnyk said, “It’s tough to say. It’s the way the game goes sometimes. We were able to build ourselves a lead. It’s not that you want to have it finish that way, but we put ourselves in a position that we just needed to make sure we held on.
“We found the way to do that. When you score four goals halfway through the game, we can get away from that once in awhile.”
Parise said the penalty trouble just made them lose their flow. “They got a little better and we got a little sloppier.”
Koivu said, “For sure, we’ve got to be better than the way we finished the game. But a road win is always good, especially the first one of a road trip.”
Justin Fontaine assisted on Vanek’s 300th and was solid on the PK. Big impact on that PK tonight. Jason Pominville had two assists, too.
That’s it for me. 4:30 a.m. car to the airport to get to L.A. for the Kings game.