GLENDALE, Ariz. – After captain Mikko Koivu cut the Wild’s deficit in half, scoring on the power play in the second period, the TV camera caught Koivu yelling in the direction of Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper.
Winger Jason Zucker, who was in the celebration huddle with Koivu, also turned and shouted.
Yet another comeback, this one of the 4-3 variety Saturday against the Coyotes at Gila River Arena, was the most impressive feat of the night by the Wild.
But it wasn’t the only interesting one.
So was the commentary.
“I try and stay out of that for karma,” said defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who had a pair of assists. “But some guys had fun with it. But he was here for so long and everyone has a good relationship with him so once you get into the game, it’s pretty fun.”
Kuemper was drafted by the Wild in the sixth round in 2009 and went on to play 102 regular-season games with the organization from 2013 until 2017 when his standing with the team became shaky. Struggles opened the door for Alex Stalock to earn face time with the Wild and ultimately paved the way for a fresh start elsewhere for Kuemper.
After a stop in Los Angeles, the 29-year-old has resurrected his career in Arizona.
“I’m sure Kuemps would still like to beat us,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “His last year we probably weren’t as good to him as we should have been. But he’s gone and became one of the best goalies in the league numbers-wise. So he probably likes to beat us pretty good.”
Zucker said the talk with Kuemper was all in good fun.
“I’m a big fan of Kuemps,” Zucker said. “He’s a good friend of mine, so he’s been playing great here for these guys. I’m happy for him. But yeah, there’s always a little bit of jabbering going on.”
But not everyone felt the back-and-forth was an enjoyable accessory to the game.
“I don't want to say anything about that,” Koivu said. “To me it's not fun what happened. It is what it is. Leave it at that.”
Goalie Devan Dubnyk wasn’t paying attention to the chatter, and he looked locked in as the Wild rallied.
After the Coyotes scored their third and final goal, Dubnyk made 20 of his 32 saves consecutively to stifle Arizona’s attack.
“I started feeling a little more settled in the second,” said Dubnyk, who was making his first start in a week. “It's funny. When things are the way they are and then you sit for a couple [games], you start getting a little more antsy than you should be. I just told myself to wait for pucks and wait until the play develops and then go. Don't try to be guessing what's going to happen before it happens. I started to feel that even before they scored the third goal.”
It seemed fitting that winger Ryan Hartman was the one to clinch the result for the Wild after he was kicked out of the comeback attempt Thursday, getting a slashing major and misconduct for his whack against the Sharks’ Evander Kane in the third period.
Hartman also moved up the lineup to the third unit once winger Luke Kunin was ruled out due to food poisoning. His goal was his first game-winner with the Wild since he joined the team in the summer as a free-agent signee.
“He put it away there in the third for us,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “That's awesome. He's a guy that's been great for us this year in the sense of being gritty and tenacious. Every day he comes to the rink and works hard and pushes guys. He's an awesome addition.”
Although the team has found a knack on this trip for coming from behind – and playing its best when it’s chasing – the Wild realizes it must stop falling behind.
But maybe winning in this fashion will give the team the confidence it needs to string together a complete, 60-minute effort.
“We showed some good character being able to come back and keep ourselves in the game,” Hartman said. “Duby made some great saves there at the end of the first to keep us in it, and we battled back for him.”