A month ago, Devan Dubnyk probably would have started both back-to-back home games this week.
But during those five games the Wild No. 1 goaltender recently missed because of a groin injury, Darcy Kuemper won games and earned coach Mike Yeo’s confidence back.
Tuesday night in the Wild’s final game before the NHL turns the lights out for three days to enjoy the holiday season, last year’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind backup got the nod and came through yet again during a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
Ten days after shutting out the San Jose Sharks, Kuemper handed the Habs their ninth loss in the past 10 games by stopping 24 shots. He improved to 4-0-2 in his past six games (five starts) with a 1.26 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
“It was a week since my last start, so it was nice to get in there and keep the good things going and keep the momentum going forward,” Kuemper said. “You can get into a rhythm, and I’m just trying to keep it right now.”
Jason Pominville scored a first-period goal and Charlie Coyle scored a highlight-reel third-period goal as the Wild avoided its first three-game losing streak of the season. Wild players will head in different directions before resuming the season at home Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One night after letting frustration alter its play against the Dallas Stars, the Wild didn’t break against the Canadiens. That was the case despite two disallowed goals and a stingy opponent that made the Wild fight for every inch.
Both teams played the night before, which made for a mind-numbing game at times.
“It’s not easy. Teams are tired,” Pominville said, “so energy might’ve been low on both sides. But it was one of those nights that whoever was better in the neutral zone was probably going to win, and we did a pretty good job.”
As for the disallowed goals, Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise both had goals in the first and third periods that referee Justin St. Pierre waved off. Both times, the NHL Situation Room agreed, saying video evidence supported the zebra’s call.
In the first instance, even former Wild minor league goalie Mike Condon thought Granlund scored on Nino Niederreiter’s shot. Just when the overhead replay would have shown if the puck completely crossed the goal line, Condon’s pad blocked the view. In Parise’s case, it certainly looked as if he stuffed the puck inside the post.
Parise celebrated like it was in … because he says it was in.
“I mean, come on. It’s 2015. Get some cameras,” Parise said. “There shouldn’t be inconclusive goals anymore. … It’s hard enough to score in the league. You work hard to get chances and score goals, and you feel like you earn one or we earn a couple and it goes against you. That’s frustrating.”
Daniel Carr made it a game soon after by trimming the deficit in half with 7:14 left.
“It’s almost automatic that … they’re going to score shortly after that,” Yeo said.
But the Wild and Kuemper held on to make Coyle’s second goal in two games, after scoring two in the previous 21, stand up as the winner. He came with speed, took the puck to the outside, stickhandled past Nathan Beaulieu and roofed a beauty over Condon’s blocker and under the bar.
“[Red Wings captain] Henrik Zetterberg I think used to do it a lot,” Coyle said. “I used to watch his YouTube videos, and so you try them when you’re younger. Just little things you have in the back of your mind.”