DENVER – With tensions still understandably high inside the Wild locker room after Colorado Avalanche antagonist Cody McLeod jumped and drove Mikael Granlund to the ice with three seconds left in Saturday night’s game, then fought Charlie Coyle once Coyle jumped to his teammate’s defense, Mike Yeo emerged with a reality check.
“Once the dust settles, we’ll be able to sit back and realize that was a really big win for us,” the Wild coach said after a 3-1 victory — the Wild’s seventh in nine road games — to gain a three-point cushion on the second Western Conference wild-card position.
Frustrations boiled over for the Avalanche after it dropped a fourth consecutive game this season (outscored 12-1) to the Wild. Devan Dubnyk was again rock solid with 33 saves, the only goal allowed being a questionable one that the Wild felt should have been waved off by referees Chris Rooney and Dean Morton.
The performance put an exclamation point on Dubnyk’s tremendous February, one that earned him the NHL’s first star of the month honors Sunday. Dubnyk, the first Wild player in history to be named player of the month, went 11-2-1 in February with a 1.69 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and three shutouts. He started all 14 games and allowed two or fewer goals in 11 of those games.
“I feel bad for Duby,” Yeo said after the victory. “I thought Duby was great right from the start of the game, and it’s a shame. I didn’t feel that their goal should have counted. I felt that he was clearly pushed into the net [by McLeod]. It would have been nice for him to get the shutout.”
It was a nasty game at times with McLeod running around the ice and running his mouth all game. Nathan MacKinnon broke his nose in the third period when checked by Sean Bergenheim. The new Wild forward’s helmet accidentally brushed MacKinnon’s face, but the NHL determined Sunday the check was clean.
However, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, captain Gabriel Landeskog and McLeod are all expected to be fined by the NHL for the antics Yeo called “garbage” in the waning seconds. The league feels Roy needlessly put McLeod on the ice that late shift, and his response was to create havoc.
Coyle called going after Granlund “just a stupid play on [McLeod’s] part.”
Then, during a heated exchange, Landeskog reached across the bench to swipe respective captain Mikko Koivu’s face, a no-no in the NHL. Koivu and Landeskog had several nasty run-ins during last year’s playoffs.
“I’d probably be frustrated too if we played a team and hadn’t scored on them in four games except on a dump-in,” Zach Parise said, grinning, after the game.
Despite everything, Yeo said, “In an emotional type of game, we did a good job of keeping our focus, and I really think that was the difference in the end.”
Dubnyk was especially impressed the way the Wild brushed off the disputed tying goal. Erik Haula, who has two goals and two assists and is plus-5 the past two games, set up Justin Fontaine for the eventual winning goal. Then, in the third period, Jason Pominville stopped a seven-game drought with one of his six shots.
“For us to respond like that after a goal that probably shouldn’t have counted, that’s a sign of a great hockey team,” Dubnyk said.
The Wild closes the season series with Colorado on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. It should be a doozy of a game after Saturday’s petulance.
“We just wanted to stay levelheaded and get the win,” defenseman Nate Prosser said. “We just wanted to make sure we were focused on getting the win before getting any extracurricular stuff.”