Two days after Kyle Brodziak, Erik Haula and Jonas Brodin helped him kill a game-turning 5-on-3 disadvantage in Nashville, goalie Devan Dubnyk was still lauding the job the Wild penalty killers did in Minnesota's come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory.
"The guys had huge courage there, which is not easy to do with Nashville's bombs from back there," Dubnyk said. "Brods whacked one out of the air, Hauls was in every lane and Brodzy standing in front of [Shea] Weber's shot when he's skating into it like it's the hardest-shot competition."
The Wild is 6-for-7 on 3-on-5s this season, and most impressive about Tuesday's kill is the Wild had gone 33 consecutive games without having to kill one. But there was no sign of rust.
Dubnyk and Brodziak said the key to 5-on-3s is to almost concede the easy shots but stay in passing lanes to break up cross-seam one-timers and backdoor tap-ins and to clear rebounds because many 5-on-3 goals come off scrambles.
"There a few key points," Brodziak said. "One huge one is the D down low never allowing that cross-crease pass to go across because those are basically automatic. Up top, you have to recognize the biggest threat. Nashville, you know they're looking to set up Weber for one-timers, so you try to stay close to him so he's not as comfortable. Other than that, it's keeping it tight, not running around and making every pass they want to make difficult."
Brodziak and Haula kill together on a lot of 5-on-4 situations, "so we have great communication and chemistry," Haula said. "It's all about reading and reacting because if you're half a second too late on a 5-on-3, it's going to be in the back of your net."
The Wild possesses the NHL's top-ranked penalty kill, one that killed 64 of 67 opportunities in the past 25 games. Haula, who has 13 points in 64 games, has embraced the penalty kill and hopes it keeps him in the lineup when injured forwards such as Ryan Carter return.
"Everyone has a role on the team, and even though certain areas this season haven't gone as expected, that's something I take pride in and one area I feel has been consistent all year," Haula said.
The Wild entered Thursday's game against Washington having drawn two or fewer power plays in 12 of the past 17 games, including none twice. It would have been 13 in 18 if the Wild didn't draw a third power play with 1.9 seconds left in a 3-2 loss Thursday. That's surprising for a team that's 21-6-2 since Jan. 15 (23rd since in power plays generated).
"We've been playing some pretty good hockey, and I always believe the more time you spend in the offensive zone, the more time you spend with the puck, generally you're going to draw more penalties," Yeo said. "That's when it's frustrating. You feel you have the puck the majority of the time, yet the other team seems to be going on the power play."
Former Gophers sharpshooting defenseman Nate Schmidt, a native of St. Cloud, played his first game for the Capitals at Xcel Energy Center. He looked forward to playing in front of family and friends, although it was to be expensive: "It's the price you pay being the hometown guy."
Schmidt played tour guide on the way to the arena from the Caps' Minneapolis hotel and "showed everyone a specific campus and explained the beauty of it. It was hard to do it justice from the bus, and [former UMD Bulldog Matt Niskanen] wasn't having any of it."
After Matt Dumba's overtime winner against Nashville, Zach Parise took his mouth guard out and yelled at Weber during a flyby to the victory pile of Wild players.
Asked what he said, Parise said, laughing: "Nothing you want to write. We were just going after each other all game. You reach your boiling point. I think he reached his, too."