KANATA, ONTARIO – It’s a road map the Wild would like to ditch, one that steers the team off course and into a hole.
But because it has routinely arrived at the desired destination, as it did again Saturday when the team outlasted the Senators for a 4-3 win at Canadian Tire Centre, the Wild doesn’t mind the journey, even if it can be bumpy.
“We’ve been there a few times this year,” center Charlie Coyle said. “I think we know how to react to it now.”
After overcoming another first-period deficit, the Wild improved to 13-12-2 when yielding the first goal — a perhaps baffling clip considering how valuable momentum can be in today’s NHL.
Experience, though, appears to trump that in the Wild’s case, since the team doesn’t trigger panic mode when it falls behind. Despite getting outplayed early by the Senators, who racked up 15 first-period shots en route to a 1-0 lead, the Wild responded with a businesslike second in which it scored three times to build a 3-2 edge that grew in the third when winger Zach Parise tacked on another.
What can’t be overlooked, though, is the steadiness goalie Devan Dubnyk showed in the first period to prevent the Wild’s climb from getting steeper than a goal.
“If he didn’t play as well as he did, we’d probably be down three at the 10-minute mark, I figure,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Once we got our skating legs, I thought we started to go a little bit.”
Boudreau debuted the line of Parise, Coyle and youngster Luke Kunin out of the holiday break in the attempt to ignite a faster pace, but that hasn’t been the only repercussion from the union.
The three have also been a lightning rod for production, as at least one has had a hand in 11 of the Wild’s past 15 goals.
“We’re just being simple with the puck,” said Kunin, who was a career-high plus-3 Saturday. “I think that’s the main thing. We’re not trying to be too cute with it when we get it, maybe one pass and get it to the net.”
What could help explain the trio’s seemingly instant chemistry is communication. Coyle said the three are constantly chatting — before, during and even after games.
“All of us play that hard-nosed game and like to get to the dirty areas,” Kunin said. “So we just keep doing that, I think we’ll be successful.”
Offense from defense
The Wild’s recent uptick in offense has been assisted by the back end, with defenseman Jared Spurgeon chipping in three goals over the past two games.
“The guys are creating space and making good plays and just trying to be simple,” Spurgeon said. “As a ‘D’ group, we’re just trying to put pucks on the net and let our forwards get to work, and they’re doing a good job of getting to the net.”
Rookie Jordan Greenway’s second-period goal that tied it at 2-2 came after he was moved to the Eric Staal line alongside winger Mikael Granlund, with winger Jason Zucker taking Greenway’s place next to captain Mikko Koivu and winger Nino Niederreiter.
“As soon as it happened, Zucker started skating better and it sort of brought some life,” Boudreau said. “ … So it worked out. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t.”
Instead of congregating in the crease like they usually do to celebrate a victory, Wild players huddled closer to the blue line, where center Eric Fehr was slow to get up after a late shot block helped the Wild hold off the Senators.
“Blocking shots, that’s how you win,” Boudreau said. “Those are the sacrifices and the price you pay.”