A few days after Devan Dubnyk said he couldn’t come in with the mind-set that he has to win the Wild a game … Dubnyk won the Wild a game.
The puck seemed as if it was in the Wild’s zone for 120 minutes of the 60-minute game, but Dubnyk hoisted the Wild back into the second wild-card spot during a hang-on-for-dear-life 2-1 victory over the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings should have paid rent to Xcel Energy Center for the amount of time they spent in Minnesota’s end. To illustrate how much the ice was tilted, the Wild had four shot attempts — not shots on goal but shot attempts — in the first period. The final shot attempts in favor of Los Angeles was 74-32, but Dubnyk made a season-high 38 saves to improve to 8-1-1 in his past 10 decisions.
He stopped 13 of 13 shots in the third period against the NHL’s leader in third-period comebacks (eight).
“He basically single-handedly got us the win,” said Erik Haula, who extended his career-long point streak to six games with a first-period goal.
The Wild defended hard (19 blocked shots, five from Jonas Brodin), but the Kings peppered the Wild throughout. Dubnyk robbed defenseman Jake Muzzin of the tying goal with 3½ minutes left, triggering the crowd to “DUUUUUUU” louder than it has all season. He also flashed the glove twice on defenseman Drew Doughty, the second one emphatically on a second-period power play.
Dubnyk gave Doughty a wry smile after that one.
“He was giving me a hard time because that was twice I was waving [the glove exaggeratedly] around on him,” Dubnyk said. “I said, ‘The first one might have been a little much, but I had to on the second one.’ ”
As defenseman Ryan Suter said, “We didn’t have it [Tuesday],” but as even displeased coach John Torchetti said, two points are two points and the Wild moved a point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, which has a game in hand and will continue to through Saturday’s Wild-Avs showdown in Denver.
How many scoring chances did Torchetti chart for the Wild?
During a week in which a Finnish TV crew from Viasat, Finland, is in Minnesota filming a 24/7-type show titled “Leijonat Inside” on likely World Cup captain Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Haula (Granlund has been chosen to the team, Haula has a shot to be), Haula and Koivu scored.
Twelve seconds after the Wild killed off a Haula penalty early in the first period, Haula buried Charlie Coyle’s pass for a 1-0 lead with a sweeping backhander from the slot.
Torchetti, who 10 years ago was the Kings’ interim coach, has coached the Wild 19 games (12-6-1). Haula has seven goals and 16 points after scoring only five goals and 14 points in the first 49 games.
The Wild’s power play had a tough time all game, but Koivu scored after Suter made a good play sliding right after Muzzin’s clearing attempt hit teammate Tyler Toffoli. Ten of Koivu’s 17 goals have come on the power play, which is a career high and is tied for 14th in the NHL.
“Difficult when you look up at the clock and there are eight shots and you’re down 2-0,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
Toffoli cut the deficit to 2-1, but Dubnyk was tremendous from there. The Wild had 18 shots, 12 through two periods.
“I thought he was big, competitive and wanted to win and show the team he was going to carry us through that game,” Torchetti said. “We didn’t get the play that we wanted in front of him, but he was fun to watch because he really competed.”