The Wild matched franchise records with its 48th win and 104th point Thursday night with a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche after the ole switcheroo in the waning moments.
Time: 74 seconds left.
Situation: Christian Folin’s in the penalty box for cross-checking. Avs coach Jared Bednar pulls Calvin Pickard for a 6-on-4. Goalmouth scramble, Devan Dubnyk topples back, and Sven Andrighetto scores.
Veteran referee Brad Watson waves off the goal.
The Avs are ticked, the three officials huddle – three officials because Minnesota-based linesman Ryan Galloway was struck by a puck on his jaw in the first period – and Watson grabs the headset to talk to the NHL Situation Room to discuss.
Toronto rules good goal.
Amazingly, even though referees were just instructed to make their ruling and not discuss with anybody, Watson converses with Ryan Suter and Gabriel Landeskog for more than a minute before even signaling a decision. Then, with his microphone broken, Watson announces – we presume – good goal.
With 1:14 left, Bruce Boudreau had the right to challenge. If it were less than a minute, the NHL Situation Room – the same folks who just ruled good goal – would have had to bizarrely initiate the challenge and buzz down again for Watson now to take a look himself if there was goalie interference.
Boudreau challenged because Nathan MacKinnon pushed Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin into Dubnyk. Dubnyk’s helmet was smacked hard, he fell and the puck entered the net.
Watson looked at the replay himself and through the same broken mic overturned the goal that he initially waved off in the first place seven minutes earlier.
Avs fans – drowned out much of the game by tons of Wild fans – booed for the final 74 seconds.
“It was a pretty crazy,” Dubnyk said. “I’m glad they got the call right on the goalie interference. I don’t know if the rule’s changed on the intent to blow the whistle. (RUSSO NOTE: As far as I know, it has). That’s what I didn’t understand at first because I can see on the video that [Watson’s] trying to blow the whistle. But it was the right call. The puck was sitting between my knees, and I was looking at it, and then MacKinnon knocks [Brodin] into me, so I’m glad they got the call right even though the fans don’t agree. But it was the right call.”
Dubnyk went on to become the first Wild goalie in history to win 40 games. Only four NHL goalies will hit that mark this season.
“Not a lot of guys each year get to 40 wins,” said Dubnyk, who made 30 saves. “It's a good bar to set. I thought I was going to get a little higher at the beginning of March. It took a little longer to get to 40 than I planned on (laughs). If you told me at the start of the year that I was going to finish with 40 wins I'd probably say, 'Yeah, sure.’”
Saturday at Arizona, with Darcy Kuemper in net, the Wild will have a chance to win its franchise-record 49th game for a franchise-record 106 points.
Also, the Blues and Preds each won, so it’s not set in stone yet that the Wild’s playing St. Louis. The Blues have two games left, the Preds one. The Blues have one more point than Nashville.
Also, Anaheim won. So it’s not set in stone that the Wild will finish second overall in the West. That’s big because if the Wild, say, faces Chicago in the second round and wins the series, Minnesota would have home-ice in the conference final if it were against the Ducks.
As for this game, Jason Zucker, who missed the previous three games with an injury, returned and scored 10 seconds in on a wraparound to tie his own team record for fastest goal to start a game. He also has the team’s fastest goal to start a period (eight seconds).
“That was a lucky play,” Zucker, the University of Denver alum, said. “The goalie (Calvin Pickard), he kind of hesitated a bit so I thought I could jump on it. Great play by Chuckie (Coyle), getting it in and a fortunate bounce. … I don’t know if there’s a better way to start a game, I thought that was good.”
Nate Prosser, the Colorado College product, made it 2-0 with his second goal in three games after another nice play by Coyle. Prosser demolished the puck.
In the second though, Tyson Jost – just signed out of UND, scored his first NHL goal – a beauty roof shot off a touch pass from fellow UND alum Rocco Grimaldi.
Thirty seconds later, the nightly Erik Johnson cheap shot when he faces the Wild, this time on Jason Pominville, who had to leave the game for several minutes. Ryan White jumped to Pominville’s defense and fought Johnson, and somehow White got the only extra two. The Wild killed the penalty but it felt like it spent the rest of the second on the penalty kill.
Finally, Francois Beauchemin scored from a bad angle on Dubnyk.
But in the third, Eric Staal teed up Nino Niederreiter’s 25th goal for a 3-2 lead, then Mikael Granlund scored his 26th goal and is a point from becoming the Wild’s first 70-point scorer since 2009-10. He just ripped a shot off the far post and in.
“Well I just got there and didn't see anything else I could do,” Granlund said. “Just threw it to the net. I don't know how it went in. It's kind of lucky. I don't even know if I was trying to score. Just throwing it in there. I'm glad it went in.”
But, then Matt Nieto scored a crazy goal trying to center a pass from the half wall to J.T. Compher. It deflected in off a sliding Prosser.
Great dissection from Dubnyk here: “Me and Pross were just talking about it, I don’t think you can reenact that goal if you tried a thousand times, I mean everything from, I don’t know where the puck came out of him, but if you watch too, his skate perfectly drags and stops my foot from getting to the post and then the puck rolls right in that four inches. Those are, you just sweep it up and keep going.”
Then, the play with 74 seconds left.
So, Wild win a third game in a row for the first time since January and improved to 15-4-2 in its past 21 at Colorado and 11-3-1 record in its past 15 overall against the Avalanche.
“It was an ugly game, that’s for sure,” Niederreiter said. “It was weird off the get go, obviously we get the early one with Zucker there, 1-0, then it was 2-0 and we knew they were going to come back, we knew it was their last home game of the season. They came back, then we started playing too fancy or too cute and it kind of backfired on us again. Found a way to win the game at the end of the day, but it wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.”
Boudreau continues to be thrilled with Niederreiter-Staal-Parise, saying, “I’m really happy with that whole line, quite frankly. They started the third period by getting some zone time and getting some opportunities and then they finally got rewarded.”
On the Zucker goal, Boudreau said, “That’s what we wanted to do as far as a planned play. I didn’t expect it to go in the net, but that was a planned play to get it deep.”
On Dubnyk, Boudreau said of guys like Suter blocking six shots, “Yeah, we have to play for the goalie and we have to play ... that’s three in a row for him and to gain confidence because he’s the guy that, in the end, is going to win it for you. I mean, if your goaltender isn’t confident and isn’t playing at the top of his game, it’s hard to win in the playoffs.”
On the Pominville play, “I thought it wasn’t a good hit, but I was glad to see Whitey went in and challenged him right away. That’s what good teams do.”
That’s it for me.
Wild has Friday off in the Valley of the Sun. Barring news, no blog as I grind on my Sunday stuff and next week’s playoff coverage.
I’ll be on KFAN at some point during Dan Barreiro’s show.