With 37 victories and 80 points in 55 games, this season’s Wild is the fastest ever to reach those thresholds and is, amazingly, one win and seven points from last season’s 82-game totals.
The latest victory, a 6-3 pounding of Detroit at Xcel Energy Center, didn’t feel like a 6-3 game. The Red Wings made life difficult on the Western Conference-leading Wild, three times going from two goals down to one down before the Wild finally pulled away late.
“It was ugly,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It was a really sloppy game for both teams.”
But a win’s a win, and the highest-scoring team in the West got a bunch of terrific offensive performances in scoring at least five goals for 12th time in the past 28 games. The Wild has picked up points in 29 of its past 33 games (26-4-3).
Zach Parise, one game after Boudreau said he never saw a player work harder without being rewarded, scored twice, including the Wild’s third power-play goal of the game. Charlie Coyle scored a beautiful goal and had an assist.
Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville each had two assists, as did Gustav Olofsson, the first two points of the rookie defenseman’s NHL career.
Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter also scored power-play goals, defenseman Christian Folin scored and Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves for his league-leading 31st victory. He is 24-3-2 in his past 29 starts.
Dubnyk was victimized by a couple of fluky goals, but he could have been sharper and joked, “Sometimes I’ve got to let them know they’re going to need six.”
The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead with power-play goals 2:46 apart by Granlund and Niederreiter. Koivu, four points shy of 600, set up both with beautiful passing plays, one with defensive defenseman Nate Prosser taking a briefly injured Jared Spurgeon’s place on the second unit.
After Prosser assisted on Niederreiter’s team-high 19th goal, he kiddingly told teammates during the celebration line at the bench, “It’s an easy game when you’re on the power play.”
Spurgeon was getting stitches on his left cheek because skilled Detroit winger Gustav Nyquist tomahawked the defenseman in the face with the blade of his stick in retaliation for an uncalled cross-check. Spurgeon went down in a heap of pain, bleeding.
Nyquist was assessed a double-minor, which became a two-minute Wild power play when Chris Stewart earned two for roughing.
“I just don’t understand how that’s not a five-minute penalty,” Dubnyk said. “Obviously he’s not a player that is going to, I want to say do it on purpose except anybody watching the game … it’s a five-minute penalty regardless.”
Anthony Mantha made it 2-1 early in the second after a defensive-zone breakdown, but the lead became two again after Pominville chipped a puck up to Coyle. Coyle corralled the bouncing puck, flew past defenseman Nick Jensen and scored a beauty past Jared Coreau.
Boudreau didn’t like Coyle and Eric Staal, who has one goal and four assists in the past 14 games, in the first period together. So Coyle moved from right wing to center with Parise and Pominville, who was bumped up. Staal was dropped to the third line, with center Erik Haula moving to left wing and Niederreiter to right.
“Charlie wasn’t skating and sometimes on the boards, when he’s playing wing, you don’t skate as much as you do at center,” Boudreau said. “I thought he needed to get his legs moving.”
Henrik Zetterberg made it 3-2, but early in the third, the red-hot Pominville forced Coreau into a turnover and set up Parise’s first of two goals.
“It’s always nice when you feel like you’re doing the right things to get rewarded,” Parise said.
It wasn’t an easy win, but as Coyle said: “We pulled it out. That’s all that matters. A few goals, we’ve got to look at and correct and fix at practice [Monday].”