Jason Zucker's game winner at 8:41 of the second period was enough for Devan Dubnyk to secure his second in a row in a Wild sweater. Dubnyk stopped all but one of the 26 shots he faced as he tallied an assist against his former team.
It was Hockey Day Minnesota across the state. Fans celebrated the sport of hockey and the way the game has intermingled in Minnesota's heritage. With great high school games played on an ice rink in the middle of the tarmac on Holman Field in St. Paul, just two miles away from the Xcel Energy Center, to Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota campus where the Gophers drubbed the Wisconsin Badgers 5-2, then to the Xcel Energy Center where the Wild took on the Arizona Coyotes, Hockey Day Minnesota featured fantastic hockey at all levels across the state.
The Wild jumped on the Coyotes and dominated play with their suffocating forecheck. Mike Smith, the Coyotes' starting goaltender, had to make some really tough saves early to keep his team in the game. Minnesota jumped out to 15 shots on goal in the first period. The Wild finally broke through Smith when Nino Niederreiter pushed through the Coyotes defensemen and got the puck to Charlie Coyle for the go-ahead goal. Coyle had appeared to be the kind of player the Wild and their fans have been hoping for. He was strong on his stick and threw his body around while making tough plays. It was good he got rewarded.
In the second period, things got a little chippy. Four roughing minors were handed out at the 6:50 mark of the second period to Coyle, Michael Stone, Nate Prosser, and Kyle Chipchura. Just a few ticks under two minutes after the penalties, Devan Dubnyk rimmed the puck out of the zone to Jason Zucker. Zucker then passed it to Justin Fontaine as they entered the zone. Fontaine then chipped it to Zucker who blew past his defender and sent a backhander over the glove of Smith for the 2-0 lead.
Mikko Koivu would take a slashing penalty and the Coyotes' Antoine Vermette would scored on a rebound off the post.
The third period saw the Wild much more resigned to sit on their lead and hope to counter-attack. Dubnyk had to hold strong, but you could see the confidence in the team building off of his ability. No one thought Dubnyk was going to come in here as the next Tuuka Rask or Pekka Rinne, but he has provided stability in the position that the Wild haven't seen since November. That's the important thing, because the goaltending woes were visibly weighing on the team's psyche.
After the Dave Tippett pulled Smith with just over a minute remaining in favor of the extra-attacker, Zach Parise would seal the win with an empty-net goal. It would be the Wild's first time stringing two wins together since November 16th and 20th. Other than the final 15 minutes, the Wild played a stellar game with their aggressiveness and a solid forecheck. We saw a team that looked willing to fight for their season.
Hockey Day Minnesota was completed and the win was a perfect punctuation on the day.