The Minnesota Wild get two big points as it tries to keep pace with the Colorado Avalanche for the final Western Conference wild card spot. With goals from David Jones, Jason Zucker and a shootout goal from Parise, the Wild gain in important victory on home ice, where the home cooking hasn't been too kind on the spectator's stomachs.
The Wild came out with a bit more buzz than in past games, hoping to get a win on home ice - something it hasn't done often in the 2016 calendar year. David Jones was moved up to Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula's line and Jones looked very good. He was crashing the net hard, and came close to giving the Wild a lead twice. We've said it for awhile now - Niederreiter makes his linemates better. Period. Devan Dubnyk, getting the start after getting the hook in New Jersey on the Thursday, made a couple good saves, the most challenging one was one that seemed to flutter on net through a bunch of bodies that Dubnyk didn't pick up until the very last minute as he slammed close his five hole. Minnesota was able to kill a Mike Reilly high sticking minor, only surrendering two shots on goal. But the they got a grand total of zero shots on goal in their only opportunity of the period after Charlie Coyle drew his 31st penalty of the season when Ron Hainsey decided to hold him.
The center ice logo was set up for the Big Ten hockey tournament, where the championship game between the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers take on the University of Michigan Wolverines later on Saturday. Wild prospects Nolan De Jong and Nicolas Boka will take on fellow Wild prospects Nick Seeler and Jack Sadek for the Big Ten Tournament title. With 19,044 people in the building, it's probably the most people in attendance of an arena with the Big Ten hockey logo at center ice, considering the putrid attendance numbers from the semifinal games on Friday.
As Star Tribune writer Michael Russo pointed out on twitter, the Wild isn't finishing checks. Watching closer, and they were really soft on the body. More on that later. The Wild's best line of the day through two periods was the line of Jones - Erik Haula -Niederreiter, as that line played with possession, speed, and size to play in the offensive zone. Niederreiter was able to let go his #SillyHard wrist shot from the left circle, only to be denied by Cam Ward. Jason Zucker was using his speed to create chances. He just missed a back hander while being hooked on the play. Minnesota couldn't muster a goal on the power play, and Matt Dumba took a cross checking penalty as the WIld power play expired. After another successful kill, the Wild tried to wing the momentum back in its favor. After a shot was stopped by Ward, Niederreiter won a battle at the side of the net and kicked the puck to his stick. Upon coming around the other side of the net, he found Haula in the slot. Ward made the initial save on Haula's shot, but David Jones took a couple whacks at the rebound for the score.
But, it would be the Wild's Charmin Ultra Soft play on the body that would come back to bite. Justin Fontaine was battling along the boards in the offensive zone on the near side. But rather than forcing his man into the glass and taking him off the puck, the puck was easily rimmed around to the other side where Noah Hanifin got the puck up to Chris Terry on a 2-on-1 break with Matt Dumba defending. Terry took the shot and beat Dubnyk in the top corner above the glove to tie the game. The Wild had allowed the Hurricanes to breakout with relative ease all day, and this time it cost 'em big time.
Jason Zucker came out of the locker room by initiating a check deep in the Hurricanes' zone. After getting taken down behind the net, he beat his man to the front of the net and was able to score 16 seconds into the period after Mikko Koivu's shot was stopped by Ward. After getting scratched for a few games in a row, it's huge to have him get a goal. With a 2-1 lead late, a bout of bad defensive zone coverage allowed a shot get through to Dubnyk, who punched it out to Jordan Staal for the game-tying goal. Both teams were awfully close to getting the tie breaker, but both Ward and Dubnyk were strong.
In overtime, the Wild failed to get a shot on goal until the final minute when Nino made a headman pass to Erik Haula to spring him for a partial breakaway. It was Niederreiter's only time on the ice in the 3v3 OT session, and he made something big happen. For being arguably the best player on the ice for the Wild the entire game, to not see him for overtime until under a minute left is befuddling. Elias Lindholm got a breakaway with Mikko Koivu busting his tail to get back to cut him off, he tried a spin-o-rama that Dubnyk had to make magnificent save on as the final buzzer sounded.
The trios for overtime:
- Coyle - Koivu - Suter
- Granlund - Parise - Spurgeon
- Zucker - Haula - Dumba
- Coyle - Koivu - Suter
- Parise - Granlund - Brodin
- Niederreiter - Haula - Suter
- Parise - Koivu - Suter
In the shootout, Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise scored, while Dubnyk made two big saves to give the Wild a 3-2 shootout victory.
Minnesota picked up a much needed two points in the standings and now trail the Colorado Avalanche by one point. The line of 22-56-X will need to help lead the way with more games like today's game.