It really couldn’t have been a better game for the Minnesota Wild. They owned the puck, the shot counter, and even had a lead with just over 10 minutes to go in the game with the league’s best goaltender. Things were looking positive for Minnesota.
Then a fluky goal squirted through the post and Devan Dubnyk’s pad just 22 seconds after Erik Haula’s first goal in seven games re-gained the Wild the one goal lead. Then Beau Bennett took advantage of a puck in the slot and shot through three Wild defenders and Dubnyk to put the Devils on top for good.
Minnesota jumped out to a 1-0 lead and dominated the pace, and the shots with a 15-6 margin. The one goal came during a power play when Jared Spurgeon made an amazing, highlight reel goal by batting the puck out of mid-air. Spurgeon was the one who drew the penalty after taking a dangerous shove into the end boards by Devante Smith-Pelly. It was sweet revenge
The Devils gave a little push in the second, but it was quelled when Mikael Granlund recovered the puck at the Wild line on the backcheck and turned and forwarded the puck along to Jason Zucker, who had to skate out of the way of the referee that had fallen in front of him. Zucker shot a backhander off the far post and in. Minnesota got a little loose and with Mikko Koivu in the box for a hooking minor, Pavel Zacha scored with a shot that beat Dubnyk. It was a great play by Kyle Palmeiri to fake the shot and make a pass to the open Zacha while the Wild were caught puck watching. MInnesota finished with an 11-8 shot advantage in the period and a two period total of 26-14.
New Jersey was physical. They took the body to the Wild, especially after the Wild dominated first period. Jonas Brodin took a big hit in the second around the five minute mark and did not return. Bruce Boudreau said Brodin suffered a broken finger after the game. Charlie Coyle also took a heavy hit and limped down the tunnel near the end of the period, but came back out for the third.
Nino Niederreiter was a man among boys in the game. He had a lot of jump, perhaps more than the entire team did throughout the duration of the game. He had a shift in the first period where Corey Schneider stopped him on three shots, and the fourth hitting the post all coming within three feet of the blue paint of the goal crease.
Nino also factored in the Erik Haula go-ahead goal after Adam Henrique tied the game with a snipe over the blocker of Dubnyk. Niederreiter didn’t see a shooting lane as he entered the zone. Instead of blindly shooting, he circled back and went to the point for Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s shot hit Coyle at the top of the crease, and Haula found the puck and put it behind Schneider.
Corey Schneider played very, very well. He was the main reason the game didn’t get out of hand for the Devils in the first period. Yes, the Wild put three goals in, but two were great individual plays, and another was a rebound off a shot that hit bodies out front. Schneider made 32 saves on 35 shots.
Devan Dubnyk was not happy with his game. He said they, “Threw away the game.” The Palmeiri game-tying goal right after Haula got the lead back for his Wild squad is likely one he’d want to have back. He played it right, just like most, if not all, goaltenders would play it, but somehow, the puck had eyes. Normally the Wild are able to lock down the defensive zone, but, “...did some uncharacteristically dumb things on all their goals,” as the head coach put it.
Minnesota couldn’t mount a comeback because they couldn’t get Dubnyk out of the net until 37 seconds remained in the game. New Jersey kept a forecheck up that bottle up the Wild on their side of the center red line. Minnesota has lost just its fifth game at home in regulation all year, which is a testament to how good they’ve been this season.
If the Wild are without Brodin for an elongated chunk of time, it’ll be interesting to see if Nate Prosser slots in, or if the Wild makes a call-up from Iowa. Gustav Olofsson more closely exhibits the skill set of Brodin, while Mike Reilly is able to move the puck forward and jump into the rush. However, Reilly has struggled this year in Iowa. A big key in why the Wild has been so good this season has been the overall health of this team. Navigating this Brodin injury, no matter how much time he misses, will be tricky.