It wasn’t pretty, and it was harder than it should have been, but the Wild managed a regulation win over the Coyotes with goals from Staal, Niederreiter, Stewart, and Niederreiter.
The first period got off to a hot start with the Wild scoring just 4:39 into the game. Eric Staal gained the offensive zone with Nino Niederreiter (who earned an apple on the play) on his wing and fired a shot past Domingue, who was spelling Mike Smith in goal. Brendan Perlini tied the game just seven minutes later, but the Wild found its second lead when Nino Niederreiter scored on the power play two minutes later. Nino’s goal came on a great feed from behind the net by Mikko Koivu.
Despite all the goals, the first period was rather slow-paced in terms of actual danger, with the two teams only mustering 14 shots betwixt them. Things loosened up in the second period somewhat, with 19 shots combined.
With neither team connecting passes especially well and neither team creating chances, it took over half the period for something to happen. Chris Stewart broke past the Coyote defense and slotted a backhand to put the Wild up 3-1. The lead didn’t last long. 20 seconds later Jakob Chychrun found twine to pull the visitors back 3-2. 30 seconds after that, the Wild’s lead disappeared completely when Jamie McGinn hit a hard shot past Dubnyk from a sharp angle.
Neither was a great goal for the Wild. Chris Stewart had Dubnyk completely screened on Chychrun’s goal, and the Wild failed to clear the zone before McGinn’s. Dubnyk looked completely lost on both, and the Wild’s lead had disappeared in just 50 seconds of play.
The third period was a complete slog, with 6 penalties total, one full-out fight and several small scuffles. Tensions were clearly high from the start, and Chris Stewart took offense to Lawson Crouse following Olivia Newton-John’s advice with Mikko Koivu. Neither team broke through, and things went from bad to worse for Minnesota when Michael Stone fell down with some light help from Zach Parise, who was called for slashing. Stone took offense and slashed back, and the two teams played 4-on-4 with neither team breaking through.
Parise drew a hook from Shane Doan moments later, and the Wild found their breakthrough. Mikael Granlund sent a quick pass to the low slot, where Nino Niederreiter was waiting. El Niño tipped the puck into the net for his second of the night.
The Wild held on for dear life, including a big penalty kill when Ryan Suter was forced to slash Doan’s stick at the goalmouth. Even when the Coyotes emptied their net with 90 seconds, the Wild could find no respite. Granlund’s weak shot was intercepted, Staal’s shot hit a blocker, and the Wild were forced to take long shifts.
They managed to do it though, and the 4-3 scoreline saw the game out. It was another game where Dubnyk let in 3 or more goals, but fortunately the goals showed up in time to find a win.
It was, furthermore, yet another game in which the Wild were out-Corsi’d, out-Fenwick’d, out-shot, but still controlled the majority of the scoring chances. It’s been a strange trend of the Wild’s this season, and one the rest of the league has yet to solve.
In the meantime, the Wild will take the points and prepare for the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday evening, the culmination of Hockey Day Minnesota 2017.