There has been exactly two stories coming into Tuesday’s game in the second half of a home-and-home series against the Flyers. The first was that reigning NHL 1st Star of the Week, Jason Zucker has a chance to match the league record for most consecutive goals scored for his team, a record set back in the Roaring 20’s, if he was to score first. The other was Devan Dubnyk coming in hot with back-to-back shutouts, and turning away 73 shots over those two games in the process.
Nino Niederreiter had different thoughts about Zucker’s record bid. The Swiss forward wasted 12 whole seconds of the game and shelved a wrist shot over the shoulder of Brian Elliott for the very early 1-0 lead. Just 12 seconds into the game and the record for Zucker was gone. However, that snapped a long goalless drought by any other Wild player not named Jason Zucker.
Dubnyk, who had not allowed a goal in 135:25 of game time, since Connor Carrick scored at 3:40 of the third period 7 days ago. Could he continue his stellar play on Tuesday?
The Wild backstop answered the bell every single time. Given an early lead, Dubnyk wasn’t going to beaten, certainly not by anything soft. He made some incredible kick-saves on point-blank chances, turned away puck harmlessly to the corner, and swallowed rebounds throughout the game.
A lot of people suspect that Dubnyk can be a product of the Wild’s defensive systems, yet, Dubnyk continually bailed out his skaters. In the second period alone, he turned away all 17 shots he faced. It has been a long time since the Wild starting goaltender has looked this good.
The Wild had really one great shift in the second period. The third and fourth liens hemmed the Flyers into their defensive zone for about two minutes. Jordan Weal was on the ice for 2:54 alone. Minnesota couldn’t get one past Elliott, who had himself a very good game, the second one in a row against Minnesota, on the shift, but it helped keep the Flyers at bay.
However, the Flyers just kept coming, and with more pressure and shots, the Wild got sloppy. Minnesota was forced into a few icing infractions. It was also very messy as they tried to get through the neutral zone. Dubnyk came up huge for his team.
The Wild helped their goalie in the third period with a bit more energy and playing a smart, conservative game. The third period wasn’t pretty in an offensive sense, but with sticks in passing lanes and having clean breakouts, Minnesota kept the Flyers to just 7 shots on goal in the period.
The Wild’s penalty kill looked just as stifling as we have seen in these parts. Unfortunately, the one power play the Wild had was a discombobulated mess. Minnesota blocked 16 shots, allowed 30 on goal, and out-hit the Flyers (really? Minnesota Wild. Out-hit...the Flyers? The Broad Street Bullies? You serious, Clark?) 11-8.
With the net emptied for the extra attacker, Mikael Granlund, hooked and wrangled up like a steer at the World’s Toughest Rodeo, made a long pass in the direction of Eric Staal. Staal raced after the puck and scored on a shallow angle with the delayed penalty for the Flyers to make it 2-0. Jason Zucker extended his point streak to five games with an empty-net tally to make the final score 3-0.
Minnesota’s defensive game has improved. The offensive is doing just enough to get on the board, but it does have to be markedly better than it has been. Lastly, this win streak, now at three games, is clearly about Devan Dubnyk being a brick wall. While that egg will crack at some point, the hope is that the Wild skaters rid themselves of some bad habits and find a more even, consistent game as well as finding the back of the net.