When the Wild left Scottrade Center in St. Louis last Saturday, they left having lost one of the worst games of the season. It was a 6-3 thumping at the hands of Mike Yeo’s squad. The game was bad, but it was only held the title of “Worst Game of the Season” for one night. The Wild went to Winnipeg and were destroyed with a scored of 7-2. After a day off and a good practice, the Wild may have played the best three periods all season long when the Vegas Golden Knights visited St. Paul for the first time. Minnesota were good hosts and beat the Knight with at 4-2 score.
That brings us to Saturday night where the Wild hosted the Central Division-leading Blues and look to make-up for their drubbing just 7 days ago.
Wild were physical right away in this game. The contest had barely started and we saw Mikael Granlund put a heavy body on big Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. Charlie Coyle was tripped by Vladimir Sobotka with an extended leg and hip. Coyle took exception to the play and went after Sobotka. The two pushed and shoved at each other before Chris Stewart stepping in and gave Sobotka a face wash. Stewart got the penalty, and while a penalty isn’t good to take, the trade off for him rather than Coyle is a better one, and Coyle was instrumental in ensuing kill and even took out some frustration by running over Parayko at the Wild blue line. Nate Prosser, in his first game back with the Minnesota Wild, laid a shoulder into Robert Bortuzzo as he attempted to drive the net. The physicality continued all game long from both teams combining for 46 hits.
The Wild got on the board first when Ryan Suter busted into the Blues end and dropped the puck back to Jason Zucker. With Granlund and Suter continuing towards the net minded by Jake Allen, Zucker didn’t waste any time by shooting the puck on net. Allen made the save and he thought he had the puck, but it dropped to his right. Suter kicked the puck to his stick, circled the net and wrapped the puck in off Allen’s skate for the early tally. Dumba also got an assist on the goal.
The Blues, and Mike Yeo, thrive when scoring first because of their big defensemen, Jake Allen, and their ability to pack it in and keep the opposition from getting to the net. It made that goal by Suter, his 4th of the season, ever more important for the Wild to not be chasing the game from behind.
Dubnyk was sharp. He was out playing the puck aggressively and tracked the puck well. There was a series in the first period that he was caught out of place, but he wasn’t hurt by it. Dubnyk stopped all 11 shots he faced in the first period. He stopped 13 of 14 shots in the 2nd period. He stopped 16 more in the third period as the Blues poured on the shots and pressure. Dubnyk made 41 saves, many through a lot of traffic, en route to being named the First Star of the game.
Special teams played a factor in the game. The Wild were unable to solve Allen when they were on the man-advantage. Though the power play, now featuring more Matt Dumba, seems to be shooting the puck more and from all kinds of angles. There were some good looks, but no dice. The penalty kill was mostly solid. Keeping Vladimir Tarasenko off the board is priority number one, and while he assisted on Patrik Berglund’s power play tally from the right faceoff circle, the Blues struggled to get set up in the Wild offensive zone. It was a good thing too because the Wild marched to the box five times to the Blues’ three.
The faceoff violation is stupid. I’m all for making faceoffs fair, but some linesmen also get into head-faking the centers that it’s easy to have a false start. If linesmen are into playing games of Psyche! then to make something like not being lined up correctly at the dot the same amount of minutes as slash, high sticking, or interference is dumb. Granted they do that with Delay of Game - Puck over the Glass penalties, but that is something that actually slows the game down. The Wild took one of those faceoff violation minors when Eric Staal was booted from the draw, followed by Marcus Foligno. In the third period of a close game with two division rivals, there’s many other things to call than something as ticky-tacky as a faceoff violation.
There were no goals scored in the third period so overtime was needed to break the 1-1 deadlock. Minnesota didn’t wait long. It would be Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba to start the extra frame. Dumba would gather the puck off a rebound from Dubnyk and raced toward the Blues’ end. Coyle joined the rush. Dumba deferred to Coyle as they broke the Blues line. Coyle then hit Dumba at the goal mouth with a pass that Dumba lifted into the net with Allen down in the blue paint. It was just 59 seconds into overtime. The Wild won and got sweet, sweet revenge on #OurIce.