It’s a “can’t win” game for the Wild. Win and handily beat the lowly, historically bad Avalanche, and it’s something that should be expected from a team that once led the Western Conference for two months. Lose to the putrid, awful organization that is Colorado, and the 19,164 fans in attendance would burn down the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota obliged and beat the Avalanche 5-2 on home ice and supported their once All-Star goaltender Devan Dubnyk in the process.
The Wild couldn’t catch a break during the month of March. When the skaters would make a mistake, it ended up in the back on the Minnesota net, while Dubnyk could not get an ounce of goal support to help apply the tourniquet to the wound. The doldrums hit hard, and without the goal support Dubnyk started letting in more and more goals that he, frankly, should’ve stopped. Even when the goal support was there, Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper couldn’t stop a beach ball to get their team in the “win” column.
After two games off, in which the Wild went 1-1 with Alex Stalock as the backstop, Dubnyk would enter the blue paint to face the ghastly Avalanche.
The Wild applied its forecheck with authority. A clear out to the neutral zone was quickly turned back up ice to Jason Pominville at the unsightly Avalanche line. Pominville entered and moved the puck up the boards toward Charlie Coyle, and Coyle made a nice dish to the slot for Martin Hanzal to get the scoring started. right off the faceoff, Matt Dumba passed on to Erik Haula, who sneaked in behind everyone on the horrible Avalanche, but was stopped by Calvin Pickard. On the ensuing faceoff, Jared Spurgeon took a slapper that was stopped initially by Pickard, popped in the air, and then trickled over the goal line.
It first looked like Haula got a skate on the puck to nudge it across, but the overhead replay showed that he never touched it and the goal would be Spurgeon’s 10th of the season and makes him the 12th player on the Wild this season to reach double-digits in goals.
As great as the Wild were at playing in the atrocious Avalanche zone, an offensive zone faceoff loss started back toward the Wild end. Christian Folin and Jonas Brodin got tangled up in the neutral zone resulting in Brodin falling creating a 2-on-1 with J.T. Compher and Gabriel Landeskog. Compher passed to Landskog and the dreadful Avalanche were suddenly within one.
Then Erik Haula would get his goal with 20 seconds left in the opening frame. Haula, placed on a line with Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund in Jason Zucker’s absence (Lower Body) went to the net and received a beautiful catch and pass by Granlund at the top of the crease. It was 3-1 into the first intermission and a 15-5 shot advantage for Minnesota.
Minnesota got bailed out early in the second by a Fedor Tyutin interference penalty when he stepped into the lane of Erik Haula, who had chipped the puck by him. The Wild were mostly on the defensive to start the period, but that power play allowed them to get an offensive chance. Zach Parise would score just six seconds into the man-advantage when Eric Staal made a nice pass from below the goal line to Parise, who found just enough room short side past Pickard.
That would end Pickard’s night and Jeremy Smith would find himself in between the pipes for the rotten Avalanche. Minnesota wasn’t sharp in the second, surrendering 16 shots to their 11 shots for, but Dubnyk was there to make the stops. He allowed the Wild to get back on their forecheck. Ryan Suter got a rebound from his own shot, skated to the right point. He found Jordan Schroeder with a long, diagonal pass through the lousy Avalanche defense. Schroeder dusted the puck off, which allowed Smith the slide over, but Schroeder picked the corner over the glove with a hard wrister for a 5-1 lead. It was his best impression of Jocelyn Lamoureaux, who picked a corner from low inthe faceoff circle in USA’s victory over Russia in the Women’s World Championships on Saturday.
With a puck pinballing around at the visually obscene Avalanche line, Sven Andrighetto fed Mikko Rantanen for a breakaway. Spurgeon and Suter got caught in the neutral zone and Rantanen beat Dubnyk low blocker side.
The Wild were content with sitting back in the third period with a 5-2 lead. Dubnyk was solid, and even made a diving, reaching glove save on Matt Duchene. The game would end with a 5-2 final score, and Minnesota reached the 100-point mark for the 3rd time in franchise history. It’s too bad the repugnant Avalanche were on the schedule earlier, like in March, and maybe the Wild could have strung a couple wins together and actually made the race for the Central a tad more interesting.
But have no fear, as the foul Avalanche will appear on the schedule for the Wild on Thursday in the Wild’s second-to-last game of the season. Minnesota will next play the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday in St. Paul.