Devan Dubnyk was relied upon early and often. He was equal to the task as he left few second-chance opportunities en route to a 44 save shutout to put the nail in the coffin of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Wild netminder stymied Chicago as Minnesota looked to grab hold with both hands the second Wild Card in the Western Conference. Charlie Coyle, on the other hand, scored two goals, while Mikko Koivu added a power play goal to give the Wild a 3-0 win on home ice.
Three goals feels like a comfortable lead. This Minnesota Wild team has already shown that it’s never that easy. Coming off one of the worst losses of the season when the Arizona Coyotes erased a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 overtime on Thursday, the Wild needed to make a stand against one of their toughest opponents. Luckily, the Blackhawks, currently residing in the cellar of the Central Division, are not the Blackhawks of yesteryear.
Minnesota didn’t wait to get on the board. Going off absolutely no actual numbers, it feels like the Wild have either scored within the first couple minutes of games, or have been scored upon in the first few minutes of games a lot this season. It’s likely just recency bias on my part, but it’s been either one or the other, and it seems to happen early in games. Charlie Coyle would earn a hard-working goal, his seventh of the season, when he banked the shot off Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass. Coyle peeled a shot that landed on the back of the net from the twine, turned and found just enough room to squeak the puck through at the 1:58 mark of the opening period.
Nate Prosser took a big check behind the Wild net from Lance Bouma. Marcus Foligno took exception to the hit and the two dropped the gloves. In all the dancing, the Wild would come out two men short after penalties were handed out. The penalty kill has been the one consistently good facet for this Wild team all season long. They made the Blackhawks power play look like amateur hour as they killed off the 2-man disadvantage and all four Chicago power plays.
When Minnesota got its first chance on the power play, they just needed one good shot. Matt Dumba took a slap shot from the outer rim of the right offensive circle. Mikko Koivu got just enough of the puck at the end to get the goal, his eighth of the season.
After the Koivu goal, the Wild didn’t get a shot. They were forced to defend the rest of the period, and had to do it without Jared Spurgeon. Spurgeon left game after blocking a shot with the back of his leg. He’d come back at the start of the second period and play his regular shifts, but it was scary for the Wild to have to be without yet another defenseman, let alone one of their best defensemen.
Charlie Coyle would find the net again in early in the second period. An Eric Staal pass caught him and Zach Parise on a 2-on-1 break. Coyle used Parise as a decoy and beat Glass for his eighth of the season.
Parise had one of his best games -certainly his best period (back in the 1st period) - of the season since joining the team after having back surgery. He took four shots on goal and caused a lot to happen on the ice. He was a big reason Coyle got his two goals, as well as that line of him, Coyle, and Matt Cullen looking really good together.
Dubynk just held down the fort the rest of the way. He did have to make some big saves because he was leaning one way when the puck deflected toward the other. However, he made most of his save look easy, and he had great rebound control. Dubnyk just didn’t give the Blackhawks many second chances as he made timely stops and forced a whistle. He faced 44 shots on goal and the shutout was well-deserved. We even heard the “Duuuuuuuub!” chant return to the Xcel Energy Center.
Speaking of the X, it was packed. Announced crowd was 19,227, the largest of the season. At least they were treated to a win. Maybe they learned from the Arizona debacle?