The Minnesota Wild needed Devan Dubnyk to be extra sharp in the Wild’s return to St. Paul after a successful three-game road trip to New York City and greater area. He stopped 16 of 17 as the Sharks swarmed early and often. Eric Staal’s 30th goal of the season tied the game late in the third period to force overtime. Jared Spurgeon finished a beautiful play to win it in overtime.
Devan Dubnyk set the tone early for Minnesota. Really, he had no option to not do so. The Sharks outshot the Wild 17-10 for the first period and Dubnyk was forced to stop more than a handful in point-blank fashion. Mike Reilly had a very tough night and had a hand in the first goal for the Sharks by pinching in from the point and losing the puck. A miscommunication in coverage by Jason Zucker and Nate Prosser ended with Zucker peeling away from Joakim Ryan to take the guy in the center lane. By doing so, it left Ryan alone in the right offensive circle for a one-timer that beat Dubnyk.
The Wild weren’t terrible in the first. In fact, Sharks goalie, Martin Jones, was stellar. He robbed Wild shooter after Wild shooter, including a big save on Zucker on a breakaway at the end of the first period.. The Wild picked up their game even more with 19 shots to just four from the Sharks in the second period. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at Jones and he was simply sensational. For most of the period, the Wild played in the Sharks’ end. The one mistake came from Reilly in the neutral zone and it sent the Sharks taking the puck the other way. Chris Tierney would use a beautiful backhand shelf move to put the Wild into a 2-0 deficit.
The Minnesota Wild needed to break through. Matt Cullen would oblige when Jared Spurgeon and him broke into the Sharks zone. Cullen took the center lane while Spurgeon stayed on the far right. Sprugeon wristed the puck toward the net with a cross pass that you’d see in soccer. Cullen got his stick on it and found the twine...finally.
The power play was ineffective, going 0-for-3 on the night. It couldn’t help late in the third when the Wild needed a tying goal. The Penalty Kill was perfect in their one chance, albeit an abbreviated chance because Joe Pavelski slashed Ryan Suter during the power play.
Eric Staal won a big offensive zone faceoff and directed the puck off the back of the goal cage when Suter dumped the puck deep. He then wrestled the puck away from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and steered behind the net. Staal saw a chance and surprised Jones and the Sharks with a wrap-around try. The puck would go off Vlasic and in to tie the game.
Staal is always pumped when he scores. Hitting number 30 is a big deal after leaving the Hurricanes. Though today that goal could have carried a bit more emotion after we found out that his brother, Jordan Staal and his wife, lost their infant daughter Hannah. A truly heavy day for the Staal stable, and no goal could ever make things better, but if only for a moment, it felt good for him to score.
Our condolences to Jordan and his wife.
With Staal’s goal, the Wild forced overtime. The Wild had a brutal start to overtime game but have gotten better. Nothing like that 1-for-10 or whatever it was under Mike Yeo. We got heavy doses of Mikael Granlund, who seemed to never leave the ice, Matt Dumba, and Jared Spurgeon. It wasn’t until almost the four minute mark of the five minute overtime period that we finally saw Jason Zucker. In 3-on-3, you’d think we’d have seen him earlier as speed is usually the killer in such wide open spaces. Spurgeon forced a turnover at the Sharks’ line, but almost pushed it down the boards to far for him. He stuck with it and wrestled the puck away from Brent Burns. Number 46 found Zucker all alone in the right circle. With Jones coming way out of his crease to challenge, Zucker passed back to Spurgeon and he didn’t miss with a one-timer.
The Wild are on a four-game winning streak with St. Louis coming to St. Paul on Tuesday. Dubnyk is continuing to trend upwards and have a solid month of February. The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday and the Wild don’t have any cap space to make an impactful move. Chris Stewart was placed on waivers today by the Wild, and Mike Reilly or Gustav Olofsson on the block, trading one of those defensemen to allow Nick Seeler to stay with the big club might be something the Wild do. Perhaps selling to bring up Luke Kunin or signing Jordan Greenway could be the next move to improve the team. It makes sense with Seeler’s play and Jonas Brodin set to return to action soon.
Either way, we’ll have everything you need for the trade deadline moves and Wild news leading up to Tuesday’s showdown with the Blues.