If it wasn’t for Devan Dubnyk in the first period, this game could have gotten way out of hand for the Minnesota Wild on home ice. The Wild then responded in kind to their goaltender bailing them out with a four-goal outburst in the span of 3:28 (franchise record) in the second period to control the game until the final horn. Eric Staal kept adding to his goal total, Nino Niederreiter got off the schneid, and even Matt Cullen got in to action of beating up the Hurricanes.
Minnesota didn’t wait to set the tone. Right from the opening faceoff the Wild forced the puck toward the Carolina net tended by Cam Ward. Nino Niederreiter got the puck alone near the top of the crease and tried to stick handle a goal past Ward. Zach Parise just missed the wide open net as the puck rolled to the left off Niederreiter’s stick. Instead, he hit the outside of the cage. But that showed the Wild’s game, especially from that Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Parise line.
All that pressure gave the Wild an early power play. Bruce Boudreau placed his hottest line on the ice and Eric Staal obliged with his 35th goal of the season. Staal gathered a loose puck nudged through from the point by Ryan Suter, turned, and then fired a shot from near the top of the right offensive faceoff circle. It was one of those rising shots, and it rose into the top left corner of the net over Ward’s blocker.
The pressure began to subside with Jason Zucker taking two penalties in the period. That allowed the Hurricanes to mount a little pressure of their own. Dubnyk didn’t have to just only be sharp, but he also had to make some incredible saves. He was simply superb and bailed out his teammates. It included a save on Sebastian Aho on a breakaway. Matt Dumba’s pass deflected back toward Aho and Dubnyk was able to squeeze his five-hole shut just in time.
The Wild didn’t like how they left their netminder out to dry. Nino Niederreiter got just a piece of a fluttering shot from Jared Spurgeon to get his 16 goal of the season. It took just 23 ticks of the game clock for Niederreiter to score to open the 2nd period. Granlund then fought through a check by Brett Pesce and drew a penalty. They wasted no time to get pressure on Ward and the Carolina net. Jared Spurgeon skated to the outer rim of the left offensive circle and fed Koivu with a cross-ice pass to the other circle. Koivu hardly waited for the puck to settle on his stick before he shot the through a Hurricanes defender. Parise was there, alone at the top of the crease for an easy re-direct around Ward. The Wild used just 2:23 of the game clock to extend their lead to 3-0.
Tuesday was Daniel Winnik’s 33rd birthday. He just missed scoring a birthday goal when Zucker’s work behind the net found the puck squeaking across the goal crease for him, but Ward got a toe on the puck to keep it out. His shift wasn’t over. He got a pass near the center ice faceoff circle with no one in a white and red jersey around him. Winnik skated across the Carolina line and fired a wrist shot over the blocker of Ward. Birthday goal may be the only thing better than birthday shots.
Finally, Eric Staal capped off the offensive outburst when he was sprung for a breakaway by Ryan Suter. He welcomed Scott Darling into the game with a forehand shelf and a 5-0 lead. Darling had come into the game to relieve Cam Ward after the Winnik goal. Staal’s goal was scored before Darling could snap the straps on his mask. The goal was Staal’s 36th of the season, which moved him back into the top three on the NHL goal scoring list tied with Tyler Seguin.
Boudreau’s club resorted to playing lock-down defense for the third period. Phillip Di Guiseppe broke the shutout bid near the mid-point of the period when he got a piece of a fluttering puck on which Dubnyk narrowly missed getting his blocker.
Matt Cullen would add to the Wild’s total when he hammered a bouncing puck from about 15 feet out. Charlie Coyle was in on the forecheck and fell to his knees. He tried pushing the puck to the net, but the puck hit a skate and bounced around. Cullen got the puck with a slap shot on the first bounce and ripped it over the glove of Darling.
A late power play for the Hurricanes then ended with Derek Ryan tipping a Victor Rask shot through Dubnyk’s five hole to make it 6-2. That’s how the game would end. Minnesota was a perfect 2-for-2 on the power play, and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill. Thirteen Wild players registered a point with Suter, Spurgeon, Staal and Koivu all notching two points each.
The Dallas Stars were shutout in Nashville so that means the Wild holds a three point lead in the Central Division standings for 3rd place spot. Minnesota will now head out to Western Canada to take on the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, and the Edmonton Oilers. It is paramount that the Wild find ways to win these games before the schedule becomes much more difficult. It’s great and all that the Wild can score in bunches on home ice. They need to find that magic on the road.