No Ryan Suter? No problem for the Wild. Not only was the top pairing of Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin able to keep Connor McDavid off the score sheet completely, but Zach Parise is heating up as the Wild close the home schedule with a 3-0 win on #OurIce. The Blues lost to the Washington Capitals in St. Louis tonight, and all eyes looked to the West Coast where the Avalanche face the Kings. A 3-1 loss by Colorado meant the Wild have clinched their sixth consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff berth.
The story, of course, was the Wild’s depleted blue line with the announcement by the team at the start of the game that Suter will require surgery to repair a broken fibula suffered Saturday night in Dallas. Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin were elevated to the top pairing and had the arduous task of keeping Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and company in check. The Oilers have firepower, but their defense is atrocious. Minnesota called in reinforcements by bring former University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldog Carson Soucy up from the Iowas Wild (AHL) in emergency fashion. Nick Seeler was elevated. Ryan Murphy was elevated. Nate Prosser is relied upon heavily with Soucy on his pairing making his NHL debut.
But Soucy looked the part. Just like Seeler before him, Soucy came in, played a very simple game, and stayed within himself and didn’t look rattled at any point in the game. He even drew a penalty as he attempted to glove the puck down and start a rush that could have been a 3-on-2 if he wasn’t tripped in the neutral zone. When he got the puck in the offensive zone, there wasn’t a whole lot of dilly-dallying around. He made quick decisions to either dump the puck deep, or get the puck on net. It was simple game, and he filled in nicely. We shall see if he can continue at that level when the game play and emotions ratchet up against tougher opponents and in the playoffs.
The first period started...then started again as the Wild and Oilers dropped the puck for the initial faceoff, then reset and did it again, then had an icing call by the Oilers all in the span of 10 seconds. After the teams finally got the puck moving, the Wild got a couple chances early. With the puck moving back to the Wild’s end of the ice, Adam Larsson fumbled the puck at the Wild blue line. Zach Parise pounced on the puck and took it all...the...way. He shot five-hole on Cam Talbot for the gifted 1-0 lead.
Minnesota’s defense was pretty solid both in their end, and the neutral zone especially. Devan Dubnyk had to be good in a small handful of chances for the Oilers, including a great stop with the right pad on McDavid. Minnesota held the Oilers to just eight shots in the first period.
The second period started with the Oilers rattling off four or five shots before the Wild could cross the center red line. But once they did, they were able to get the forecheck going. Bruce Boudreau was able to roll all his lines and all his defensive pairings in the effort. Talbot was good in the period and denied a number of Wild chances. He certainly wasn’t to blame for the loss for Edmonton. Parise scored his second of the night when Brodin joined the rush with Mikko Koivu and Parise. Koivu, along the far left wall passed the puck into Brodin, who was skating in the center lane towards the net. He was in a bit tight to the net when he shot the puck. The puck came out the other side for Parise to tuck home.
Special teams will be important no doubt for the Wild in the post-season. While the Wild power play was oh-fer Monday night, the penalty kill made the Oilers power play look downright impotent. The PK is rounding into shape, with Boudreau moving to four penalty killers rather than six, and it’s paying off for the Wild.
For the third, the Wild took it to the Oilers, putting a barrage on to Talbot, who had to be superb to keep his team in the game. Twenty-one shots in total Minnesota fired on the Oilers net in the third period, which was two more shots than the Wild had through 40 minutes. It was akin to bringing in Mariano Rivera to close out the game. The Oilers had no chance.
The Wild got a late game power play and each player fed Parise hoping to get the hat trick. While the hats never rained down, the power play was actually maybe the most coordinated they’ve been in some time. Why? They were making purposeful passes and taking shots looking to score, or give Parise a chance to pick up the rebound.
Joel Eriksson Ek shot the puck after receiving a pass from Charlie Coyle in the neutral zone into the empty net to seal the victory. Devan Dubnyk made 22 stops in his fifth shutout of the season. If the Wild go anywhere in the playoffs, he will be the key. Dubnyk needs to get going and if the Wild can continue to have good outings from number 40, it may just ease the anxiety of Wild fans going into the playoffs.
Wild are happy the Los Angeles Kings cooperated by dealing a defeat to the Avalanche so the upcoming West Coast trip for the Wild has just a little less riding on it.