It was preached by the team, Bruce Boudreau, and many in the media that the Wild needed to go into the All-Star break strong with a win against the Detroit Red Wings, the worst team in the NHL. They simply could not afford a loss at this point in the season to a team like the Red Wings if they wanted any sniff at the playoffs.
Entering the night, the Red Wings were on pace for the worst record in the 21st century with only 12 wins through 50 games.
Keeping that in mind, the Red Wings still have a couple decent players in their lineup such as Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi. So, Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild knew they needed to come out flying. The team did that in the first couple of shifts, but the hockey gods seemed to not be on their side.
With a bit of luck going in the Red Wings’ favor, the great start by Minnesota resulted in their opponents earning the first goal of the hockey game. Former 2018 6th overall pick Filip Zadina sent a pass intended for Tyler Bertuzzi, who was parked next to Devan Dubnyk out front, but the puck wound up getting deflected by Joel Eriksson Ek trying to make a defensive stop. Rather than it being broken up play, the puck deflected off of Eriksson Ek’s stick and past a baffled Dubnyk for Zadina’s seventh of the year.
Minnesota, as they often have this year, bounced back quickly after giving up a goal. The team in forest green answered back in a minute and twenty seconds. After strong board play and a kick of the puck by Ryan Hartman to Matt Dumba, the Wild defenseman let a wrister go from the point, creating a rebound for Jordan Greenway. With his back facing the net, the big man gave a quick backhanded swipe at the puck that was enough to beat the right pad of Howard. With the greasy goal parked right in what should be Greenway’s money spot, the Wild forward now has a point in three of the past four games.
On the ensuing power play that sent Hartman on a trip to the sin bin, the Red Wings struck the scoreboard for the second time. Once again, Zadina scored a rather lucky goal deemed the “triple doink” by NBCSN’s Keith Jones to give the Red Wings the lead for the final time in the contest. Zadina one-timed a pass from veteran Trevor Daley and the youngster’s shot ping ponged all over the place, including off of Ryan Suter’s skate, before it eventually crossed the goal line behind Dubnyk. Detroit’s power play was just one for 18 with the man advantage in the previous five outings.
The second period is when the game took on a different look. The Wild drove play in the middle frame, which might be an understatement. Minnesota dominated Detroit in every facet the rest of the way. Minnesota scored three goals and outshot the Red Wings fifteen to one. You could feel it was only a matter of time before the score was back to even, and who better than Mats Zuccarello to tie the game? Not a mere two minutes into the middle frame, the Wild winger evened the score. And Minnesota was not done there.
Keeping the momentum rolling, Jason Zucker scored a beauty just a minute and seven seconds after Zuccarello tied the game. With a great team effort in the defensive zone to break up a Red Wings rush, Victor Rask poke checked the puck out of the zone and caught Jason Zucker in stride, streaking fast through the neutral zone. Zucker gave a look back to see if any teammates were with him, but rather than forcing a pass, he let a wrist shot off in stride, catching Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard off guard. The shot flew past the glove of Howard and gave Minnesota their first lead of the hockey game.
After a series of events that led to Eric Staal being robbed a goal by a sliding Howard and multiple Detroit icings after failing to put a stop to the onslaught the Wild were putting on the Wings in the second period, Staal smacked home his 17th of the year. In a game he was honored in the pregame for reaching 1,000 points earlier this season, Staal goal was fitting. Howard stopped Parise’s initial shot by squeezing off his five hole, but the puck found its way back out front, where a sneaky Staal put home an easy tap-in to give the Wild a little insurance.
The Wild continued to dominate Detroit all the way to the finish, not needing another puck to get past Jimmy Howard. Minnesota went into the game with the mindset of going into the All-Star break with a win, and they did just that. With contributions from their veterans on Wednesday, Minnesota was able to capture a much needed 4-2 win at the Xcel Energy Center.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can the Wild stay hot on the power play?
Surprisingly, the Wild did not have a chance to continue their hot play of late on the power play. The Red Wings did not commit a single penalty all game, which was rather odd as Minnesota dominated puck possession all night. With the break ensuing, we’ll have to wait and see if the power play cools off or continues to stay hot.
2. Will Dubnyk rebound after a tough outing in Pittsburgh?
Yes. Dubnyk was solid all game long, letting only two of the 27 shots he faced past him. Both goals that beat the Wild netminder were redirections and oddly lucky. Of the 25 other shots he faced, he thwarted any and all chances, coming up big late in the third period when the Red Wings had a handful of chances on two power plays. He played calm and confident in the third period when the game could have turned on its side. All in all, Detroit needed something as crazy as a “triple doink” to get one past Dubnyk Wednesday night.
3. Will this be the night Dumba finally scores a goal?
Sadly, no. To put it simple enough, because we have been reading and hearing about it for much of this season, it has been a rough year for Dumba. Although he didn’t score, you could deem Wednesday night as a bright spot for the Wild defenseman. He found his way on the scoresheet, even if it wasn’t in the goal column. Dumba collected a primary assist on Greenway’s goal to earn only his second point in seven games. Sadly, his 31-game goal drought has officially extended to 32 games.