Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 3-2 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
Right place, right time for Thomas Vanek, who now has three goals in his past two games, and seven on the season, tied for the most on the Wild.
Playing on his newly formed line with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville, Vanek went to the front of the net, and with his stick on the ice, skated into a loose puck off a blocked Pominville shot.
It was the culmination of a few strong shifts for Vanek, who nearly scored minutes earlier when he went to the front of the net and caused some havoc in front of Cam Ward. It's an area Vanek is very effective in, as was the case on Thursday.
Pominville, who assisted on 66 of Vanek's goals when the two were teammates in Buffalo, is beginning to rekindle a bit of that chemistry.
Frequent flyer of Five Takeaways Jason Zucker is playing on a different level.
Zucker, who was one of the most efficient even-strength goal scorers in the NHL last season has picked up right where he left off, with two more even-strength goals on Thursday, including the game-winner.
Zucker's 1st period goal, his fourth of the season, showcased a little of everything that number 16 does so well. He found a soft spot on the blue line to free himself up for a pass, which he took on the tape from Ryan Suter.
After gaining control, and with space to stride into, Zucker used his speed to create separation. And in doing so, Zucker opened up multiple shooting lanes for himself, and picked out the far corner with a rip of a snap shot.
"I give [Suter] full credit for that," Zucker said. "That pass was absurd; it missed their [defenseman's] stick by a quarter of an inch and then it just kind of springs you. That's just trying to get speed for me, and him just making a great play."
Zucker wasn’t done.
On a shift where he had three chances to seal the game and secure a second point for Minnesota in overtime, as Suter said he told Zucker after the game, "Third time's the charm."
Zucker deflected a shot that hit the post, and then had a shot tick off him and carry just over the crossbar. Not to be denied, Zucker went back to the front of the net and redirected a pass from Suter to give Minnesota the victory, its first in the three-on-three overtime.
"I thought about changing to be honest, and it looked like we had a three-on-one, it turned into a three-on-two, and then [Suter] just made a great pass," Zucker said. "I honestly didn't really do much on that."
The Wild left the first period down 2-1, but it could have been a much different story if not for Devan Dubnyk.
"We just had to get out of the first period still breathing," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "It was not a very pretty first period at all, and [Dubnyk] held us in there, and then we were able to get that one opportunity."
The Hurricanes took nine shots in about the first eight minutes, and with two goals on the board, it was hard to fault Dubnyk.
Carolina opened the scoring on a power play with a slew of players screening Dubnyk on a seed from the point off the stick of Justin Faulk.
On the second goal, Dubnyk made an initial save, and was then barreled into by Jay McClement in such a way that after the rebound was flipped in the goal was waived off following the play.
A Carolina challenge overturned the call, but Dubnyk, whether there was goaltender interference or not, had no chance at making the save.
With that being said, Dubnyk battled through the first 20 minutes, making 17 saves, including one where he kicked out the left pad to get a piece of a Jeff Skinner shot on a breakaway.
"He kept us in that game and gave us a chance to win," Suter said. "That could have easily been 5-1 after the first period, or 5-0. He gave us a chance, and that's what we want."
Fast-forward to the second period, and Dubnyk made an acrobatic, lunging glove save on a wide-open Joakim Nordstrom to keep it a 2-1 deficit for Minnesota. Dubnyk kept the Wild down a goal, and continued his recent stretch of stellar play with a season-high 37 saves.
"I talked about just having patience on my feet, and really watching the puck," Dubnyk said. "You just don't know at the start of the year if that's going to come right away, or sometimes, it takes a little bit to get some shots, and get a feel. Fortunately we've been able to get some wins along the way, but I feel really good now."
All of that being said, the Wild buckled down in the second period and really took it to Carolina. The momentum began to shift in the first period after Zucker's goal, and after allowing 19 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, Minnesota gave up only five in the second period, one of its stingiest of the season.
"We were really fortunate as far as I'm concerned to be only down 2-1, and we recognized that, and knew that we had to take advantage of that opportunity," Yeo said.
It fits into what the Wild has done when facing deficits this season: Not accepting a poor, 60-minute performance, and instead putting its foot on the gas and fighting its way back into a game.
"Just stick with it," Suter said. "That's why you play 60 minutes—it's the old cliché, but that's why you do it. We didn't have it from the start, but if you stick with it long enough, it's going to turn."
The ice was very much tilted in the second period, and while play evened out in the third, there was a major, noticeable shift in the Wild's game after falling behind early.
The Wild will always find a way to critique itself and find elements of its game to improve, but with the victory, the Wild tied its best 15-game start in franchise history.
In the 2002-03 and 2006-207 seasons, Minnesota also earned 22 points in its first 15 games, and it's hard to complain too much after this kind of start. Factor in the injuries the Wild has dealt with, and the competitiveness of the Central Division, and the Wild's start looks all the more impressive.