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, shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.
When Jason Pominville arrived at First Niagara Center on Friday, he was greeted by a security guard, whom Pominville knew by name, and chatted with as he walked toward the Wild's locker room.
Pominville's parting gift for his former team, and for a city that he said he loved playing in, was a shootout goal (WATCH) in the fourth round to seal a 3-2 victory for the Wild.
It was a return to the scene of the crime for Pominville, who spent the first eight-plus seasons of his career as a Sabre, and on Saturday, Pominville played the role of villain in the eyes of the sellout crowd, and hero for the Wild.
"I thought it was pretty funny," Pominville said. "The boos were weird, but you just want to try to get the job done, and get two points."
His goal earned the Wild a second point, the second time this season the Wild has collected more than a point in a game that has gone past regulation. Charlie Coyle scored in the second round of the shootout to level it, before Pominville's walk-off wrist shot in the bottom of the fourth eluded goalie Robin Lehner.
"I had a good feeling about [Pominville] coming in there," Devan Dubnyk said. "He's got such a tricky shot with his head up. I have such a tough time with him in practice that I wasn't surprised when he put that one in."
Power play to the rescue.
It's not a broken record, though it is the same story, as the Wild, for the 12th straight road game, scored on the power play, and for the second straight game, the special teams scoring was much needed.
Chasing a one-goal deficit in the third period, the Wild was throwing plenty at the Sabres by way of shots and pressure, but couldn't crack Lehner.
But when Charlie Coyle drove to the net and drew a tripping penalty late in the third period, the Wild's top unit hopped over the boards with the look and swagger of five skaters who are putting pucks in the net at a pretty good clip.
And then, Matt Dumba came off the wall with the puck, snapped a seam pass onto the stick of Mikko Koivu, and the captain didn't wait, one-timing a shot across the grain and in for a game-tying goal (WATCH).
"Tonight we got one chance and we scored," Koivu said. "Especially toward the end of the game that's when you need it. We had some good momentum there, and for sure, we're happy when it's clicking, and you can score goals and get that momentum from your team. "
The Wild's power play streak is impressive, but what's important has been the timeliness and manner of the scoring of late.
In Toronto, a pair of five-on-four goals accounted for all of Minnesota's offense in a 2-1 victory. On Saturday, in a game the Wild would have lamented not earning at least a point, the power play came up big again in its only opportunity, and provided a bridge for the Wild to get a second.
"It's nice to know that the man-advantage is working for us, and we're moving, and making plays," Coyle said. "We had to take advantage, not too many power plays tonight, so we take advantage of that, we win that battle, and it's going to help us."
In his Wild debut on Thursday, forward David Jones stayed true to how he described his identity, going to the net on multiple occasions and creating some havoc by entering the dirty areas.
On Saturday, he parlayed that straight-ahead game into his first Wild goal, giving Minnesota a 1-0 lead 2:16 into the first.
It was a simple and effective play by the 6-foot-3 forward, who came down the right flank and used his body to protect the puck.
From there, Jones took a shot from an angle that in most instances would produce some kind of rebound. It did, and as the puck caromed off Lehner's left pad, it re-directed on the backtracking skate of Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, back on goal, and in (WATCH).
"It's nice to get one like that. It's a little bit of a greasy one," Jones said. "I just threw one at the side of the net, but sometimes you need those things to get you going."
It was a fortuitous bounce, but one created by Jones, and his ability to protect the puck and use his size.
In a span of 83 seconds, two things that have impeded the Wild's progress of late turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit.
It began when Nino Niederreiter was whistled for a high-sticking penalty on Jake McCabe, a double-minor. Against Toronto, the Wild stayed out of the penalty box altogether for 60 minutes, the third time it has done so this season.
And then, Johan Larsson and Jack Eichel each scored, and the Wild's penalty kill, which has had trouble keeping the puck out of its goal lately, was beat twice.
"One positive I can tell you is our discipline on penalties," Torchetti said. "We took one penalty, and it got us two, and it's something that will get better."
When Eichel scored, it was the eighth power-play goal against the Wild over its past 13 kills.
"We've all talked about it, we all want to be better, and we just need to get back to trusting each other," Dubnyk said. "It's not a secret, we certainly have the skill, and the bodies, and the willingness to do it."
It came in the second period, a 20-minute stretch that has been a problem area for the Wild. Though it entered winners of its previous three, Minnesota had been outscored 4-1 in second periods of said victories.
And as has been the case when the Wild heads to the penalty box, not only did it derail Minnesota's momentum in the sense it got scored on, but also put on hold a team that was having its way at even strength, one that out-attempted the Sabres at five-on-five in the first period, 20-11.
"Obviously, it's like anything: When things start to pile up, you start to think a little bit too much, and not trust what's going on," Dubnyk said. "We all want to be better on it, so we're going to continue to talk about it, and find a way, and you need to start somewhere, and get it rolling a bit. We understand that needs to be better going forward."
After missing six games with a concussion, the speedy Jason Zucker showed no signs of being slowed down in his return to the lineup on Saturday.
That included after taking an awkward looking hit in the first period that sent him crashing into the boards.
"I felt pretty good," Zucker said. "That was the one thing I wanted to make sure, that I wasn't keeping that in my head at all. That hit that I took was kind of a non-typical hit, so it's not going to happen every game. It felt good to be out there, and to play again."
Zucker, who effectively uses his speed and the width of the ice to wheel and force defenders to chase, did that on a few occasions against Buffalo. In the second period, he carried a puck wide at the blue line, before angling his way toward the goal and creating a good scoring chance. Later on the same shift, he took a pass above the crease and nearly flipped a backhand shot past Lehner.
With 14 healthy forwards, both Justin Fontaine and Chris Porter were scratches for the Wild, with Ryan Carter also drawing back in the lineup. Zucker resumed his old spot on the Wild's second line with Thomas Vanek and Mikael Granlund, bumping Jones down to the fourth line with Carter and Jarret Stoll.
Ice time is something that has to be earned now with the Wild's depth of forwards, according to Torchetti, and Jones and Zucker each made an impact on the game in Buffalo.