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 loss against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
Make it four very strong performances in a row for Devan Dubnyk, who, through the first half of this four-game road trip, is doing just about everything a goaltender can to give his team a chance to win in visiting buildings.
Part of what's made Dubnyk's recent play such a marvel is what it's taken to beat him. The Stars scored on two perfect deflections and a breakaway. On many other chances that looked like bona fide goals, Dubnyk had Dallas shaking its head. That alone is very telling.
"It's definitely a good sign," Dubnyk said. "You look at the goals, and those are deflections, and we'll just find a way to eliminate the guy in front, or eliminate the original shot."
Dubnyk plays deep in his crease. It affords him the opportunity to move laterally, but tracking the puck is a paramount, complementary element to that positioning. Of late, Dubnyk has been tracking the puck with sonar precision.
"I felt really good on my blades, and just having patience, and really watching the puck off the stick," Dubnyk said. "It's kind of made everything slow down for me, so I'll just try to go day-to-day, and continue to build that, and continue to feel good."
Late in the first period, Dubnyk managed to kick out his pad and get a piece of a Patrick Sharp redirection. His positioning was grounded, he opened his gate as Jamie Benn made a pass from below the goal line, and then got a great push-off with his left leg to give himself a chance to get to the spot on time.
When Zach Parise missed his first game, Head Coach Mike Yeo said the Wild would need other players to step up. Later that day, after shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yeo pointed out those players didn't have to be forwards. Dubnyk has been on a different level while the Wild has been without its leading goal scorer, and the level has been much needed.
Net-front Nino Niederreiter struck again in Dallas, and helped the Wild to tie the game in the second period.
After one of its long, sustained shifts in Dallas' zone, Mikko Koivu worked the puck to Jared Spurgeon. The pass itself was a great play by Koivu, who drew two Stars, and saucered the pass to Spurgeon in an open area, giving the defenseman tons of space to walk into.
Spurgeon picked his head up, and did just that, as his slap shot ticked off Niederreiter's leg in front, and in, to even the score.
Niederreiter was physically involved all night (he and Jason Zucker both had noticeable edges to their games), and on the goal, went to a dirty area, and got rewarded.
"We know that the goalies are so good in today's game, we just have to make sure that we have net front, and that's just part of my job, to get in front of the net," Niederreiter said. "Today I was lucky, it tipped me and went in, and on other nights I just need to make sure we have net front."
Twelve assists on the season for Koivu, who now leads the Wild with 15 points.
The Stars power play was a topic of conversation after morning skate. While it was only credited with one power-play goal, Dallas essentially scored twice on special teams, which were a huge difference in the game on Saturday.
Dallas' first goal came just after a power play expired, when Jason Spezza deflected home a point shot by John Klingberg. The second goal, which was scored on the power play, was nearly a carbon copy. Klingberg loaded up from the point, but this time, it was Benn in front to tip it in.
"Things are always going to break down, or goals are going to go in—good tips in front—they're a good, skilled team," Charlie Coyle said. "Their power play is what, 30 percent or something? It's not an excuse, but [the penalty kill] is a work in progress."
The five minor penalties Minnesota took against Dallas was second-most it has committed in a game this season, and with Dallas taking four penalties of its own, it really disrupted the game flow. The Wild was fine when the game was played at even strength, somewhere the Wild wanted to keep play against one of the NHL's top power play units.
For 1:50 at the end of the second period, the Wild survived a shift in which it was hemmed in its own zone, the likes of which normally ends with a goal against or penalty.
It started off with Spurgeon breaking his stick, and from there, things continued to go against Minnesota. Dallas took advantage of the stick-less defenseman, and forced Dubnyk into a kick save on Spezza.
Spurgeon finally got a stick from Mikael Granlund, but with Granlund (a left-handed shot) helping Spurgeon (a right-handed shot), it wasn't a perfect switch.
A turnover down low gave Spezza another opportunity, and Dubnyk came up in his crease aggressively, as he has recently, and made himself big, giving Spezza nothing to shoot at.
The Stars occupied the Wild's zone for nearly two minutes. Granlund chased puck handlers along the blue line like it was a game of flag football. But the Wild survived, and ended a road period that it had begun trailing by a goal tied, giving Minnesota a shot to win in the third.
Before the game, the Stars played the French national anthem, and changed its arena color-scheme to red and blue. The words, liberté, égalité, fraternité were displayed on the jumbotron, the motto of the French revolution, which means "freedom, equality, and fraternity."
The tragic events that took place in Paris on Friday shook us all, and hit closer to home for some than others. Antoine Roussel of the Stars is one of two French players in the NHL, and had a small flag adorned to the back of his helmet. These are times when we come together, as teams across the NHL paid their respects and sent their well wishes to Paris.