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 1-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Xcel Energy Center.
In short, Devan Dubnyk was spectacular.
Dubnyk set the tone early with a save on a Steven Stamkos' one-time shot from Stamkos' sweet spot on the power play.
"Probably don't want to give up a lot of cross-ice one timers to Steven Stamkos when you're starting a game, but there's always going to be mistakes, and if your goalie can do that, it builds confidence in your game," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
On the same penalty kill, Dubnyk parried away a deflection by Tyler Johnson from the high slot, and then scooted over to his post to meet a rebound attempt shoveled toward the corner of the goal by Ondrej Palat.
"[Dubnyk] did a great job; it starts with him," Ryan Suter said. "He was solid."
As the power play expired, although it would go down as an even-strength save, Dubnyk stopped Johnson from point blank as he was all alone in the slot with only four Wild skaters in the zone.
"He was on," Yeo said. "I don't want to say more aggressive, but he was definitely attacking more of the shots tonight, and certainly that's his best of the season."
Later in the first, Dubnyk one-upped himself (twice) in a matter of seconds. First, after nearly getting caught out of position, he slid back across his crease to get a piece of an Anton Stralman shot at an open net, and then, maintained his balance, and gloved a shot across the grain by Alex Killorn.
"It's nice to be able to pay these guys back a little," Dubnyk said. "They've scored four and five goals for me in some wins this year, and they worked real hard for me tonight to give me a chance."
There was a lunging save on Killorn in the second period to keep the Lightning off the board, a squeezing of the pads on a Nikita Kucherov breakaway in the third, and seconds later, a glove save to snare a Vladislav Namestnikov snap shot.
"Until the final buzzer, save-after-save, big saves, and that's what we need from him," Charlie Coyle said. "He keeps us in games, and those tight, one-goal games, we know we can count on him to keep us in it."
In all, Dubnyk made 31 saves to earn his second shutout of the season. If the Wild continues to get these types of performances from Dubnyk, it will certainly help see Minnesota through the absence of Zach Parise.
"That 100 percent is it," Yeo said. "For sure the goals are going to be down if you lose one of your top offensive players."
Yeo wanted Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville to be more involved after the Nashville game on Thursday, they did just that, and it helped the Wild score.
Pominville got a good shot on goal off a rush opportunity that created a rebound in front that Coyle nearly scored on. Instead of circling back toward the blue line, Pominville went to the front of the net, along with Granlund, and the puck worked its way back to the point.
With the two forwards in front creating traffic, Jared Spurgeon took a point shot that Ben Bishop had trouble tracking, and gave the Wild a 1-0 lead.
"It's nice that they got the goal, but more importantly, they just dug in and played the right way all game long," Yeo said. "Those guys had some tough matchups tonight, too. They got a big goal for us, but they did a good job defensively as well."
The trio of Coyle, Pominville, and Granlund had a solid night, with Coyle, as Yeo had forecasted, using his straight-ahead speed to open up space, and Granlund and Pominville making strong plays with the puck.
"Tonight, [Coyle] just said, 'I'm going to show everybody how good of a hockey player I am,' and he did that," Yeo said. "The whole line that was their best game in a while."
A good defensive strategy against Lighting superstar Steven Stamkos? Possess the puck.
It was no surprise to see Mikko Koivu's line tasked with matching up against Stamkos' line, and, one of the things Koivu's line has excelled at this season (puck possession) helps mitigate what Stamkos is able to do offensively.
In a sense it's almost not defending, just decreasing the number of defensive sequences you're forced into. By hemming Tampa Bay in its own end zone with Stamkos on the ice, and keeping him 200 feet away from the goal, he can't be a threat.
Koivu, Jason Zucker, and Nino Niederreiter excelled when playing against Stamkos, controlling the possession game at even-strength, and pigeonholing Stamkos in his defensive zone.
Also having a strong game against Stamkos was the line of Granlund, Coyle, and Pominville.
"We just tried to play tight on him and not give him too much space out there," Coyle said. "You can't really break down and over-cover him, and we still played our system, and we did a good job of that and kind of frustrated him."
Not to be forgotten in this is Suter and Jared Spurgeon, who also played about half of Stamkos' even-strength minutes, and played a key role in stopping the Lightning's top goal scorer.
"Those guys always get a heavy dose of the other team's top guys, and always do a good job," Yeo said of his top defensive pairing.
Stamkos played 15:44 at even-strength on Saturday. Koivu ate up 7:42 of those minutes, with a shot-attempts percentage of 53.9. Ryan Suter saw 10:10 against Stamkos, with a shot-attempts percentage of 66.7. And Charlie was on the ice for 5:41 against the Lightning's captain, with a shot-attempts percentage of 72.7.
Christoph Bertschy, who was described Saturday morning as playing "bigger than his size" quietly had a nice debut to his NHL career.
Playing on a line with Thomas Vanek and Erik Haula, Bertschy did the things that he himself highlighted when providing a scouting report. He brought energy, throwing around his body on the forecheck and disrupting the Lightning's flow.
Bertschy scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone in the second period, took a good shot off the rush, and drove to the net creating havoc.
When dissecting how to match up against the Lightning's speed after morning skate, defenseman Christian Folin said the Wild needed to have good gaps.
What this means is, where the Lightning like to carry the puck with control and speed into the offensive zone, the Wild spaces the ice in a way that it disrupts Tampa Bays' cadence, either forcing them on an angle or to double-back in the neutral zone and re-attempt an entry.
"Everybody chipped in; it takes five guys to shut top players down," Suter said.
Allowing the Lightning to play with their foot on the gas is not a recipe for success. It was a five-man effort from Minnesota, with the forwards tracking back well and creating traffic above the blue line, and factoring into that spacing.