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 Toronto Maple Leafs at Xcel Energy Center.
A very compact effort from the Wild, and sans for a stretch to open the second period, the Maple Leafs were not only limited in the shots department, but the looks they did get were primarily from the outside.
"We said it this morning: we knew this was going to be a tough game tonight," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "We knew it was going to be a really tight-checking game. Looking at the video they have not been giving up much, so obviously I'm pretty pleased to be able to come through on top."
The neutral zone, an area that's been such a topic of conversation lately, had a lot to do with that. The Wild was pesty between the two blue lines, forcing Toronto to dump the puck deep. When the Maple Leafs were able to chase down possession, they were forced to work in from off the walls, not an easy task.
"And they pressure hard, too," Yeo said of Toronto. "They're very committed to their game, they work extremely hard right now, and there's just no hesitation."
And as Head Coach Mike Yeo said, there wasn't a lot of room to be had at five-on-five, and the Wild shut things down protecting a 1-0 lead.
"It's been awesome to see the boys bear down and get two solid wins, and kind of get this thing back on track," Matt Dumba said.
After a strong start to the game by the Wild, the Leafs pushed back, taking the first eight shots on goal in the second period.
With the play tilted toward its own end, the Wild leaned on Devan Dubnyk to weather that storm.
"One goal-against, that's pretty good in two games," Yeo said. " In Chicago he had to make some more acrobatic plays, but tonight was no less challenging because of the traffic and the net-front play that they had."
Dubnyk was very sharp, tracking the puck well and dealing with the bodies Toronto threw at his crease. The traffic caused pucks to take odd deflections, or to sit loose in the area around the blue paint, but Dubnyk made himself big, getting a piece of whatever the Maple Leafs threw at him.
"Toronto was doing a pretty good job as far as net-front play, and throwing pucks there, and a lot of traffic in front of the net," Yeo said. "He was picking up those pucks extremely well tonight, reading off those plays."
The Wild settled down after that, and Dubnyk continued his strong play, making 28 saves en route to his NHL-leading fourth shutout.
That stretch Dubnyk helped see the Wild through was key, as it led to Minnesota shortly thereafter taking a 1-0 lead.
"I try to relax a little bit, and keep things small," Dubnyk said. "I talked about it before, when things aren't always going your way you start to slide toward thinking about winning the game and the end result of the game, and you get away from right down to getting set, and pushing and stopping.
"I always try to get back to that, and I was able to do that the last couple of games."
A good job by Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba using the horizontal distance on the blue line to create space for the latter to score a power-play goal, his third of the season.
After Charlie Coyle made a strong play in the corner to retrieve a loose puck, he worked it from his spot down low along the wall up to Dumba. Receiving the pass, Dumba quickly touched it to Spurgeon, and then backpedaled into some open space.
"I liked the mentality of the goal that we scored tonight," Yeo said. "Just kind of winning battles down low, and then a quick-shot mentality."
Spurgeon didn't wait for the pass to reach him, as he accelerated into the path of the pass. With him and Dumba moving in the same direction, it created separation along the left side of the zone, and gave Dumba plenty of space to fire a shot off a return pass from Spurgeon.
"It was just perfectly placed by [Spurgeon]," Dumba said. "We practice that a lot. It just went smooth tonight."
With how little space there was to be had at five-on-five, Yeo said having a good special teams night (Minnesota also went two-for-two on its penalty kills) was paramount to earning two points.
"In tight games that's quite often the difference," Yeo said. "We knew that we were going to have to find a way to create something through the course of the game. You have to create when you get opportunities off the power play."
Before the Wild's game against the Dallas Stars last Saturday, Yeo said he challenged Dumba to be better. And in the three games since, Yeo said he has seen positive strides.
"He's responded. We looked at a couple of clips this morning, and he's on the right side of the puck more," Yeo said. "We still want him activating, we still want him jumping into the play, but he's had a real strong defense-first mentality."
First successful coach's challenge in Minnesota Wild history, and a game-saving one at that.
As Byron Froese carried over the blue line for Toronto, Peter Holland attempted to toe the line to keep the play onside.
The play continued, ruled onside in real time, Froese carried the puck in deep, and Holland ended up pushing home a loose puck in the crease.
It was a pretty quick trigger from Head Coach Mike Yeo, who immediately signaled to the ref he wanted the crew to go under the hood, and after review, the goal was taken off the board when the zone entry was ruled offside.
"I did (see it live), and then we got word quickly," Yeo said. "Even if we had a miscommunication we would have been calling that one. It’s something we're still trying to work on, but we saw that one live."
It was a big challenge in that it preserved the Wild's 1-0 lead with only four minutes to go, and also helped preserve the shutout for Dubnyk.
"I had no idea," Dubnyk said of whether the play was offside. "I said to these guys after, 'It's the rare one goal-against shutout.' You don't see that too often."FIFTH TAKEAWAY
After playing the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, the final meeting between the two teams prior to the 2016 NHL Stadium Series, another reminder of what's come outdoors on Thursday.
Four Minnesota North Stars alumni, Lou Nanne, Steve Payne, Brad Maxwell, and Jack Carlson were on hand to announce the "Let's Play Hockey" call. All four will have a hand in the alumni game, which will take place a day prior to the main event. Nanne joined the Fox Sports North broadcast for the second period, and their presence was simply another reason to start to get excited for an outdoor, Minnesota Wild hockey game.