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 5-2 win against the New York Rangers at Xcel Energy Center.
How was Devan Dubnyk welcomed back after a five-game, 12-day absence? How about a penalty shot 49 seconds into the first period.
"You talk before the game about, 'do you want lots of shots early?' and that's why you don't think about those things," Dubnyk said. "Because if you wanted lots of shots early, you don't get a choice, you get a penalty shot, first thing."
Dubnyk, who said he felt like he's been tracking the puck well in practice, and didn't feel rusty coming back, proved that when he gloved down Keith Yandle's penalty shot bid.
The two players are former teammates from their Arizona Coyotes days, so Dubnyk had the scouting report as Yandle waited at center ice.
"It's a dangerous move," Dubnyk said. "Unless you know it."
Dubnyk followed the puck perfectly off the blade, keeping his glove in the ready position, and then watched himself catch the shot.
"I've seen that move a couple of times from him, so I was ready for it," Dubynk said. "I actually didn't think he was going to do it, because he scored on me lots that way in practice in Arizona, so I kind of stuck my glove out there to try to protect from it, and was preparing for something else."
The Wild buckled down after that, not allowing a shot on goal for the next 12:31. Dubnyk didn't accumulate any rust from that layoff, either, flashing the pad on a Jesper Fast redirection late in the first, and getting a piece of a J.T. Miller tip.
"[Dubnyk] was huge tonight when we needed him to be," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
Some more chemistry between Thomas Vanek and Mikko Koivu, and some more of what Yeo has said has been so encouraging about Vanek's play lately.
Koivu scored in the first period, his second goal in as many games, with Vanek picking up the primary assist. The play began in the neutral zone, when Vanek made a good read to sniff out a Rangers breakout, intercepting a pass and turning the play in the Wild's favor.
Vanek then helped facilitate a zone entry, and followed the play below the goal line. Taking a pass from Marco Scandella, Vanek quickly wheeled the puck in front to an open Koivu, who scored his seventh of the season.
"I just talked with [Vanek], too, and said it's a good thing that we can generate," Koivu said. "Usually over a period of time it's going to pay off."
Later on, Koivu would cash in on a rebound created by Ryan Carter. In the closing minutes, he nearly completed the hat trick, but was stopped on a breakaway.
"You always want to produce, and when you're out there for power plays and things like that, you want to help the team with getting some offense going, and getting some momentum," Koivu said.
Koivu, who entered his past game without an even-strength goal, now has three in his past two, receiving two primary assists from Vanek. Koivu has seven points over those two games, with three goals and four assists.
"He went through a spell where, he was getting chances, things were happening, but the puck wasn't going in," Yeo said. "It's a good lesson for everybody, young players especially, that you just have to stay with it."
When the Wild broke out for six goals against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, the story became the offense.
There were five more Wild goals scored on Thursday, so it might be easy to overlook the defensive effort, but it was there.
"Now it's been going in, so for sure we want to score as much as we can, but at the same time we've been good defensively, and that's allowed us to be good offensively," Koivu said.
After an early hiccup that resulted in a Rangers penalty shot, the Wild skated over 12 minutes without allowing a shot on goal, and played stubborn defense.
It allowed five total in the first period, and took ownership of the neutral zone, forcing the Rangers to flip pucks out to center ice and defend.
"We certainly could have had a few more goals tonight the way things were bouncing, but for whatever reason, I felt pretty confident back there," Yeo said. "Guys had a pretty good focus tonight."
Protecting a one-goal lead in the third period, Minnesota did a good job of forcing the Rangers to go 200 feet, and even expanded it to a three-goal lead. The Wild got pucks deep, whether via sustained shifts, or responsible dump-ins.
In all, Minnesota allowed 23 shots on goal.
While that doesn't sound like defending, responsible plays with the puck go a long way in creating easier defensive situations. And it fit the theme of what Minnesota has done so well over the past three or so weeks.
Matt Dumba made a high hockey IQ play to put himself in a good position on the power play, and it paid off.
Plotting Dumba's movement on the shift, the right-handed shot received a pass at the right point. After moving the puck down to Mikael Granlund, Dumba cut across the faceoff circle, which did two things: It created a bit of havoc as the Rangers tried to get positioned, and allowed Dumba to get to his strong side.
"That's exactly it," Dumba said. "[Jared Spurgeon] was yelling at me to dish it down, and it was kind of a play to escape out of that pressure. Kind of lose myself in there, and it worked out."
The Wild maintained possession below the dot, and Dumba remained level, staying down low in favor of going back to the point. After Nino Niederreiter made a power-move to the net from the goal line (a good sign) Dumba managed to bat the puck out of midair and past Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.
"I got lucky, I guess. Just swinging," Dumba said. "I played [baseball] when I was little. It's still a sport that I follow, and play in the summer here and there with my buddies.
"I don't really know if that has much to do with it, but I just got lucky tonight."
But the play doesn't happen, and Dumba isn't in that position unless he recognizes an opportunity to flip the spacing on an axis.
Don't look know, but the Wild's power play has five goals in its past two games, and has been operating rather efficiently.
When things are working on special teams, the goals don't always come via the, work-the-puck-around-the-zone, textbook power play formula. The two Wild power-play goals on Thursday were a good example.
"They were two, totally different goals," Koivu said.
The first (written about above) was more conventional, created off good puck movement, while the finish looked more like something out of Target Field.
The second goal came off the rush, where there is more space skating five-on-four, but not necessarily where teams look to create offense. With the Rangers completing a change, Ryan Suter hit Koivu on a stretch pass on the weak side.
From there, Koivu and Jason Pominville attacked the goal, the former saucered a pass ahead, and Pominville walked into it, beating Lundqvist on the backhand.
More than anything, the Wild's power play is operating with a renewed confidence, which comes with scoring five times on your past eight opportunities.
"We worked on it a lot in practice lately, and just all the boys, as a group, it doesn't really matter who’s out there, everyone is talking about plays, and what they see, and that communication helps a lot," Dumba said. "Guys are just making a lot of hard plays, good reads, and getting the puck to the net."