Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 7-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres:
With the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Minnesota Wild, the club put together a complete game in Buffalo. The Wild started strong, scoring 5:13 into the first period and never looked back, or up for that matter.
Minnesota looked like a completely different club compared to recent efforts: comfortable and confident, and it was contagious. During the team’s skid, the Wild played well in spurts, but ultimately something negative would happen, the dagger would fall and cut down the club’s confidence. There was no deflating momentum killer tonight and the team played together. The seven-goal margin of victory was the largest in team history.
There were a number of storylines from the game, most importantly, Minnesota stopped a six-game losing streak and played hard for 60 minutes. Several players had multi-point games including Kyle Brodziak (1-1=2), Jason Pominville (3A), Mikko Koivu (2A), Zach Parise (1-1=2), Thomas Vanek (1-1=2) and Erik Haula (1-1=2).
The big story coming into the game was that the club acquired a goaltender yesterday, who was impressive tonight…
Minnesota acquired netminder Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes for a third-round pick in the 2015 National Hockey League Entry Draft. The netminder received the call last night and took the red eye from Phoenix to JFK Airport to Buffalo in order to start tonight. Needless to say, it was a long, sleep-deprived night for the 6-foot-6 netminder. However, he showed no signs of fatigue earning an 18 save shutout — pretty good way to introduce yourself to a new team. He becomes the first goalie in Minnesota history to post a shutout in his first game. In the second period, forward Matt Cooke and goaltender Niklas Backstrom both waited for Dubnyk as he left the ice and tapped the netminder’s pads, their way of welcoming him to the club.
Last season, Dubnyk went through is own struggles with confidence. The former first-round pick lost his starting job with the Edmonton Oilers, was shipped to the Nashville Predators and ended up playing in the American Hockey League. With Arizona, the goaltender had a chance to rebuild mentally and prove that he’s still a viable option in net, posting a 9-5-2 record in 19 games with a .916 save percentage and 2.72 goals-against average. The goaltender has a chance to play in meaningful games for the Wild in the second half of the season and provide competition for Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom.
Coming into tonight, the Wild was winless in its last six games (0-5-1) and was in a similar situation against the Sabres last year. Last season, Minnesota lost six straight games in regulation to end the 2013 calendar year and opened 2014 with a 4-1 victory against the Sabres in Saint Paul. The Jan. 2, 2014 victory versus Buffalo kicked off a four-game win streak and a 23-10-7 record to clinch a Wild Card spot.
The Wild has a larger gap to make up this season, but it only takes one win to gain some confidence and get on a roll. Coming into the game, Minnesota was eight points out of the final Wild Card spot, currently held by the Vancouver Canucks. It will be an uphill battle, with four teams to pass in the standings, but Minnesota has shown its ability to add up victories like Rain Man counting cards at the Black Jack table.
Buffalo employs a few former Wild members, Matt Moulson and Torrey Mitchell. Of course, Minnesota has a couple ex-Sabres, Pominviile and Vanek, who both tormented their former team. For the first time back in Buffalo in a Wild sweater, Vanek scored a power play goal. Koivu set up the right-hander in the high slot and he wired a one-timer past Buffalo netminder Jhonas Enroth.
The Sabres gave Pominville a video tribute during the first period tonight. Last season, in his return, the organization didn’t recognize the former captain’s return, which drew the ire of local media. The wing repaid the team with a three-assist effort, his third multipoint effort in January and eighth on the year. With the Wild’s recent struggles, it might be hard for either Pominville or Vanek to feel bad for Buffalo, who have lost nine in a row. However, both have spoken fondly of their time in the city and the fans, so it must be tough to see their former team struggle like this.
The Wild was without its all-star defenseman Ryan Suter tonight. The blueliner was handed a two-game suspension by the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety for elbowing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Steve Downie on Tuesday. The team also placed defensemen Marco Scandella and Justin Falk on Injured Reserve yesterday, both with upper-body injuries.
With the missing blueliners, the Wild recalled Matt Dumba from Iowa in the American Hockey League. The defenseman was gaining experience in the minors, skating in all situations and logging gobs of ice time. While in Iowa, he racked up 12 points in 17 games and was named to the AHL’s All-Star Classic. Tonight, he looked comfortable and confident, in the first period making a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone to Koivu for a shot on goal. The 20-year-old also marked an NHL first, dropping the gloves with Sabres wing Nicolas Deslauries. The Buffalo forward got in a few early shots, but Dumba stood tough and threw a few overhands of his own.
Of course, the Wild didn’t draft the D-man in the first round of the 2012 Draft for his fisticuffs. Dumba released an absolute cannon from the right point in the second period, which a screened Enroth never saw, let alone have time to react to. In total, Dumba had a goal, five penalty minutes for the fight, a plus-3 rating, two shots (I counted more), and three hits in 16:11 TOI. Not a bad way for the youngster to return to the NHL.