Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 3-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes:
It wasn’t the best start, it wasn’t a very good middle, but on the second night of a back-to-back, the Minnesota Wild again found a way to dig deep for a third period victory. For the second consecutive night, the Wild came alive in the third with a charge led by Zach Parise and Jason Pominville.
Mikael Granlund netted the winner, thanks to a little puck luck off the skate of Hurricanes defenseman Chris Terry. Both Pominville and Parise assisted on the play. In a scene familiar to last night, and so many times this season, Parise’s work caused a turnover in the Carolina end and led to a goal. The forward’s tenacious work caused Jordan Stall to cough up the puck to the stick of Pominville for a shot. Parise, who never seems to stop moving, went to the net and tapped home the rebound.
Oddly enough, it was Pominville’s first assist in 18 games. The wing still managed to maintain the team-assist lead (31), despite the drought. It was the 136th multi-point game of his career and second in as many nights. For Parise, it was his 129th career multi-point game and second in a row. He leads the club with 50 points (26-24=50).
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk started in goal for the 23rd straight game. Before the contest, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo spoke about the decision of resting the netminder versus sticking with the hot hand. Well, the goaltender showed no signs of slowing down, making 37 saves on the night. With the Canes pressuring during the entire second period and the Wild back in a defensive posture, the netminder was at his best, stopping 15 of 16 shots.
Carolina has the National Hockey League’s best penalty kill (88.2 percent), an odd happenstance for a team with the League’s fourth-worst record. Though the Wild’s first goal didn’t count as a power play tally, it came immediately after a man advantage thanks to a too many men penalty on the Canes.
As the penalty expired, the Wild took one final rush up the ice. Defenseman Matt Dumba started the play by gaining speed through the neutral zone and moving the puck to a streaking Granlund. The forwards then made a tic-tac-toe passing play, moving it to Nino Niederreiter and finally to Charlie Coyle, who finished high on Khudobin. Setting up the play was the power play’s speed as a unit. The three forwards were on an even plane and pushed the Canes defenders back in unison, which opened up the passing lanes.
During pregame warmups, we learned that the team would be without forward Thomas Vanek. He was out due to an illness. This gave room for Nino Niederreiter to return to the lineup after missing yesterday’s contest in Washington with a lower-body injury. Before the game he was considered day-to-(apparently-only-one)-day and Yeo said that he would’ve played last night if it was a playoff game. Although tonight’s contest wasn’t a postseason tilt, each and every game from here on out will have playoff implications, so Niederreiter played.
The Wild continues to await the return of defenseman Jared Spurgeon. The 25-year-old has been on Injured Reserve since Feb. 18 and has missed eight games. The team has a mandatory day off tomorrow before hosting the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday (in what promises to be must-see TV after their last meeting). With an extra day of rest, we could see Spurgeon’s return against the Avs.
Dubnyk’s story and play with the Wild has taken the NHL by storm. Whenever the team travels outside of the State of Hockey, you can tell how many Minnesota fans are in the house whenever the netminder makes a save by the volume of “Duuuubs” that ring out in visiting arenas. Tonight, there was a large contingent of Wild fans in the building and were especially boisterous in support of the netminder during the second period. You have to wonder, if opposing fans join in with “boos” because they don’t realize it’s Wild fans actually cheering their netminder.
For what was, at times, a sleepy game in front of the 10,857 fans at PNC Arena, there was a vocal contingent a few feet from the press box that kept media members entertained. One, after a couple of darker large lagers, was screaming “Earn your paycheck!” Another, sitting by himself, started a “Let’s go Hur-i-canes!” with a triple cowbell ring. Finally, one called out a member of the Wild regarding a physical feature that is not fit for print and most likely erroneous. Good times on a Friday night in Raleigh.
I’m not sure why the game seemed sluggish at times; maybe the Wild was a little gassed after an intense game last night in Washington and arrived at its hotel around 1:30 a.m. It also could’ve been this writer’s tired eyes had trouble keeping up with the action after the late arrival and heavy press meal. Carolina, hands down, has the best pregame meal for the media in the League and I might’ve been over served with the pulled pork, like the fan who was ranting about players earning their paycheck after a few too many suds.
The Wild came alive—finding its legs in the third period around the same the second helping of deep-fried ravioli was digested. With Minnesota getting a mandatory day off tomorrow, I might have to mix in a mandatory salad and workout in order to burn a few of the extra Carolina calories.