Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers:
In hockey, one mistake can mean the difference between winning and losing. In the case of tonight’s contest between the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers, it was two mistakes that led to the Wild’s victory. Well, two mistakes and one heck of an individual effort.
Late in the third period, it looked like the Oilers were going to enter the Wild’s zone, but Jordan Eberle’s pass hit Matt Fraser on the foot. Instead of entering the zone, the puck skidded out towards center ice, where Charlie Coyle picked it up with a head full of steam. Coyle was streaking down the left side with a good look at Oilers netminder Viktor Fasth, while Andrew Ference and Justin Schultz were in hot pursuit. Coyle looked like he was going to run out of real estate, pulled the puck to his backhand around the netminder and from behind the goal line, reached out and tucked the puck into the open net. It was a spectacular individual effort for the game winner.
In the team’s first game back following the All-Star Break, the Wild played a tight, controlled game. It wasn’t going to let this one slip away because of a mistake and capitalized on what the Oilers gave them…
Edmonton made the game’s first mistake and the Wild used it to its advantage, as Nino Niederreiter broke out of a 17-game goalless streak with the games first tally. Skating deep in his own zone, Oilers forward Nail Yakupov made one of hockey’s cardinal sins: attempting a pass across his own goal. “Attempting” was the operative word in that sentence because he fanned on the puck like a woman trying to stay cool in a hot church. The puck landed right on the tape of Justin Fontaine, who made a short pass to Niederreiter. The Swiss forward made the most of the turnover, burying it into the upper right corner over Fasth’s glove.
While the Wild capitalized on the game’s first mistake, the club was again victimized by a bad bounce. The Oilers lone goal actually went off the skate of Minnesota center Kyle Brodziak. Edmonton forward Boyd Gordon made a quick wraparound move from behind the net and tried to jam the puck, but missed wide and the puck went in off of Brodziak’s boot. Two good lessons to takeaway from the play: sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and good things happen when you throw the puck at the net (or in this case, just a little wide of the net).
Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk faced the team that selected him 14th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. In an Oilers sweater, the goaltender compiled a 61-76-21 record with a 2.88 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. However, this isn’t the first time he skated against Edmonton. While with the Arizona Coyotes, Dubnyk went 3-0-0 with a 0.97 GAA and a .968 SV%.
Having an intimate knowledge of the shooters might’ve helped Dubnyk against his former teammates. In the second period, Schultz jumped up for a breakaway against the netminder. The Oilers blueliner was cutting in quickly from the right side. Dubnyk read the play and came charging out for a poke-check-two-pad-stack combination save that would’ve made Ken Wregget proud. Dubnyk got just enough of the shot to send the puck wide. Maybe the netminder knows where Schultz likes to shoot in that situation and read the play, but only Dubnyk and Schultz know for sure.
Mikael Granlund returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with a fractured wrist. The 22-year-old adds depth up the middle and was back in an offensive role on the second line between Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek. He was back to his playmaking self pretty quickly; twelve minutes into the first period, Granlund cut across the blue line and drew the eyes of three Oilers defenders. The center threaded a backhand saucer pass to Parise for a shot on goal.
Granlund looked like his conditioning level was good and since he suffered an upper-body injury, he was able to be on the ice for a while before returning. Along with condition, you always wonder how the body will react to battling and taking a hit. In the second period, Granlund took a big hit from Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry in front of the Wild bench. Petry stepped up on Granlund, but the center stuck with the play and made an entry pass before taking a hit.
With beautiful state-of-the-art arenas popping up across the National Hockey League, there is a certain amount of charm when visiting some of the older buildings like Edmonton’s Rexall Place. Known as Northlands Coliseum when it opened in 1974, the outside of the building looks very 70s and the smaller interior provides an intimate atmosphere.
Of course, older buildings like this one — the third oldest in the NHL — have their quirks. When the visiting team exits the ice for warmups, they have to exit via the Zamboni doors, which are inconveniently placed behind the net. Anthem singer Samantha King’s powerful vocals created an audible distortion and nearly blew out the public address speakers. Above the catwalk press box, the arena lights buzzed like a hornets’ nest trying to recreate Lloyd Christmas’ most annoying sound in the world.
In the first period, the glass stole Vanek’s stick right out of his hands and flaunted it like the Sword in the Stone as play went on.
The Oilers are expected to play its final season at the old barn next season, as construction on a new building commenced in 2014. The arena will probably have a nice press box with plenty of power outlets and high-speed Internet, but it won’t have the old-school allure of the Rexall Place.