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 shootout win against the New York Islanders:
Apparently the lactic acid built up in heavy jet-worn legs doesn’t affect the heart. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, the Minnesota Wild fought off a stagnant opening 20 minutes and fled Long Island with a shootout win.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk was stellar for the second-straight game and stole another win for Minnesota. He deserves his own take, yet again. The netminder has been the subject of more Takes than consecutive starts since joining the Wild.
With Dubnyk holding down the fort, the Wild mounted a third period charge to tie the game and send it to overtime. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo reunited Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville in the third period and the move worked. The trio was buzzing in the final 20 and Parise tied the game with 8:15 to go in the third after a dogged effort from the entire line.
Parise was the hero in the shootout, too, scoring the lone goal in the skill competition. Luck was in his favor, after he rang the post Isles netminder Jaroslav Halak — who was stingy in his own right — knocked it into his goal.
The club probably would’ve been ecstatic with a single overtime point. In extending its road-winning streak to 10 games, the Wild looked a little gassed in its celebration or acted like it’s becoming a common occurrence. The team was subdued when congratulating Dubnyk after he stopped the final Isles shooter, John Tavares, for the win. Likely, it’s a little bit of both.
In the first period, the Wild looked like a team that was playing in its third game in four nights, while the Islanders skated like its last game was on Saturday night. The Isles came out like a team that wanted to put the game away in the first, outshooting Minnesota, 16-5, in the first 20 minutes of the game. With the team lagging in front of him, Dubnyk put the Wild on his back and kept New York off the board until the 19:36 mark of the second period, when Tavares knocked in a rebound moments after an expired power play.
Dubnyk made his 32nd-straight start in a Wild sweater (33rd-straight if you go back to his time in Arizona). He’s been the story of the club’s turnaround; now the story has shifted to when will he NOT get a start? More so, is Yeo afraid of fatigue from the netminder? If the 28-year-old can post back-to-back wins with a combined 72 saves and only two goals allowed, I’d say he’s feeling just fine. As good as Dubnyk was in the third period of last night’s contest, he was even better in the opening period tonight. The goaltender is playing the best hockey of his career and the puck probably looks like it’s the size of a hot-air balloon, and moving just as slow. Think of when you’re on a run of blackjack, do you want to play less? No, you want to play multiple spots and bet MORE, doubling down every chance you get. With the stakes at an all-time high, that’s probably how Dubnyk feels right now: every hand is a 21 and he feels like he’s not going to bust any time soon.
The Islanders should hang a State of Hockey flag in Nassau Coliseum (more on the old barn in a minute) because the club has the second-most Minnesotans on its roster in the National Hockey League following the Wild. Nick Leddy (Eden Prairie), Kyle Okposo (St. Paul), Brock Nelson (Warroad) and Anders Lee (Edina) have all been major contributors in the Island this season.
Actually, there is more incest between the two teams rosters than the Lannisters in Game of Thrones. Nino Niederreiter was selected by the Islanders with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Sean Bergenheim was picked in the first round (22nd overall) in 2002, Jared Spurgeon was drafted by New York in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Thomas Vanek, of course, skated with the Islander last season before being traded to Montreal. Even Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson skated in 16 games with the Islanders in 1995-96.
Though he was only in Long Island for 47 games last season, Vanek had nothing but nice things to say about the organization and the area. He actually said one of the reasons he didn’t want to re-sign was because the club was moving to Brooklyn next season. The Austrian also commented on the vociferous nature of the New York crowd. With the club looking playoff bound, the atmosphere in the arena and the area is very upbeat.
However, that positivity quickly faded whenever Vanek was on the ice. It came as no surprise that the Islanders faithful booed the 31-year-old (they also cheered when he fell in the first period) every time he touched the puck. The crowd also booed Niederreiter, who was traded for Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Walking across the parking lot to the Nassau Coliseum this morning for the Wild’s media availability, it felt like I was crossing through the space-time continuum and into a bygone era of helmetless players and wooden hockey sticks. Although I wasn’t an Islanders fan, young hockey followers growing up in the 80s knew about the great dynasty that played in the building early in the decade. Banners from the organization’s run of four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983 and the great players from that era hang in the rafters.
Unless the Wild and Islanders meet in the Stanley Cup Final, tonight’s contest marks Minnesota’s final game at Nassau Coliseum. Next year, the Isles will move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. While the arena is outdated by today’s standards, there is a lot of charm in the old barn. The arena scoreboard’s graphics look like a 16-bit console (WildTV’s Dusty Peterson quipped that they were going to play a game of PONG for the between-period entertainment). The press box isn’t the most spacious or comfortable, but it’s close to the ice and easy to see the numbers on the sweaters. The Islanders are amidst a resurgence with Tavares and a young core and will probably be a hot ticket in its new home of Brooklyn, but I’m sure there are fans who are nostalgic about the glory days on the Island and will miss games in the arena.