Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 6-2 win against the Dallas Stars:
For the first two periods, it seemed like the Minnesota Wild couldn’t buy a goal. Then in the third, the team cashed in on its opportunities, exploding for a six-goal comeback win. The six-goal third set a Wild franchise record for tallies in a period.
In the final 20 minutes, it seemed like everyone in the Wild’s lineup had the mojo going. Zach Parise led the way with a pair of goals (leading the team with 25), while Mikael Granlund chipped in with a goal and two assists. Defenseman Christian Folin added a pair of assists for his first multi-point game as a pro. Stephane Veilleux scored the game winner, his first of the season, battling for a loose puck and finally chipping it past Stars netminder Jhonas Enroth.
With the win, the Wild takes sole possession of the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings. It’s the first time the club has seen the top-eight since Nov. 24, when it was tied for the eighth spot.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s impact has been immense on the Wild. Coming into tonight’s game, the netminder had a 12-2-1 record with a 1.61 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and five shutouts with Minnesota. The 28-year-old has been so hot he’s even helped himself by adding two assists. With each win, he extends a career-high, tonight earning his 22nd of the season with the 18-save performance.
Dubnyk’s impact is having a trickle-down effect throughout the State of Hockey, as well. During the first intermission, Children’s Hospitals Mighty Mites from Hinkley scrimmaged on the same ice as their heroes. When one of the diminutive goaltenders made a big save on a breakaway, the crowd let out a mighty, “Duuuuuuuubs” call, which has become a staple inside Xcel Energy Center whenever Dubnyk makes a key save. Let’s just hope the kid knew the crowd was appreciating the effort and not booing him.
One of the favorite past-times for young hockey players is the smaller version of the game: knee hockey. It is much like the full-size version, only played with mini-sticks, a ball and from the knees. I can remember dozens of road trips where my youth team would rowdily play in hotel hallways until we were asked to stop by an employee or manager — sometimes politely, other times not so much.
Judging by his puck-handling skills, I’m guessing that Granlund was a pretty decent knee hockey player back in the day. Tonight, he might’ve had a little flashback to his youth days in the second period. In a battle along the wall with Stars forward Vernon Fiddler, Granlund was upended and landed on his knees. However, he retained control of the puck and began to dangle around Fiddler, while two other Dallas players converged on him. The crafty center then tossed a backhand pass onto the tape of Justin Fontaine — making the Stars checkers look foolish in the process.
Granlund likes to play the Stars. His goal came on a breakaway, making a quick move then snapping a shot past Enroth’s blocker. It was his sixth of the season and his fourth against the Stars.
All good things must come to an end. For the Wild that good thing was its streak of 32-straight killed penalties, which ended in the second period when Jason Spezza rocketed a slap shot past Dubnyk. The club hadn’t allowed a power play goal after the All-Star Break, giving up its last goal while shorthanded on Jan. 20 at Detroit.
With the team’s turnaround, the penalty kill has been lights out and is amongst the best in the League. Coming into the game Minnesota ranked third in the NHL, killing 86.1 percent of opponents’ power plays and had an NHL-best 90.4 percent PK rate on home ice.
They did even the special teams score, 1-1. Defenseman Matt Dumba pumped in his second goal in three games and fourth of the season, snapping a wicked wrister high past Enroth’s glove.
Today, we celebrated Hockey Day in America and there were a number of in-arena events to help honor the game in the United States. The Wild honored eight local members of the U.S. Women's National Under-18 Team that won gold at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women's World Championship in January. Head Coach, Joel Johnson (White Bear Lake, Minn./University of Minnesota), Grace Bizal (Minnetonka/Hopkins High School) Presley Norby (Shorewood/Minnetonka High School), Kenzie Prater (Hudson, Wis./Hill Murray School), Sophie Shaver (Wayzata/Wayzata High School), Natalie Snodgrass (Eagan/Eastview High School), Mekenzie Steffen (White Bear Township/Hill Murray School) and Paige Voight (St. Michael/Cretin Derhman Hall) were recognized during the first intermission.
During the second intermission, the Wild honored Bob O’Connor with the State of Hockey Legacy Award. For many years, O’Connor was involved on many levels with USA Hockey. He was the Director of USA Hockey’s Coaches Section for a decade (1994-2004) and the organization’s National Coach-in-Chief for two years (2004-06). Additionally, he was also a member of USA Hockey’s Youth Council for eight campaigns (1996-2004) and was voted director emeritus in 2004.