Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings:
The Minnesota Wild’s mad March comes to a close with another win, overcoming tired legs on back-to-back nights to dethrone the Los Angeles Kings.
It looked like the fourth set of back-to-back games in the month finally caught up to the Wild (the team went 7-1 in back-to-backs on the month). The rested Kings outshot Minnesota, 32-20. However, goaltender Devan Dubnyk continues to be an iron man in net moving to 26-6-1 in his 33rd-straight start with the Wild. On the second night of a back-to-back since the All-Star Break, Dubnyk is 4-0-1 with a 1.17 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage.
After jumping out to a two-goal lead in the first, the game’s most critical juncture might’ve been late in the second period. Minnesota killed a 5-on-3 power play to close out a tough period and pulled away in the third.
The line of Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter and Chris Stewart, who all had multi-point games, led the Wild. The club did its damage in the opening and closing periods, scoring twice in each. Koivu had two goals and an assist, Niederreiter had a pair of goals and Stewart added two assists.
With the win, the Wild overtakes the Chicago Blackhawks for the third spot in the Central Division. If you’d said Minnesota would be able to catch the Hawks in mid-January, I’d have called you crazy. However, with depth in scoring and a goaltender as hot as Dubnyk, anything is possible.
The Wild captain continues to climb the club’s all-time leaderboard in a number of categories. Today he set the franchise record for multi-point games (115), with a goal and an assist in the first period. It was an apropos game to set the record because it came against the former multi-point leader, Marian Gaborik’s new team. The forward has teamed well with Stewart and Niederreiter, and the trio is starting to click offensively. Koivu netted the game winner Friday and has totaled 21 points (7-14=21) in his last 27 games. They are a heavy line and difficult to play against because they are solid in the defensive zone as well as strong on the forecheck and cycle.
Koivu continues to set franchise marks. The captain is the organization’s leader in assists (355) and points (498), second in games played (677), goals (143) and game-winning goals (24) and third in power-play goals (42).
For the third straight game at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild chased the opposing team’s goaltender out of the net. Brian Elliot (St. Louis), Karri Ramo (Calgary) and today Jonathan Quick were all pulled. Of the trio, Quick had the shortest leash, only lasting 20 minutes after giving up two goals on nine shots, replaced by Martin Jones.
Assuming Quick was healthy enough to play in the second period, Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter must’ve been looking to spark his team. With Los Angeles fighting for its playoff life, the team’s bench boss used the tactic, pulling one of the League’s best netminders. It looked like the move worked, as the Kings outshot the Wild, 17-5, in the middle frame.
Wild forward Ryan Carter returned to the lineup tonight after missing 23 games with an upper-body injury. In his first season in Minnesota, Carter has filled a role as a checker and top penalty killer. With the club in the thick of its final postseason push, he adds more depth up front and is a do-anything-for-the-team type of player that is so important for a team to have. Twice, the forward broke his stick while blocking shots and was a big part of the team’s penalty kill late in the second period when the Kings had a 5-on-3 advantage.
When Carter first started practicing with the team, he said that the most difficult thing about coming back would be to trust his body after an injury. On his first shift of the game, the forward threw a check and looked like he was in good form physically for the rest of the contest.
While Minnesota State Mankato fans were able to celebrate the alum’s return to the Wild lineup, it was a melancholy day for Mavs nation. The No. 1 ranked team was upset by the Rochester Institute of Technology, 2-1, this afternoon.
To be completely honest, tonight’s Wild game really interfered with the matchup I really wanted to watch, St. Cloud State University taking on the University of North Dakota. However, thanks to technology (that was a little spotty at times), I was able to have the SCSU game streaming on my phone while tweeting from @mnwildLIVE and working on these Takes. Luckily, the Huskies’ game started later, so I’ll be able to finish watching after I wrap these up. It truly is a Golden Age of Sports Watching for fans.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon netted his 100th career point on Niederreiter’s third period power play goal. The blueliner threaded the needle with a perfect look to the Swiss forward, who redirected it past Jones.
Bonus, Bonus Take
The Wild sported and supported green today. On the ice, the club wore its stylish Forest Green sweaters and off it the organization participated in Earth Day. The organization, Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul RiverCentre and the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium turned off the exterior marquees, signs and non-essential lighting on the campus from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Also to offset electricity usage, Xcel Energy Center’s Windsource Program powers all Wild home games.