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With kids looking on, Evason secures emotional first NHL win

Wild rallies with late tying goal, wins in fifth round of shootout Wednesday in Vancouver

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

VANCOUVER -- Dean Evason couldn't stand not watching anymore.

With the Wild and Canucks dueling through the end of regulation and an entertaining, fast-paced overtime, Minnesota's interim head coach turned away on several occasions during the shootout, barely able to keep his nervous energy contained.

Ryan Donato and Mats Zuccarello scored in the first three rounds to send the skills competition into a round-by-round, sudden death roller coaster of emotions.

Then, in round five, with Minnesota trying a second chance to walk away a winner, Evason looked up into suite 521, where the Wild's dads and mentors were anxiously watching themselves.

In the front row were Evason's three children, Bryce, Brianne and Brooke. As Alex Galchenyuk took off towards the Vancouver goal, puck on his stick, Evason trained his eyes on his kids awaiting their reaction.

Moments later, Galchenyuk backhanded a shot into an open net. At long last, their dad was an NHL winner.

"I knew where the kids were ... and I just looked up at my three kids sitting in the front and watched their reactions," Evason said. "They jumped in the air, so I knew we scored. Pretty cool."

Video: Celly and helmet at Vancouver

After savoring the moment on the bench, Evason retreated to the locker room for a few minutes, then to the coaches office before addressing media. After four minutes of answering questions, Evason made a b-line for the stands behind the Wild bench, where he shared a big hug with family members that had gathered.

The stoic and uber-competitive Evason let his guard down for a few minutes. The smile never left his face. In the few minutes after the game, several family members, friends and colleagues had sent their well-wishes via text message. But that was nothing compared to Evason's son Bryce, who said he had heard from nearly four dozen people in the 25 minutes or so from the end of the game until the walk to the bus. 

It has been an emotionally charged week for Evason, who took over as interim head coach last Friday. With a couple dozen dads on the trip, it's been hard for Evason not to think about how much his father, Allan, who passed away last May, would be enjoying this week. At the same time, there was something even more special about being able to share his first win in the NHL with his three children all in attendance, something that wouldn't have been possible had fate had other things in store.

"It's amazing, and you hear things happen for a reason and all those things," Evason said. "To have my three children here was awesome."

But this win was more than just a feel-good story for the head coach. The team's newest player, Alex Galchenyuk -- acquired last week in the trade that sent Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh -- had his biggest moments yet.

His goal in the final five minutes of regulation tied the game at 3-3 for the Wild and earned the club a critical point in the standings.

In the shootout, his winning goal in the fifth round helped secure the other. 

"It's a win that, obviously, we need," Evason said. "We talked the other day about one at a time and this was a really good one."

Video: Dean Evason postgame at Vancouver

What a difference a week or two has made for Galchenyuk, who skated just five shifts and amassed only 3 minutes, 2 seconds of ice time in his final game with the Penguins on Feb. 8. 

He's been north of 12 minutes in each of his first four games with the Wild, and on Wednesday, was on the ice late in regulation, earned a shift in overtime, then was counted on to put the game away in the skills competition.

"The second I got traded here I knew that I was going to have a great opportunity and got to stick with it, work hard and do the best I can to help the team win," Galchenyuk said. "[I'm] happy I contributed today."

Video: Locker room postgame at Vancouver

It was the sixth goal of the season for Galchenyuk and by far the most important. Ironically, it was his first goal since he scored against the Wild when it was in Pittsburgh last month. 

After finishing 2019 with goals in two of his final three games, the goal Wednesday was Galchenyuk's second in 19 games since the calendar flipped to 2020.

Video: MIN@VAN: Galchenyuk banks puck in off defender

"I think obviously getting the first one, it's a weight off your shoulders," Galchenyuk said. "But the win, the way we did it, was an extra special feeling, especially with the dads in the crowd. Can't be better than that."

Galchenyuk's nifty backhand move didn't catch his goaltender, Devan Dubnyk by surprise. Dubnyk said he had a good feeling the Wild was about to win as soon as he saw Galchenyuk hop over the boards.

"He roasted me twice on that move in practice," Dubnyk said. "Very similar look to Markstrom there was me in practice. Lightning fast backhand and up. I was happy to see him over the boards."

Video: MIN@VAN: Galchenyuk roofs backhander for SO winner

Both the tying goal and the shootout winner came in the end of the rink where his dad, Alex Sr., was watching from high above. 

"I can't wait to see him and talk about the game," Galchenyuk said. "It's definitely nice to share memories like this with him."

The victory was a big one for the Wild, who saw other Western Conference playoff contenders lose in regulation. Earlier in the night, Arizona lost to Dallas while Chicago fell to the New York Rangers.

That opened the door for the Wild to gain ground. The two points moved Minnesota five points back of the Coyotes for the second wild card spot. But the Wild has four games in hand.

"When you battle back and win it like that, that can be a boost," said Dubnyk, who made 31 saves in the win. "It was definitely a good feeling the way the guys worked there."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 4, Canucks 3 (SO)

Video: Galchenyuk's SO winner helps Wild defeat Canucks

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