Dan Myers gives three quick takeaways from the Wild's 3-1 preseason victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.
1. Eric Staal had quite the night against his former club, scoring the game-winning goal while also setting up Minnesota's first score with a fabulous dish.
More on the pass in a moment. After getting the extra attacker on the ice following a delayed penalty, Staal camped out in the right circle. The puck zipped around the offensive zone before Zach Parise deflected it to Staal, standing all alone near the faceoff dot. He looked off Carolina goaltender Alex Neeljkovic before snapping a shot through a defenseman and past the rookie netminder for his first of the preseason.
"I was kind of just sitting in the right spot," Staal said. "Obviously, we drew a power play there and played 6-on-5 and kind of just continued to attack the net, it was a good job by some guys in front of the net. Mikko shot it, it kind of bounced right to me and then I had some time with it there, gave a look and it was difficult for the goalie to see it."
Video: Staal Goes Five-Hole for Goal
Bidding for his second goal later in the period, Staal was stymied by a sliding Nedeljkovic save with six minutes remaining in regulation.
"I thought they moved the puck and had good zone chances," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Staal-Parise-Charlie Coyle line, which was together for the first time. "They got [two] of our goals. You need a big line to score your goals. I was happy with that. It's going to take a little while for them to get completely in sync."
2. After surrendering the opening goal of the game to Carolina in the first period, the Wild clawed back moments into the second, in large part because of Staal's wizardry behind the goal.
In the midst of a battle with a Hurricanes player along the end wall, the puck all of the sudden squirted free to Coyle, who was crashing the net from the left point. A quick flick of the wrists from Coyle, and the game was tied. Immediately, fans gazed to the center-ice scoreboard for a look at just how the puck got to his stick: Yep, Staal won the battle and flicked a no-look, behind-the-back pass that landed right on Coyle's tape for the tying goal.
"He beat the guy off the wall so I knew if I could get it out in front of him, he would have a step on the guy," Staal said. "He made a great shot. That's a great shot from in tight. I just laid it in there for him and he made a great play."
Video: Charlie Coyle Postgame
"I'm always ready for it, especially with him passing it," Coyle said with a wry grin. "I'm getting used to him. He made a really nice play and it was nice to get that first one."
3. As a group, the Parise-Staal-Coyle combo was the best for either team.
In addition to providing the bulk of the Wild's offense, they were in the middle of a lion's share of the best scoring chances, too. Minnesota nearly got on the board a few minutes into the game when Staal and Parise Plinko'd the puck near the bottom of the left circle, only to have Carolina's Michael Leighton, who started the game in goal, somehow keep the game scoreless.
After going through a bit of a lull toward the end of the first period, the line got things going on the first shift of the second.
Staal's near miss in the third period also came as a result of a fantastic centering feed from Parise near the left wall.
"I think it was a little bit of a feel-out process for everybody. But it felt good," Staal said. "We got better as it went on as a line, and definitely saw some glimpses of some very good things that we can be excited about. It's one game, and we'll be ready to continue to try and get better tomorrow and go from there. But it was a good job by the guys staying with it and getting the job done in the third.
Video: Staal goes behind-the-back to Coyle
- Joel Eriksson Ek, getting a big-time opportunity while playing between Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville, set up Zucker's third-period goal with a sweet centering pass from the right wall. All Zucker had to do was put his stick on the ice and re-direct it, a crucial goal that gave the Wild a two-goal lead with under five minutes to play. "I thought he got better and better as the game went on," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "He stood up and was noticed." Eriksson Ek will get a chance to play the final two preseason games, Tuesday at Colorado and Saturday against Winnipeg, as he battles to make the final roster.
- After allowing a Bryan Bickell power-play goal in the first period, Wild penalty killers were stellar the rest of the way, limiting Carolina's chances and holding the Hurricanes to 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
- Goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 16 saves in his second outing of the preseason.
- Minnesota outshot Carolina 38-17, including a 28-9 margin over the final 40 minutes.
- The Wild improved to 2-2-0 on the preseason, while the Hurricanes fell to 2-1-1.
- Minnesota outshot Carolina 38-17.
- More than 3,000 kids were on hand for Kids Day, receiving autographs from Erik Haula and Tyler Graovac and participating in a variety of other activities.
He said it
"I thought [it was a good start for our line]. There is some familiarity we'll get better at but I liked how we were thinking, played with speed and thinking offense. We made some good plays off the rush. It was a decent start for us." -- Wild left winger Zach Parise
* Eric Staal
** Charlie Coyle
*** Zach Parise