The Minnesota Wild headed into yet another afternoon game against a team north of the border as they faced the 15-21-5 Ottawa Senators. The Wild had previously beat the Winnipeg Jets and most recently the Toronto Maple Leafs in afternoon games against Canadian teams and won both games.
It seems to be the formula for success for the Wild as they have now won the past three games in Canada having an afternoon game start. The Wild defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-3 on the road at the Canadian Tire Centre with big contributions from the Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, and Luke Kunin line. With the win today, the Wild are now 8-1-0 in the past nine games against the Senators.
The Wild started the game slow but goaltender Devan Dubnyk stood his ground early, stopping a parade of shots and chances early for the Senators. Senators forward and Uber bad boy, Matt Duchene had a great chance early after he burned past Jonas Brodin wide, but Dubnyk shut down Duchene’s move to bring it back to his forehand by laying down the paddle. Soon thereafter, Dubnyk came up big again with a pad save on Brady Tkachuk with an in close chance. Devan Dubnyk was great early, picking up just where he left off against the Maple Leafs on Thursday.
After the Wild settled in, it became evident that the Parise, Coyle, and Kunin line was jelling and the Jordan Greenway, Mikko Koivu, and Nino Niederreiter line was just behind them playing very solid hockey after enduring the good start by the Senators.
While those two line were playing great, the first line of Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, and Mikael Granlund continued to look out of place. In the last eight games Zucker had one point, Staal had three points, and Granlund had five points. Not the same three the Wild were used to seeing, all having a minus rating over that stretch. The spark just wasn’t there between the three. Maybe, they had become too familiar with each other?..
The Senators struck first after the Wild failed to muster up anything on the power-play. Matt Duchene stepped out of the penalty box and was sent a stretch pass to send him in on a contested breakaway. Dubnyk came out far to poke check with Brodin trying to tie up Duchene, even getting a delayed penalty for hooking but the timing was off and Duchene deked right around the Wild net minder after Brodin failed to take Duchene down for an easy goal. Another late period goal that you think would cost the Wild going forward.
After the first period, Ottawa outshot Minnesota 15 to 8.
The second period start for the Wild was as good a start as a team could ask for. 41 seconds into the period, the Wild tied the game up at one. Spurgeon was credited with his second goal in as many games with assists coming from Kunin and Parise. Parise did a great job driving the net and boxing out two Senator defenders to allow Spurgeon to skate in untouched after a Luke Kunin drop pass and made a forehand to backhand deke to slide it past Senators goaltender Anders Nilsson. The Parise, Coyle, and Kunin line continued to find success as they got the Wild going today with the help of the ever-so-hot Jared Spurgeon.
Unfortunately, the tie did not hold as the Senators regained the lead with a Ryan Dzingel tap-in after the third odd man rush for the Senators occurred following a player coming out of the penalty box. Ottawa failed to score off the rush, but they kept the puck in the zone and Bobby Ryan fed a wide open Dzingel out front for an easy goal to go up 2-1. Absolutely nothing Devan Dubnyk could do.
Not long after Dzingel’s goal, Dubnyk came up with a big stop to keep it a one goal game as Mark Stone sent a beautiful to propel Colin White in all alone on the Wild net minder, but Dubnyk stood his ground with a big pad.
Finally, the Wild capitalized on an odd man rush! Midway through the second, Bruce Boudreau tweaked the lines as he often has in the past to try and provide a spark. Boudreau flipped Jordan Greenway and Jason Zucker to get something out of his first line. It seemed to work perfectly as shortly after tweaking the lines Eric Staal stole the puck on a back check, then skated the puck up with Granlund and Greenway on a three on two. Staal passed it over Granlund who then sauced it to Greenway out front all alone. Greenway took a shot and Nilsson made the initial save, but another jab by both Greenway and a trailing Ryan Suter was enough to knock the puck over the goal line to tie the game up at two goals apiece.
The Wild kept coming with pressure. The Wild scored again to take their first lead of the game. Jared Spurgeon again continued his dominance of late by firing a bad angled one-timer from Charlie Coyle in close, but with a good screen and presence from Luke Kunin the puck trickled through Anders Nilsson. The effectiveness of the drive and net front presence of Kunin helped create Spurgeon’s second of the game and third in two games. This goal was a good example of shooting the puck from anywhere, because the puck might have eyes of its own and sneak in.
A simple tweak of the lines sparked the Wild in the second half of the second period. Zucker looked better playing with Koivu and Niederreiter. Staal and Granlund looked better playing alongside Greenway.
The Wild had turned the tables in the second period. A simple tweak of the lines sparked the Wild in the second half of the period. Zucker, Staal, and Granlund all looked like completely different players after the switch. The goal horn couldn’t have come quicker for the Ottawa Senators. The Wild outshot the Senators in the second period with 13 shots to their 4 shots.
The third period did not pick up right where the Wild left it as Ottawa came out flying and were all over the Wild. It was not a great start for the Wild in the final frame.
Even when things were going bad the Parise, Coyle, and Kunin line looked great. Work along the wall by Coyle and Kunin led to a Kunin shot in close and Zach Parise picking up the rebound to put the Wild up 4-2. Parise, a.k.a. The Bus Driver made no mistake and buried it to give the Wild some insurance with a two-goal lead.
All things were going the Wild’s way but then the Senators struck back and scored a very unexpected goal. Defenseman Cody Ceci threw up a prayer from the point and Mark Stone redirected Ceci’s shot that was going wide past Devan Dubnyk and it found it’s way to get past a confused Dubnyk. Before the goal, the game seemed to be all Wild, but Stone’s goal gave a weird feeling going forward and you just knew the Senators were not going down without a fight.
After a tremendous amount of pressure from the Senators, Ryan Suter saved a goal that would have tied the game back up. Dubnyk got caught behind the net playing the puck and Zach Smith caught the Wild net minder off guard, stole the puck, and then tried to bank the puck in off the back of Dubnyk’s leg. The next shift however the Wild changed the momentum as the Zucker, Koivu, and Niederreiter line had a great shift that resulted in Koivu getting a breakaway. Nilsson denied Koivu on the chance to go up 5-3. Both teams were trading chances and as a spectator it was very fun to watch.
Late in the third a penalty with 27.9 seconds left to Mikko Koivu put pressure on Minnesota late, but the Senators failed to capitalize six on four against the Wild to tie the game up. The buzzer sounded and the Wild earned their second straight win as they beat the Senators in Ottawa, 4-3.
The PCK line, or the “Puck Line” as I like to say it was amazing. The PCK line combined for three of the four goals and scored at times the Wild desperately needed offense. Zach Parise had another great game, notching his team leading 19th goal and added two assists, making a strong case the be the “Last Man” selected for this year’s All-Star game in San Jose. Charlie Coyle continued to his strong play as of late and earned two assists, making it six points in the past four games. Finally, but not least, Luke Kunin played without a doubt in my mind his best game in a Minnesota Wild uniform. He was buzzing all game and made a strong case of being the Wild’s best player today. Ottawa couldn’t contain him as he added two apples to his resume today and now has four points in his last four games.
Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk quietly had a great game. Without him in net, the Senators could have opened the game with a two or three goal lead in the first ten minutes. As for the goals he let in, I wouldn’t put blame on him for any of them. A breakaway, a backdoor tap-in, and a redirection. It’s hard to make a case of anything other than Devan Dubnyk has found his form again, and maybe just in time to get the Wild back into a playoff race.
Jared Spurgeon took control of the game today. Without a doubt, Spurgeon was the best Wild defenseman again today. In the absence of Matt Dumba, Spurgeon has filled in and is starting to provide offense from the backend. He added two goals today, adding to his total of five points in his last two games. Not a bad stretch for number 46.
Again, the power-play was nowhere to be seen, putting up a goose egg today. The power-play went 0 for 3 and didn’t have too many Grade-A chances as they made the Senators’ league worst penalty-kill look like a top crew. I’d suspect some changes to be coming soon.