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  • Dirty Dozen: Islanders push Wild and Wild push streak to 12 wins


    The New York Islanders were counter-punchers and almost caught the Minnesota Wild on the ropes. The Wild, looking for their franchise best 12th consecutive victory, was needed a late goal by Erik Haula to take the lead for good, and pick up their Vezina-caliber goalie who faltered a bit.

    The Wild gained the early lead when Marco Scandella scored his second of the season. Minnesota controlled play in the first period to the tune of 11 shots to the Islanders’ six. Savvy veteran Jason Chimera tied the game 1:31 after Scandella gave the Wild the lead. Islanders netminder Jaroslav Halak was looking sharp early as he turned a lot of great chances by the Wild away.

    Matt Dumba would get called for tripping just before the six minute mark of the second and New York didn’t waste any time. It took just 18 seconds for the Islanders to take a 2-1 lead when Nick Leddy scored on the power play. Minnesota’s penalty killing had been trending back upwards after an amazing start and a slight dip in November. With Minnesota looking to respond, and controlling the shots department again for the second period, it wouldn’t be until there would be less than six minutes left in the period when Chris Stewart took a puck that caromed off Jason Pominville’s skate along the goal line and shot it hard off Halak’s shoulder and banked the puck in for the game tying goal.

    That’s when things got crazy.

    Jared Spurgeon scored 25 seconds later with a nice double-clutch move that beat Halak who was screened heavily. Then 45 second later Jordan Schroeder, who had a goal and two assists including an assist on Spurgeon’s overtime winner in Nashville in three games coming into Thursday, got a clear breakaway and was denied by Halak. The puck would circle back and Schroeder would get a second crack at it, and this time he wouldn’t miss. That would mean the end of Halak’s night, and the Wild scored three goals in a record span of 1:20 to do so. With some nastiness breaking out at the horn, Erik Haula and Dylan Strome would be assessed matching roughing minors at 20 minutes of the second.

    Starting the third with four skaters aside, Brock Nelson scored just 55 seconds in the period. It would be the first time all season long that Devan Dubnyk would surrender three goals or greater. Nelson wasn’t done and tied the game 42 ticks of the game clock later. Dubnyk has been so incredibly solid all season long, there was tension in the building for the first time when the Islanders would get shots towards Dubnyk’s net. Dubnyk ended the night making 24 saves on 28 shots faced with a .857 save percentage. Not a normal Dubnyk-esque game, at least in recent memory.

    The guys in front of Dubs would need to pick him up. Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula would combine to do just that. Charlie Coyle would find Haula breaking through the neutral zone and enter the Isle’s zone. He’d drop the puck back to Niederreiter and then continue to drive the net. In Mighty Ducks Flying-V fashion, Niederreiter wouldn’t curl or peel away from the defenders and Haula. Instead, he used them as a screen and took a shot the caromed twice off of Haula and in to the net behind Jean-Francois Berube, who entered that game in relief of Halak.

    With a timeout, New York would empty the net with 1:52 to play. Mikko Koivu would win a defensive zone faceoff and Eric Staal would pitch the puck right in to the WIld bench. Koivu would win the ensuing faceoff and Staal would skate the puck to Neutral and pass it off to Mikael Granlund for the game clinching empty-net goal. Some advanced statisticians would say that faceoffs, in the grand scheme of puck possession, mean very little, but two back-to-back defensive zone faceoff wins by the captain can’t be downplayed here. It was a small play that paid big dividends. Edina kid Anders Lee would skate through the crease and make contact with Dubnyk. The Wild goaltender took exception and two-handed hacked Lee in the back of the left leg. Lee then turned and engaged Dubnyk and that caused a fracas in the Minnesota crease. The Wild would end up killing the remaining time as the Wild completed a dirty, ugly win for its 12th in a row.

    The win now sets up an epic evening on New Year’s Eve when the Columbus Blue Jackets, currently on a 14 game winning streak after defeating the Jets in Winnipeg Thursday night, come to town in the Battle of the Streaks. Feel free to come up with a better title than that, if you so please. Per Elias Sports, by way of Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, this will be the first time ever that two teams will face each other with each on a winning streak of 12 or more games. Make sure you check out the Blue Jacket’s blog The Cannon leading up to Saturday’s game. Someone’s streak will end, another will continue. This is must-watch hockey.

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