The Minnesota Wild have extended its longest winning streak of the season, but also the longest winning streak in nearly a decade. Devan Dubnyk recorded his fifth shutout of the season for the league lead in that category. Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle found the back of the net as the Wild dominated the Avalanche all evening long.
Minnesota from the opening faceoff looked strong and confident in the first period as the Wild forwards went to work on the Avalanche defensemen. The Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Jason Pominville line got the best zone penetration and chances of the first period. They almost made it 1-0 early when Parise fed Pominville a beautiful pass. Pominville got the shot away, but Avalanche starter, in his first action against the Wild this season, stoned Pominville with the glove. The Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker line, a line that gets more defensive zone starts than any other top two lines in the league, kept followed up the Staal line with solid shifts.
Nino Niederreiter would draw a holding minor Mikhail Grigorenko just past the midway point of the first period. Minnesota would take the lead on Charlie Coyle’s power play goal and 11th goal of the season. Both Coyle and Staal found themselves alone in front of Varlamov, and Coyle was untouched as he took time to deposit a deflected Matt Dumba pass. The Wild would hurdle 10 shots on goal to Colorado’s 6 as time ran out in the period. Coyle would take over the team lead in goals, and Staal would add to his team lead in points with an assist on the power play goal.
Thirty-year old Pat Cannone, long time AHLer, got his NHL debut. He saw 9 minutes and 11 seconds of ice time over 14 shifts and had two shots. He got a good look to the net in the first, but had his shot blocked before it got to the net. Cool moment for a guy that finally got the call to the Show.
The second period saw more of the same from the Wild as they continued to take it to the Avs. Parise made a beautiful pass to Staal trying to split the Avs defensemen. He was hooked and slashed the whole way and was awarded a penalty shot. The penalty shot would end up getting snared by Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov had a nice game for himself, even in suffering the 2-0 loss. Minnesota peppered him early and often. It was odd to see him start against the Wild especially after the way Calvin Pickard performed the last two match-ups.
Jason Zucker would find a loose puck and curl around the half wall. He’d give the puck up to Granlund, who gave the puck up to Dumba pinching into the zone. Dumba would drive the net and dish the puck to Koivu for Koivu’s 8th goal of the season. Jason Zucker wouldn’t get an assist on the play, but he was all over the ice on the shift and was milliseconds late to getting assisting Koivu’s shot over the goal line.
The Avalanche had just a smattering of scoring chances all game long. The best in the game was when Matt Duchene took a slap shot from the right face off circle and Dubnyk got the blocker out to make the save. After Minnesota took the 2-0 lead, Colorado did get some sustained pressure and good zone time. Dubnyk was equal to the task, but didn’t have to stellar as the Wild clamped down and blocked just about everything.
The third period saw the Wild march to the box in the third period as things got a bit our of hand. The Avalanche got four separate man-advantages in the period, but the Wild only allowed one shot on goal. Things got chippy when Jason Zucker was tripped by Blake Comeau and Jared Spurgeon missed stuffing in a goal on a 2-on-1 chance. Zucker was attempting to keep the puck in the Avalanche zone when Gabriel Landeskog stepped into Zucker. A fracas ensued and somehow the veteran officiating crew of Dean Morton and Tom Kowal thought it Zucker earned a matching roughing minor. With the penalties mounting for Minnesota, there were some blatant missed calls that benefit the Avs, but unfortunately, their power play could not.
The Wild held on the for the shutout and kept the team forging ahead on this second-to-longest winning streak in franchise history.
Varlamov made 31 saves, while Dubynk stopped all 18 shots he faced. Mikko Koivu was a beast in the faceoff dot, winning 13 of 18 draws for 72 percent. Koivu also won 75 percent of the faceoffs he took in the neutral zone and defensive zone, where winning those faceoffs carry more weight.
A big 2-0 win in a final tune up before heading out East to take on a piping hot Montreal Canadiens squad, and a high scoring team in the New York Rangers. Minnesota will need to lean on the confidence they’ve built over this eight-game win streak to beat those two juggernauts.