Minnesota Wild Survive Grinder With Toronto Maple Leafs, Win 2-1


116. 2. 98. Final. 1

A 35 save performance by Devan Dubnyk served as the difference maker for the Minnesota Wild, who has now won 9 straight games away from St. Paul.

Good Morning, Minnesota Wild fans. Last night’s game certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Wild found a way to pull off a win. Hard hitting, penalty filled, and grinding, the Wild was forced to play on its heels for most of the game. In the end, Devan Dubnyk stood tall and Thomas Vanek added 2 points. Don’t forget to check out Ben’s 3-stars of the week.

First Period:
Toronto, looking to play spoiler for the Wild’s road winning streak, played a freewheeling game and forced a lot of chances. Remember, the Wild has a game in Long Island Tuesday night, so I think they hoped to coast through this one.

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Charlie Coyle took a hooking penalty at 2:38, sending Toronto to the power play for 5 seconds before Morgan Rielly tripped Erik Haula. The ensuing 4-on-4 was much better than the last time the Wild played sustained time with open ice.

Mathew Dumba had a wonderful first period, especially at 4-on-4. He broke up a 2-on-1 for Toronto  before setting up Justin Fontaine in the offensive end. Dumba probably deserved a tripping penalty in
the middle of that play, but it wasn’t called.

Jonathan Bernier was the beneficiary of an early whistle with Nino Niederreiter collecting a rebound the Toronto goalie hadn’t quite settled down yet.

Charlie Coyle opened the scoring in the waning minutes of the first. After winning an offensive zone face-off with a nice tie-up, Coyle collected the puck himself and fed Thomas Vanek who was rushing across the crease. Vanek sent a pass behind his back towards Coyle, who snapped the puck home to make it 1-0 Wild at 18:58 of the first period. Coyle looked to get a little help from defenseman Andrew MacWilliam on the tip-in. With the only assist on Coyle’s goal, Vanek extends his point streak to 8 games.

Shots after one period: Minnesota Wild 11, Toronto Maple Leafs 8

Second Period:
No Scoring in the second period, but plenty of penalties and good chances all around.

4 seconds in to the period, former Gopher Phil Kessel took an interference penalty, sending the Wild to its first full power play. The Wild attempted a quick one timer right after the first face-off, but it came off the stick of Ryan Suter. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it would be just as easy to put Dumba on the other side and feed him for the one timer. But hey, what do I know? Anyway, Dubnyk was forced to rob David Booth on a shorthanded bid that served as the power play’s only excitement.

Jordan Leopold served a holding penalty in the 4th minute, giving the Wild’s stellar penalty kill a chance to pad its stats. The Leafs got a few quality chances away, but nothing to write home about.

Bernier was pretty solid in the middle frame, denying Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu from in tight.

Another power play by each team (9th minute for Wild, 16th minute for Leafs) served to flare tempers.

After Dion Phaneuf got away with some extra-curricular activity on Haula and Jared Spurgeon, Kyle Brodziak stepped in and fought the Maple Leafs’ captain. Nobody won the fight cleanly and the referees let two tired players get in to a hugging match for several hours before breaking it up. All this happened with the Leafs on the power play. Haula then took a tripping penalty, giving Toronto a few seconds at 5-on-3. Even with its 2 best PK forwards in the box, the Wild held Toronto off the score sheet.

There was a mad scramble for Dubnyk and the Wild as the final horn sounded in the second after Dubnyk couldn’t cleanly handle bouncing puck. Chris Stewart and Justin Fontaine both lost their buckets,
but miraculously kept the puck from crossing the goal line

Shots after two periods: Minnesota Wild 27, Toronto Maple Leafs 18

Third Period:

The Wild has been in this situation before, eh? Outshooting and outpossessing its opponent but barely clinging to a lead seems to be the Wild’s calling card.

Niederreiter had his 5th solo chance of the game early on, but whistled a shot just wide.

Sean Bergenheim, who has been quietly good on the 4th line for the Wild, had an empty net wraparound bid, but he couldn’t put it away and reinforcements didn’t quite arrive on time.

Finally, after several chances that failed to click, Thomas Vanek added an insurance goal to the Wild’s thin lead. Fontaine grabbed a long outlet pass from Jonas Brodin, entered the zone along the right-wing wall, and sent a drop pass off to Suter. Suter deked Bernier right out of his crease and dropped the puck to Vanek, who fired a wrister through Bernier’s 5-hole to make it 2-0 Wild at 09:01 of the third period. Vanek’s 19th tally of the season couldn’t have come at a better time, as Toronto continued its press for the equalizer.

Just over 4 minutes later, Minnesota native and Minnetonka High School grad Jake Gardiner cut the Wild’s lead in half. After a Haula shot banked wide in the offensive zone, Joffrey Lupul picked up the loose puck and forced a 2-on-2 with Gardiner in to the offensive zone. When Lupul got to the top of the right face-off circle, he fired a slap shot that trickled through the leg pads of Dubnyk and landed in the crease. Before Dubnyk or a trailing Dumba could get to it, Gardiner tapped the puck home to make it 2-1 Wild at 13:36 of the third period.

Toronto did well to press, including a few trick plays that left Dubnyk scrambling, but even an extra skater for the last 74 seconds wasn’t enough for the Maple Leafs to bury the equalizer, as the Minnesota Wild hung on to win in regulation.

Final shots on goal: Minnesota Wild 32, Toronto Maple Leafs 36

Trembley’s Take:

There’s no hotter team right now than the Minnesota Wild, who just keeps finding ways to win irrespective of its opponent or schedule.

Devan Dubnyk was rightfully the NHL’s first star of the game. He made some killer saves through 60 minutes and helped to keep the Wild ahead.

Vanek’s 8-game point streak can’t come at a better time. Coyle is also heating up, so it’s time to expect a little more out of that 3rd line. Secondary scoring is going to be huge down the stretch, so we need to see it continue.

Talk to you in about 10 hours, when the Wild takes on the Islanders for a 6:00 p.m. puck drop. Thanks for reading!

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