The doghouse, chateau bow-wow as we used to call it when former Montreal Canadiens’ great and Hall of Famer Jacques Lemaire was our coach when a player found himself on the bench for poor play. Professional sports are ripe with examples of how a player can go from hero to zero with one ill-timed gaffe, or the opposite when they deliver in the clutch. All I have to type for most baseball fans is Bill Buckner and you know exactly what I’m referencing.
If you happened to watch Minnesota’s last game, against the Winnipeg Jets you witnessed the Wild’s Mathew Dumba vault himself into the doghouse on a tremendously careless play. He did not shy away from his mistake but the question is if he’ll remain rooted to the bench or being exiled to the pressbox for tonight’s game against the Canadiens. Can the Wild redeem themselves after a Halloween disappointment or will they be haunted once again?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild flirted with the lead less than a minute in as Eric Staal partially fanned on a shot that skittered through the blue paint and somehow eluded Nino Niederreiter who was near the opposite post. With a bullet dodged, the Canadiens would go back on the attack and Devan Dubnyk had to make a few saves on shots by Phillip Hudon and Brendan Gallagher. Yet the big story was the shaky play of Carey Price, as the Wild would find the back of the net as Mike Reilly threaded a pass over to Matt Cullen who snuck a shot by the Vezina trophy winner who was way out position. 1-0 Wild. The Wild would add to its lead just 10 seconds later as Price played a puck behind his goal and he’d try to pass it out of his own zone where it was intercepted by Mathew Dumba who let go a quick wrist shot which found the twine. 2-0 Wild. With the home crowd relishing the two quick goals, the Wild kept applying pressure against the Canadiens who seemed to be a bit stunned. Marcus Foligno would level Michael McCarron and the 6’5″ Habs’ forward took note of who hit him and barked at Foligno while Chris Stewart skated over to let him know he may have someone else to deal with. The Wild would add to their lead late as Matt Cullen worked a 2-on-1 with Tyler Ennis and Cullen made a perfect saucer pass to Ennis who managed to get enough on the shot to beat Price. 3-0 Wild. Minnesota would have a power play late in the period, and Minnesota had great sustained pressure with good puck movement and with Dumba and Reilly manning the points the Wild were getting off shots more quickly and Price was really struggling to track the puck. One opportunity actually trickled through the leg pads of Price who was fortunate Jeff Petry was there to sweep away the puck before Stewart could pounce on it. Minnesota had a nice start and it never hurts to face a goalie that is fighting the puck the way Price is. The Wild outshot Montreal 14-7.
2nd Period Thoughts: The pace of the game slowed down a bit in the 2nd period, but overall the Wild still were winning most of the races to the loose pucks and doing a fair job at denying Montreal from much in the way scoring chances in their own end. Power plays would yield some promising chances, but nothing that beat Price whom Claude Julien kept in the game. The line that I really felt was buzzing well was the Staal, Niederreiter, Luke Kunin line as they seemed to be able to put the Canadiens on their heels. The Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker line at times could look a little dangerous but all too often they’d overhandle the puck and stymie their own scoring opportunities. One player who really was having a pretty good game to this point was Mathew Dumba who seemed to be careful to play well at both ends of the ice. I must admit after he got his goal I thought we might see some more lazy play in his own end, but instead he moved his feet and stripped the puck from an onrushing Canadiens’ forward. Minnesota would add to its lead a little past the halfway point as Ryan Suter joined the rush and he’d pounce on a loose puck that got by Price. 4-0 Wild. However the celebration was a bit short-lived as Cullen would cough up a puck to Hudon who then sent a pass up to Gallagher who undressed Dubnyk with ease for a tap in goal. 4-1 Wild. The goal appeared to re-focus the Wild and they’d try to renew their assault on the Canadiens zone. Price was busy, but he appeared to be tracking the puck better and Minnesota was prevented from adding to its 3-goal lead. Shots were even at 8 apiece.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would cash in on the power play early in the 3rd, as Koivu found Spurgeon all alone on a back door pass and he buried it by Price who really had no chance to make the save. 5-1 Wild. With a 4-goal lead the Wild would go into coast mode. The Wild were content to try to play a lazy game of keep away and this only invited the Canadiens to keep attacking and make this a game. A turnover by Tyler Ennis who found himself getting clobbered along the boards by Max Pacioretty and the puck moved out front where Andrew Shaw beat Dubnyk with a quick shot. 5-2 Wild. The Wild still seemed pretty sleepy as did their goaltender Devan Dubnyk who seemed to lose his focus a bit. Brendan Gallagher would beat Dubnyk on a sharp angle shot that snuck through his leg pads as he tried to hug the post. 5-3 Wild with a little over 5 minutes left to play and it appeared as though the Habs may make a game of this. The next few minutes certainly did not boost anyone’s confidence as Dubnyk looked like Curly from the 3 Stooges in the crease as he lost his stick and was guessing on shots. Fortunately the puck stayed out and the Wild were able to regroup. The Canadiens would pull Price for an extra attacker and the Wild promptly stole the puck and Foligno connected on long empty net goal. 6-3 Wild. The 3-goal cushion restored, it helped demoralize the Habs just enough and the Wild seemed to breathe a sigh or relief at the game’s end while the coaches sort of shook their heads in disapproval as they left for the locker room.
Dubnyk looked decent through the first two periods, but then his focus would fade a bit and he gave up two fairly soft goals in the 3rd period. As was the case last week against the New York Islanders, the goals given up didn’t really matter but the team isn’t going to light the lamp 6 times most nights. I thought Dumba did have a pretty good game at both ends. Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon were very solid as well. The penalty kill was perfect again.
Offensively the Wild took advantage of an ugly performance by Carey Price. Yet give the Wild credit for sending pucks on goal and jumping out to a good lead in the 1st period. The power play had much better puck movement and were working to create quick shots which were far better chances. Spurgeon’s power play ends a scoreless a long streak of futility with the man advantage. The Staal, Niederreiter, Kunin line looked terrific and even though Kunin didn’t end up on the score sheet he had some good chances working with Niederreiter. It was also good to see Cullen light the lamp and get a helper after a slow start to the season.
The good was the bounce-back game of Dumba, but there are still soft goals being given up that kind of sour the mood of the victory. Minnesota will have a far tougher challenge against the Blackhawks who are playing well as of late. Dubnyk will have to be better if the Wild are to have a chance. Still a win is a win and I will bet Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau will want to clean up what was a sloppy 3rd period. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Chris Stewart, Daniel Winnik, Matt Cullen, Tyler Ennis, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Kyle Quincey was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mikko Koivu, 2nd Star Jonas Brodin, 3rd Star Mathew Dumba
~ Attendance was 18,924 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the sniping Russian got good news that he might have an opportunity to play on Team Russia’s U-20 WJC squad. He had a goal on 3 shots in the Wolves’ 5-4 loss to Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday. Sokolov has 9 goals, 20 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +2 in 16 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Erie, OHL) ~ the Los Angeles-raised winger continues to have a solid season for the Otters as he chipped in 2 helpers and 4 shots on goal in Erie’s 7-3 loss to Kitchener on Wednesday. Lodnia has 9 goals, 15 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +4 in 16 games.