It wasn’t just that the Minnesota Wild won on Tuesday against Central Division rival Chicago, breaking a four-game skid against the Blackhawks.
It was how they did it.
Minnesota won the special teams battle outright in a 3-2 overtime victory, finalized by defenseman Matt Dumba’s game-winner against Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford 2:21 into the extra period.
The Wild will look to carry over the momentum on Thursday when they host the Vancouver Canucks. It will be the second meeting between the Western Conference teams, both in Saint Paul, Minn.
That the Wild were able to capitalize on one of their two power plays against the Blackhawks was no surprise. The club started the game ranked 13th with the man advantage, but its prowess and success on the penalty kill was another story entirely.
Ranked 30th on the penalty kill entering the game, Minnesota denied all three power plays by Chicago. The Wild had previously allowed a power-play goal in 10 of their last 11 games, including eight in their past six matches.
Coach Bruce Boudreau had little to say about his Wild after they were smacked at home by the Boston Bruins 6-1 on Saturday, but in typical fashion they bounced back with a victory.
The Wild improved to 5-0-1 in the following game after losing by four-plus goals.
“We’ve just got to find a groove that we can do that kind of energy and special teams on a consistent basis,” Boudreau said. “Then you can put some wins up in a row.”
Vancouver had eight chances on the man advantage in the previous meeting on Jan. 12 in Minnesota. The young Canucks converted just once, getting a power-play tally from 21-year-old All-Star Elias Pettersson in a 4-1 win.
Pettersson tops the club in goals (23) and points (55), but versatile offseason acquisition J.T. Miller has been a major contributor for Vancouver. The 26-year-old forward came over from Tampa Bay in a trade last summer.
Miller has fit in perfectly with his new club and played all over the lines at center and winger. He also has hit the 20-goal plateau for the third time and is on pace for the best totals of his career.
Vancouver wraps up its five-game road trip with Thursday’s stop in the Twin Cities, and the club has played outstanding despite being blanked 4-0 by the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
“We were getting outworked,” Miller said after he and his teammates went 0-for-3 on the power play and were shut out for the fourth time. “We were not getting momentum on the power play. It’s frustrating. In a game like that, a power-play goal makes a big difference.”
The Canucks have made a race to the top of the Pacific Division with their best 20-game span this season — a 14-5-1 record since dropping a 3-1 home decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 17.
Vancouver was 16-15-4 after that loss but now cruises in first in the division with a 30-19-5 mark and 65 points, three ahead of the second-place Edmonton Oilers.
–Field Level Media