Parise, Dubnyk push Wild past Oilers, 3-0
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Wild made sure the bad news didn’t defeat them.
Their season-ending road trip sure feels a little lighter now, with a spot in the playoffs secure.
”I hope it makes them feel good about themselves,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”I thought our defense was good.”
With 98 points, matching the fourth-most in franchise history, the Wild did their part. Then Los Angeles chipped in with a victory about 2 1/2 hours later over Colorado that took the pressure off Minnesota’s last three games, at Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. The Wild are nearly locked into third place in the Central Division and a first-round matchup with Winnipeg.
”I don’t know how all this math works out,” Boudreau said, before leaving the arena to watch the conclusion of the Avalanche-Kings game at home. ”I just wake up in the morning and hope to see an `X’ by the name.”
Playing for the first time in nearly three years without stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter, the Wild wrapped up their home schedule with a staggering 21-3 shots advantage in the third period. Joel Eriksson Ek added an empty-net goal as the Wild finished 27-6-8 at Xcel Energy Center, the second-best home record in the league.
”You need different people to step up and do important things, and that’s going to be the case for us,” Dubnyk said. ”That was a good look.”
Cam Talbot made 37 saves for the Oilers, who lost their fifth straight game and ensured a sub-80-point finish for the eighth time in the last nine years.
”The finish line is non-rewarding. You fall behind, you feel like you don’t get a break, you miss a net or something like that, it takes a little bit more out of you,” coach Todd McLellan said. ”We should be more resilient. We’re not right now.”
Parise has been a big part of the push. The Wild are 24-9-7 with him in the lineup, after he missed the first 39 games of the season recovering from back surgery. Playing next to Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund has given him a clear boost.
”As a group, we’re meshing really well together,” Parise said.
The Wild scored the first goal for the first time in seven games, when Parise snagged a bouncing puck at his own blue line that Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson was struggling to control with his skates and broke loose on an unabated path to the net. He snapped a shot though Talbot’s pads just 3:33 into the contest.
Dubnyk then went to work on his fifth shutout of the season, making some difficult saves, including a denial of NHL points leader Connor McDavid’s attempt with his right leg.
Parise provided some padding when he swooped into position to knock in a rebound of Jonas Brodin’s attempt before the midpoint of the second period.
Making the 400th start of his NHL career against the club that drafted him in the first round in 2004, Dubnyk recorded his 133rd win for the Wild since they acquired him in a trade on Jan. 14, 2015. No goalie in the league has played in more games (230) or pitched more shutouts (20) since then.
Edmonton won the first two meetings with Minnesota this season, with McDavid registering two goals and two assists, but after the breakthrough in 2016-17 the Oilers have tumbled back down the Western Conference standings. They’re 17-23-4 since the Christmas break.
Talbot was pulled at Calgary on Saturday night after only 11 1/2 minutes, after allowing three goals on seven shots, but McLellan stuck with him and was rewarded with his highest save total in nine appearances since he stopped 40 shots at Florida on March 17.
”We definitely had opportunities to make this a good road trip,” said left wing Milan Lucic, ”but we didn’t do it in Vancouver when we had a real good start the way that we did. We didn’t do it in Calgary and once again here.”
NOTES: Parise has at least one point in seven straight games and 12 goals over his last 19 games, the third-most in the league since March 1. … Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera and Yohann Auvitu were each injured in the second period and didn’t return. … With Suter’s absence, center Eric Staal became the Wild’s new ironman by playing in his 161st consecutive contest. He has not missed a game since joining the team prior to last season.
Oilers: Host Vegas on Thursday.
Wild: Play at Anaheim on Wednesday.
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