Wild pass first test without Suter, blank Oilers 3-0
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild made sure the bad news didn’t defeat them.
Their season-ending three-game road trip sure feels a little lighter.
Zach Parise scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves to blank his original team, pushing the Wild to the brink of the playoffs with a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night.
“I hope it makes them feel good about themselves,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I thought our defense was good.”
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.
With rookies Nick Seeler and Carson Soucy, in his NHL debut no less, playing key roles on the blue line, the Wild put together a postseason-caliber performance.
“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 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.”
The Wild reached 98 points to match the fourth-most in franchise history and put themselves in position to clinch a postseason berth, depending on the outcome of the Colorado-Los Angeles game later. One more loss by the Avalanche in regulation would send the Wild to the playoffs for the sixth straight year, though there were several other paths to the postseason remaining over the final five days. Boudreau, when asked before leaving the arena where he’d watch the Avalanche-Kings game, joked that he’d be at home mimicking the colorful former basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian.
“I’ll have a towel in my mouth, biting down on it,” he said, adding: “I don’t know how all this math works out. I just wake up in the morning and hope to see an `X’ by the name.”
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 for the lead just 3:33 into the contest.
Dubnyk went to work on his fifth shutout of the season, making some difficult saves including a denial of NHL points leader McDavid’s attempt with his right leg. Then 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 Connor 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 from the game at Calgary on Saturday night after only 11 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.