Road reaction: Wild 7, Sabres 0
The parallels are eerie. The Minnesota Wild hope the circumstances to follow are equally similar.
Minnesota entered Thursday night’s game at Buffalo on a six-game losing streak set to play its 43rd game of the season. Last year, the Wild hosted the Sabres on Jan. 2 while on a six-game losing streak in the 43rd game of the season.
A win last year turned Minnesota’s season around and they ended up making the playoffs and advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Beating Buffalo 7-0 on Thursday night, the Wild hope it’s the start of another big run.
With a new goaltender between the pipes, Minnesota dominated from the beginning. Acquired from Arizona a day earlier, Devan Dubnyk stopped the first shot of the game and the Wild reeled off 10 straight shots. Zach Parise opened the scoring, one of seven players to score for the Wild, as part of a two-goal first period.
Minnesota posted the biggest winning margin in franchise history and could exhale by snapping the losing streak.
1. Parise, F, Wild: Parise set the tone early. He told reporters it was up to players like himself to lead the team and he had four shots in the first period as Minnesota outshot the Sabres 14-3 in the period and 37-18 in the game. The Wild had faced early deficits as part of the losing streak, but Parise’s relentless effort helped put Minnesota on top just 5 minutes, 13 seconds into the game when he kept poking at a loose puck in front of the Buffalo goal. Parise scored his 15th goal of the season to tie Jason Zucker for the team lead and added an assist. He was a plus-2, had six total shots on goal and two hits.
2. Dubnyk, G, Wild: Dubynk must enjoy the Minnesota defense. In Arizona, Dubnyk was on a team allowing the sixth-most shots per game in the NHL. Now he’s with the Wild, who allow the fourth-fewest. Dubnyk wasn’t tested much with his new team on Thursday but was up to the task with 18 saves. He became the first goaltender in franchise history to debut with a shutout, his first of the season. His presence in net brought stability and added energy, and the team responded in front of him.
3. Jared Spurgeon, D, Wild: Stepping up, and switching sides, with Ryan Suter suspended for Thursday’s game was Spurgeon. Part of the key defensive shutdown of the Sabres, Spurgeon was second on the team with 22:59 of ice time and he finished a plus-4. He scored his sixth goal of the season to set a career-high and also blocked a team-high four shots.
Seen: Matt Dumba making his presence known in his first game back in the NHL. Dumba, the 20-year-old defenseman, was recalled from the American Hockey League with Suter suspended and Marco Scandella and Justin Falk both going on injured reserve. It was quite the return for Dumba, who had his first career NHL fight, his second goal of the season and three hits while playing 16:11 and finishing plus-3.
Dumba was sticking up for teammate Kyle Brodziak in fighting Nicolas Deslauriers in the first period. His goal showed another aspect he can bring to the Wild — besides the physical play — as he unleashed a blast from near the blue line that sizzled past Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
Said: "That’s probably the most complete game of hockey I’ve been a part of. Right from the drop of the puck, they worked and worked and worked, and kept my work to a minimum, which I was OK with tonight because my body was feeling it a little bit from the travel. It was just real fun to get out there. I didn’t want to build it up too much. I just wanted to go out there and be solid and give the guys some confidence, and not feel like I had to go out and be heroic or anything; just go out and be solid and have fun." — Dubnyk
Next: The Wild will cap off Hockey Day Minnesota by hosting the Arizona Coyotes, a team dealing with its own issues. Arizona had lost two in a row and four of six entering play Thursday night, and are one of two teams behind the Wild in the Western Conference. The Coyotes are 13th in the West and appear to be in rebuild mode, already trading away Dubnyk — who had outperformed starter Mike Smith — to the Wild this week for a third-round draft pick.
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