NHL: Wild win sixth straight
ST. PAUL -- Left for dead in the NHL playoff race a few weeks ago, somebody forgot to tell the Minnesota Wild that they're longshots for the postseason.
ST. PAUL - Left for dead in the NHL playoff race a few weeks ago, somebody forgot to tell the Minnesota Wild that they’re longshots for the postseason.
The Wild jumped all over Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller on Monday, chasing him early in a 5-3 win, their sixth in a row. In doing so, they moved within three points of the Canucks in the race for the last Western Conference playoff spot.
Centers Kyle Brodziak and Jordan Schroeder, right wingers Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville, and defenseman Ryan Suter all scored for the Wild, and goalie Devan Dubnyk had 22 saves, improving to 8-1-1 since coming to Minnesota in a Jan. 15 trade.
For the Canucks, right winger Zack Kassian, center Shawn Matthias and defenseman Ryan Stanton had goals, but the Canucks fell to Minnesota for the second time in its past five games. Miller stopped 13 of the 18 shots he faced in the first 27-plus minutes, but was lifted for backup Eddie Lack after Minnesota’s fifth goal. Lack had 14 saves in mop-up duty.
The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring on two of their first four shots of the game. It started with center Charlie Coyle breaking down the middle of the ice and splitting a pair of Vancouver defenders before passing to Schroeder. On the backhand, Schroeder flipped a shot that beat Miller on the stick side. It was the first goal as a member of the Wild for Schroeder, who was a 2009 first-round pick of the Canucks and spent parts of two seasons with Vancouver before signing a free-agent deal with the Wild last summer.
Pominville doubled the Wild lead with a power-play goal after a cross-ice pass from left winger Thomas Vanek, but the Canucks would not go quietly. Kassian got them on the board with his fourth goal of the season, a wrist shot that beat Dubnyk just inside the far post to make it 2-1 for Minnesota. It snapped a streak of more than 136 minutes that the Wild goalie had played without allowing a goal.
Vancouver nearly knotted the score on a Wild power play, when right winger Jannik Hansen came in alone on a breakaway, only to clank the right goal post. Instead, Niederreiter blasted a shot past Miller to make it 3-1 for the Wild after 20 minutes.
Minnesota started the second period without center Ryan Carter and left winger Jason Zucker, both of whom were hurt in the first. And the Canucks bounced back one more time, as Matthias slid a shot behind Dubnyk just 71 seconds into the middle frame, making it 3-2.
But when the Wild scored twice in less than a minute - a power-play blast from the blue line by Suter and a wrist shot by Brodziak from the right circle - to make it 5-2, Miller’s night was over less than eight minutes into the second. Lack came on in relief, which was his 16th appearance of the season.
Stanton scored to make it 5-3 with just 2:03 left in the game and the teams skating 4-on-4. He tipped a shot by left winger Daniel Sedin past Dubnyk.
NOTES: Wild G Devan Dubnyk was named the NHL’s first star for the previous week after he went 2-0-0 and stopped all 42 shots in shutout wins over the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche. ... Canucks C Henrik Sedin has had more offensive success vs. the Wild than any other Minnesota opponent. In his first 75 games vs. the Wild - most of them when the teams were in the Northwest Division - Sedin recorded 11 goals and 48 assists. ... Minnesota activated RW Justin Fontaine from injured reserve. He had missed the previous three games with a lower-body injury. ... The Canucks, currently on a two-game trip, will visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. This is the team’s annual fathers’ road trip, with each player allowed to bring a family member along. The Wild hit the road immediately after Monday’s game for the trip to Winnipeg, where they face the Jets on Tuesday night.