Mikko Koivu was no longer visible on the Wild’s bench, as teammates crowded around the captain in celebration.
“That’s what you love about sports,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “is watching your team happy like that.”
Boudreau had a hand in creating the moment, bypassing Koivu during the first three rounds of a shootout and then tabbing him once it advanced to make-or-break territory, after the Wild and Stars each scored twice to remain tied.
“It was his day,” Boudreau said, “so all the stars were shining in the right direction.”
And Koivu didn’t disappoint, executing a storybook ending to his 1,000th career game by scoring the decisive goal that lifted the Wild to a 3-2 shootout victory Sunday afternoon in front of an announced 17,096 at Xcel Energy Center once goalie Alex Stalock kicked out a last-ditch attempt by the Stars.
As a result, the Wild (12-11-4) extended its season-long point streak (6-0-3) and home point streak (7-0-2) to nine games. Both are tied for the fourth-longest in franchise history.
“I didn’t dream that far,” Koivu said when asked about the fitting finish. “I guess all day [I] just tried to stay in the moment and tried to enjoy it as much as I could. It’s kind of tough, too, when there’s a lot of things going on. You obviously want to do good and win the game and all of that. It’s almost tough to stay in the moment.
“It’s just one hockey game really. But I think it is different and, for sure, a special night.”
Not only did Koivu capitalize on his trademark move, a rising backhander that rang up as his 42nd career shootout goal and 18th game-deciding goal (which is tied for third in the NHL since 2005), but it also capped off an effort that felt vintage Wild.
Despite controlling the play for lengthy stretches, the team was minutes away from what would have been its first regulation loss since Nov. 12.
After both teams traded power-play goals in the second period, with Kevin Fiala deflecting in a feed from Koivu at 12 minutes, 43 seconds — a setup that secured Koivu’s 700th career point — and John Klingberg responding at 15:28, the Stars moved ahead with 5:51 left in the third on a five-hole shot by Blake Comeau.
But, as has been the case of late, the Wild found a way.
“Nobody on the bench was feeling any pressure,” said Fiala, who pushed his point streak to a season-high five games.
Winger Zach Parise batted in a puck out of midair at 17:30, the Wild’s second power-play goal in three tries. Dallas went 1-for-3. Stalock posted 26 saves, while Ben Bishop had 27 for the Stars.
“You’re just waiting for it to get below the crossbar, waiting and waiting,” said Parise, who has a team-high 12 goals amid a four-game streak. “And I hit it square.”
After a scoreless overtime that was the Wild’s best showing in the 3-on-3 session this season, Fiala and Parise converted in the shootout while Mats Zuccarello was blanked. Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin scored for the Stars before Alexander Radulov and Corey Perry were stymied — the latter of which sparked the group hug on the bench around Koivu.
“That’s what hockey is all about,” Koivu said. “I try to do that each and every day, just try to treat the people the way you want to be treated. Sometimes as a veteran guy, you have to be not the nice guy and all of that. I always tried to do the things that I believe is right and go with that.
“But I think it’s probably the best feeling of the whole day to get that from the guys. I really appreciate that.”