ST. PAUL -- Sometimes in sports the stars just seem to align. Like they did on Sunday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
With the game hanging in the balance, the Wild and the Dallas Stars deadlocked in shootout, Mikko Koivu hopped over the boards.
He corralled the puck at center ice like he’d done 105 times in his career to that point, and sure enough, went with his patented forehand-backhand move before calmly depositing the puck into the back of the net.
A few seconds later, goaltender Alex Stalock made the final save of the game and the rest of the team mobbed Koivu on the bench.
It was already a special day for Koivu as he skated in his 1,000th career game with his family in the stands. This was simply the cherry on top.
“To be honest to me that’s what hockey is all about,” said Koivu, who also recorded the 700th career point in the game. “I think it’s probably the best feeling of the whole day to get that from the guys. I really appreciate that.”
For the Wild, the shootout win helped them extend their season-long point streak to nine games, while exorcising some overtime demons in the process.
All anyone could talk about after the game, though, was Koivu, the only full-time captain in franchise history that has become synonymous with the Wild over the last couple of decades.
“It was a perfect ending with him getting his 700th and then getting the game-winner in the shootout,” veteran winger Zach Parise said. “You could see how excited the guys were for him. It was great. It was the perfect ending to a special day for him.”
That perfect ending, with Koivu playing hero in the shootout, was exactly how coach Bruce Boudreau drew it up, right?
“No, I didn’t know what I was doing, quite frankly,” Boudreau said with a laugh. “Initially, I wasn’t going to put him in because he hadn’t scored in the shootout in like two seasons. Then I figured he was rested because he didn’t play in overtime. It was his day, so all the stars were (aligning). Just go out there and win it.”
That’s exactly what Koivu did, fittingly using the move he almost always does, yet a move that’s still so difficult for an opposing goaltender to stop.
“You saw (goaltender Ben Bishop),” Stalock said. “He wanted to break his stick because he knew it was coming.”
Why does that move work so well?
“You have to honor his shot and then he gets (the puck) across,” Stalock explained. “It’s hard to be two spots at once. His hands are so fast he gets it right up. It’s a tough move to stop.”
Asked if he could’ve dreamed it up a better finish on such a special day, Koivu responded, “Uhh. I didn’t dream that far.”
It was a perfect response from the usually stoic Koivu, though he did let his guard down for a few minutes, opening up about what the day as a whole meant to him.
“I guess all day just tried to stay in the moment and tried to enjoy it as much as I could,” Koivu said. “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 for sure a different day and different game than any other game this season. Now that it’s done it’s a good feeling. Especially after a win.”
While the Wild will move on after this win, shifting their focus ahead to bigger things to come this season, this will forever be a game, and a finish, the remains etched in everyone’s mind.
“It’s so fitting,” teammate Marcus Foligno said. “It’s his move in the shootout to win it in his 1,000th career game. You couldn’t write a better script.”