VANCOUVER – Dean Evason’s first win as an NHL head coach is one for the memory books.
“It’s amazing,” Evason said after his Minnesota Wild beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in a shootout on Wednesday night. “You hear things happen for a reason and all of those things. To have my three children here was awesome.”
Hailing from Winnipeg, Evason played junior hockey in Kamloops, British Columbia, and his son is with the team as part of a fathers and mentors trip. His two daughters, who live in B.C., were also in attendance.
The 55 year old, who’s now 1-1-0 since taking over from Bruce Boudreau behind the Wild bench last Friday, said he couldn’t watch as Alex Galchenyuk sealed the win in the fifth round of the shootout.
“I knew where the kids were and all the dads and mentors,” he said. “I just looked up at my three kids sitting in the front and watched their reaction.
“All three of them jumped up in the air, so I knew we scored.”
Galchenyuk also tied the game 3-3 with 4:45 left to play in the third period, scooping a wraparound off Vancouver defenceman Troy Stecher and passing Jacob Markstrom for his first point since being traded to the Wild on Feb. 10.
“Obviously getting the first one, it’s definitely a weight off your shoulders,” Galchenyuk said. “But the way we did it is an extra-special feeling, especially with the dads in the crowd. Can’t get better than that.”
Kevin Fiala and Luke Kunin also scored in regulation for Minnesota and Mats Zuccarello had two assists. Devan Dubnyk stopped 31 shots.
J.T. Miller scored twice in the third period for Vancouver and Jay Beagle had the other goal, while Quinn Hughes recorded two assists. Markstrom made 25 saves.
“It’s a good hard-fought game,” said Miller, who hit a career high with his 23rd and 24th goals of the season and took over the Canucks’ scoring lead. “I thought we played a pretty good game.
“Nice to get the lead in the third, and they kind of got a goofy one.”
Playing on a line with Miller and Elias Pettersson, Tyler Toffoli picked up one assist in his first game with Vancouver after being traded from the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. Early in the third period, his point shot was deflected past Dubnyk by Miller.
“(Chris) Tanev made a really nice play, leaving it for me and I had a whole lot of time,” said Toffoli. “I saw him just standing there by himself and he made a really nice tip.”
The single point for the shootout loss moved the Canucks (32-22-6) into a tie with the Vegas Golden Knights for second place in the Pacific Division.
Minnesota (28-24-7) moved to five points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The Wild opened the scoring just 63 seconds into the game, when Fiala collected his 15th goal of the year on Minnesota’s only shot in the first 11 minutes of the game.
Following a brief penalty kill early in the second, Vancouver evened the score when Hughes threaded a goalmouth pass through to Beagle for his second goal of the year and first in 42 games.
The Wild retook the lead with 6:57 left to go in the second, when a Kunin redirection trickled between Markstrom’s pads and into the net.
The Canucks came out strong to start the third, with Miller’s two goals coming in the first 4:43. From there, the teams traded chances until Galchenyuk beat Markstrom to force overtime.
In the shootout, both teams scored twice in the first four rounds, giving Galchenyuk a road map on how to beat Markstrom for the winner.
“I saw those guys — they put on a lot of moves and the guys scored a big goal,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to go out there and just going to shoot. I knew I had to beat him with the moves.”
Markstrom said his performance was “not good enough.
“The guys scored two goals in the shootout on the first three — you’ve gotta win the game. You’ve gotta help the guys win the game.”
NOTES: Speed-skating gold medallist Christine Nesbitt was part of a group of Canadian athletes from the 2010 Winter Olympics on hand at Rogers Arena to help commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Vancouver games … Actor Emilio Estevez was also in the house. He’s in Vancouver filming the new ‘Mighty Ducks’ TV series … Tanner Pearson’s dog Emma was named the winner of the Canucks inaugural Top Dog race in the second intermission, beating out five other teammates’ canine companions.