Veteran Minnesota Wild forward Nick Bonino made a handful of big plays in Monday’s dramatic 6-5 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. He stayed hot with a pair of goals and an assist, and finished an impressive 12 for 20 in the faceoff circle.
But perhaps Bonino’s biggest play of the night came in the waning seconds. With the Wild clinging to a lead, and the Golden Knights pushing to tie the score, Bonino sacrificed his body to block a shot and the puck fell harmlessly to the ice as the final buzzer sounded.
The entire performance was Bonino in a nutshell. Though he is more than capable of making big plays when called upon, the 33-year-old makes dozen of little plays throughout a game that likely go unnoticed to the casual observer.
Not to Wild general manager Bill Guerin.
He was the assistant general manager for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won back to back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, and remembers the impact Bonino made for the team night in and night out. That’s why Guerin worked so hard to acquire Bonino in a trade with the Nashville Predators last offseason.
Asked what exactly Bonino has brought to the team this season, coach Dean Evason replied, “He’s won a (Stanley) Cup. That says everything.
“He knows exactly what to do, and he knows how to do it,” Evason added. “He teaches our group every night. His value has been immense.”
Indeed. It doesn’t matter if Bonino is in the top six or bottom six of the lineup. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the power play or the penalty kill. He has performed at a high level wherever he has been in the lineup.
“He comes to play every night,” goaltender Cam Talbot said. “He always does the little things right. He’s one of our best penalty killers. He wins faceoffs. He’s standing in front of pucks on the power play. It doesn’t always show up on the scoresheet, but he makes a difference every night. He’s an impact player for us no matter what he’s doing.”
For a couple of weeks, Bonino played on a line with Nico Sturm and Zach Parise. That changed in Monday’s game as Bonino got promoted and played alongside Victor Rask and opposite Kevin Fiala.
“I think they like me for the most part,” Bonino said with a laugh. “It’s been a good fit. We couldn’t be happier here. You see how much talent is on the team — and youth, too. It’s been a really fun ride so far.”
As for his solid play of late, Bonino made it clear that he thinks he has played at a high level ever since he arrived in the Twin Cities to start the season.
“I feel like I’ve played pretty consistently throughout the season,” Bonino said. “I’ve said it before: Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t. Like, today, a puck went off my back and a rebound fell right to me. I’ll definitely take ’em. I’d like to think whether I’m getting points or not, I’m doing the right things.”