Prior to last week’s game the team was doing some soul searching, and they rediscovered their transition game and put up 6 goals on the New York Islanders. With the offense working well, the Wild now need to solidify their defensive game so they can really get on a roll. Another team hoping to re-establish itself defensively is the 2-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Knowing my luck we’ll end up with a quiet, defensive focused game that makes watching paint dry sound entertaining.
The Wild are still trying to crawl out of the Central division cellar and stringing together some wins, even against the defending champs would be a great way to do both. Of course, there are those pesky champs who despite their penchant fro giving up goals are still atop the Metropolitan division. Can the Wild make it two in a row on Saturday night?
1st Period Thoughts: Pretty decent period, as the Wild seemed to be ready to keep its skates moving to stay with one of the fastest teams in the league. Time and space were tough to come by and the Wild were not just spending all of the time skating in their own end in awe of the Penguins’ skill. The Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund line were getting sent to match up against the Sidney Crosby, Conor Sheary, Jake Guentzel line and the line did a great job of neutralizing the Penguins most dangerous line. Penalties threatened to derail the Wild’s good start. Minnesota did a fine job of killing off the first power play and then counter attacking as Eric Staal left the penalty box and he saucered a perfect pass to Luke Kunin who rifled a shot on goal that was fought off by Matt Murray. As promising as the counter attack was, the Wild couldn’t stay out of the box as Koivu would earn a trip to the sin bin for a trip. On the penalty kill, the Wild did a reasonable job of getting sticks and bodies into shooting lanes. Yet, the Penguins would manage to score on the man advantage as Evgeni Malkin would hammer a slap shot well wide of the goal but the puck would pinball off of Kunin and then Kyle Quincey and past Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk had no chance on the shot. Minnesota would rally back a few minutes later as Matt Cullen would blister a slap shot from the point that drew a big rebound from Murray and Daniel Winnik would gather up the puck and dangle it around the sprawling Penguins netminder to tie the game at 1-1. It was a great answer to the Penguins’ fluky goal. The Penguins would try to re-take the lead as Sheary fed a puck to Crosby but he was stonewalled by a desperation stop by Dubnyk who seemed a little more focused than what we’ve seen the last few games. The Wild had some other scoring opportunities, thanks to some hard work to get the puck in close by Marcus Foligno. I hope we see more of that. Shots were pretty close, with the Penguins holding a 14-13 advantage.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period was another fairly solid effort by the Wild. Minnesota continued to defend fairly well by moving their feet and being timely in the use of physical play. The Wild came dangerously close to taking the lead on a few occasions as they were stopped on a few chances from in close on the power play. It started with a holding call to Olli Maatta. Minnesota moved the puck well and Mathew Dumba sent a pass over to Eric Staal who shoveled a shot on goal which Matt Murray partially stopped and then Tyler Ennis fanned on what was a yawning net. Shots were hard to come by as both clubs were wary of making that big mistake. Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon denied a few Penguins scoring chances with timely poke checks. The Wild would have to kill off a penalty on a strange goaltender interference call on Mike Reilly. On the power play the Penguins moved the puck close and tried to swarm only to be denied by an alert play by Brodin to help bail out Dubnyk who was flopping in his crease. The Wild would then have a late power play and after an ugly minute of terrible puck movement they’d finally move in close and looked poised to set up Zucker for a quick shot when time expired. Shots were 6-6. I am sure the Wild are fairly pleased with their effort so far.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild started the 3rd with just about 25 seconds of power play time and it didn’t amount to anything. Yet Minnesota seemed to be the team with the hunger to work for the go-ahead goal. Minnesota was working pucks deep and the Koivu line really took control of the game. Their hustle to loose pucks and their ability to force turnovers in the offensive zone was creating offensive opportunities. The Penguins were hoping to get lucky on some long stretch passes and they had a few close calls as a killed penalty opened up a breakaway chance for Bryan Rust who raced in and he sent a shot off the right post and out. A few minutes later their hustle would be rewarded as Zucker tracked down a loose puck and then worked it out to the point where it ended up on the stick of Mike Reilly who made a nice feed from the point that was redirected perfectly by Koivu in the slot that beat Murray 5-hole. 2-1 Wild. Minnesota did not just sit back and wait for the Penguins to attack, instead working pucks into the Penguins zone and bottling them up with a great forecheck. Pittsburgh just seemed to get worn down by Minnesota’s effort and hustle and the Wild would continue to force the Penguins to waste precious time defending in their own zone. The Penguins were really unable to mount much of a surge, and even when they got into the Wild zone, Minnesota was denying time and space and poking pucks out of dangerous areas of the ice and they’d earn a 2-1 victory.
Devan Dubnyk had a great night, stopping 29 shots in the victory. It was his best effort of the season, as his rebound control was pretty good but he had great support from his defenseman. Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter were all rock solid tonight. Even Kyle Quincey and Mike Reilly were pretty good at helping the Wild transition pucks to prevent the Penguins from bottling Minnesota up in its own end of the ice. The penalty kill gave up one tonight, but it wasn’t poor execution. Luke Kunin, Matt Cullen, Mikko Koivu, and Daniel Winnik were terrific in applying puck pressure on the penalty kill.
Offensively, the Wild did a great job taking what the Penguins were giving them offensively. After they cleaned up their play a bit in the neutral zone the team started to really apply pressure on the forecheck and that served to wear the Penguins down. I thought the Koivu line was really the main catalyst offensively and the team captain in particular had a strong game with 6 shots on goal including the game-winning goal. Its good to see Mike Reilly get more comfortable and in my opinion he’s looking better with each game.
This was a great follow up victory after Thursday’s win over the Islanders. The Penguins are not used to being shut down, and Minnesota outworked Pittsburgh tonight. They played a smart game that dictated the pace of play that I’m sure was frustrating for the Penguins to deal with. Minnesota hopefully can continue to build some positive momentum and they took a big step forward this evening!
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, Daniel Winnik, Matt Cullen, Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Zack Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Mathew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Kyle Quincey and Mike Reilly. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nino Niederreiter and Gustav Olofsson were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mikko Koivu, 2nd Star Devan Dubnyk, 3rd Star Jared Spurgeon
~ Attendance was 19,064 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 1, Tuscon 4
On an emotional night, where the Roadrunners celebrated Craig Cunningham Night, a night where the recognize the perseverance and spirit of the player who suffered from cardiac rhythm disturbance which forced the amputation of part of his leg and thus ending his playing career. Goaltenders Niklas Svedberg and Marek Langhammer were sharp. It was a defensive battle throughout most of the game until the end of the 2nd period when the Roadrunners appeared to get away with a blatant offsides call and Iowa’s skaters stopped in anticipation of a whistle that never came and that allowed Lane Pederson to score. Iowa head coach Derek Lalonde was incensed, but the play could not be reviewed and the goal would stand. 1-0 Roadrunners going into the 3rd. Tuscon would then add 3 more goals in the 3rd period on two tallies from Nick Merkley and an empty netter from Tyler Gaudet. Colton Beck would score in the final minute to keep a six-game scoring streak alive but it wasn’t nearly enough as Iowa fell 4-1. Svedberg had 24 saves in the loss. Iowa plays Tuscon again tonight.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the skilled Russian can’t carry the Wolves all by himself as he had 2 assists and 5 shots on goal in Sudbury’s 7-2 loss to Windsor on Friday night. Sokolov has 8 goals, 16 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +3 in 13 games this season.
RW – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the power forward hasn’t lit the lamp too often, but he is still a regular on the scoresheet for the Terriers as he had a helper in Boston’s 4-3 OT loss to Denver on Friday. Greenway has a goal, 6 points, 8 PIM’s and is a +2 in 7 games.
LW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the Florida-native played on the Friars’ top line and made the most of it with a goal, 4 shots on goal in their 3-0 win over Boston University on Saturday. Duhame has 2 goals, 4 points, 21 PIM’s and is a +1 in 7 games.
LW – Bryce Misley (Vermont, H-East) ~ the freshman played on the Catamounts 2nd line this evening, where he had a helper and 4 shots on goal and finished the night a +1 in a 4-4 tie with arch-rival New Hampshire. Misley has 2 helpers in 5 games the season.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defensman had a monster night on Saturday with 2 goals and an assist, 7 shots on goal and was a +2 in the Redhawks’ 7-1 demolition of UConn. Belpedio has 3 goals, 6 points, 16 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating through 6 games.