Last night the Wild took advantage of a tired Vegas Golden Knights team to earn an important home victory. Now the roles are reversed as the Wild is now the club boarding the late-night flight for a game against well-rested Dallas squad. Minnesota has had its share of struggles in road games but when that road game is the 2nd of a back-to-back the challenge is that much greater. Dallas is feeling the pressure too, hearing Minnesota’s footsteps behind them so like the Wild the night before they will see this as an opportunity to take advantage of a fatigued opponent.
The Stars have a lot of firepower up front and they will look to blitz Minnesota the way the Wild did to the Golden Knights last evening. Minnesota knows every point is crucial and seem to understand the urgency of each game, but can they dig deep and get another big road win the way they did against Columbus earlier in the week?
1st Period Thoughts: Dallas certainly looked to tire the Wild out early, with a fast and furious tempo. Minnesota looked a bit fatigued as they tried to keep up but Dallas was moving with such speed they were winning most of the little races to loose pucks and all the Wild could really do was chase and hope they could force the Stars to the perimeter of the ice. The Stars were also making a concerted effort to finish their checks, which is another classic tactic to try to wear opponents down physically. At times the hits were pretty punishing as Tyler Ennis got clobbered by a big hit by Stephen Johns. Yet Minnesota didn’t look too frazzled and were staying patient and were biding their time to go on the attack. The Wild’s top line of Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker seemed to have the most jump in their skates for Minnesota and was Zucker who used his wheels to dangle around Greg Pateryn for an opportunity that was absorbed by Kari Lehtonen. At times the Wild were a bit careless with the puck. For as confident and smooth as he looked against Vegas, Mike Reilly looked like he was handling a live hand grenade with his stick in the 1st period. Mishandling it and it was those little mistakes that had Minnesota spending 30-45 seconds scrambling around its own zone. Alex Stalock wasn’t freezing many pucks but he was directing them to the corners and for the most part the Wild were tracking them down and working on an outlet pass out of the zone. Minnesota nearly took the lead as a Nino Niederreiter pass was tipped up into the air by a Dallas defenseman and knocked out of the air by an alert Eric Staal that Lehtonen just managed to hold onto. It was a pretty good road period for the Wild as they escaped unscathed and didn’t give up too many prime chances to the Stars.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period started out promising with the Wild counter punching well; as they were pressuring the puck well to create turnovers and scoring chances. Minnesota was starting to find a little space and Lehtonen had to come up with some big saves as he stopped Zach Parise on a breakaway. The Wild seemed to be the ones dictating the pace of play and it was Dallas who appeared to be on their heels. Unfortunately Minnesota couldn’t convert its chances and Dallas would take control of the game thanks to some undisciplined play by the Wild as Zucker was tagged for high sticking Lehtonen. The Stars would break the stalemate as John Klingberg floated a wrist shot from the point that was redirected by Mattias Janmark and by Stalock. 1-0 Dallas. The bleeding wouldn’t stop there as Niederreiter coughed up a puck in the neutral zone to Stephen Johns and the former Notre Dame defenseman wound up and blasted a slap shot by Stalock. 2-0 Dallas. The pain wasn’t done there as Ryan Suter would give a forearm to the side of Remi Elie‘s head earning him 2 minutes for elbowing. Dallas wasted little time in adding to its lead as they got Minnesota to chase and as they worked a puck on goal, Stalock knocked it down but Jamie Benn was there to crash and shovel it in. 3-0 Stars. The Wild kind of gave up at this point as Alexander Radulov drew the defense towards him and he’d dish it off to Benn who then sent a cross-ice pass to Tyler Seguin for an easy goal. 4-0 Dallas. The Wild just weren’t really that interested in competing anymore and Jason Spezza hooked and stripped Jonas Brodin of the puck before beating Stalock with a shot but he’d earn a penalty instead of a goal. Minnesota did little to nothing on the power play as an unwillingness to set a screen and a lack of energy allowed the Stars to kill nearly 30 seconds of power play time by simply freezing the puck along the wall. The period would come to a ‘merciful’ end with Minnesota trailing 4-0.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would swap out Stalock for Devan Dubnyk between the pipes for a change of pace rather than poor play by the South St. Paul native. Minnesota started the period with about 45 seconds of power play time but you never would’ve known it with some lazy passes that never really allowed the Wild to get any sort of positive momentum going. The Wild would light the lamp as Mikael Granlund connects on a long saucer pass that hit Zucker in full stride and he’d race in and fire a laser beam of a shot by Lehtonen. 4-1 Dallas. With the Wild’s spirits lifted a bit from Zucker’s goal, they’d remind everyone why they’re trailing by 3 when Marcus Foligno coughed up the puck and the Stars swarmed in the Wild zone and Dubnyk and Brodin had to make some crazy saves to keep them off the board. However, even that relief did not last long as Radulov would win a battle along the boards and Radulov took a pass from Seguin and he’d take it to the net and beat Dubnyk with a backhander. 5-1 Stars. The Stars were content to just play keep away and the Wild didn’t have the legs or the want to really win the races for the loose pucks. Dallas would extend its lead one more time as Dan Hamhuis stepped into a shot from the point that beat Dubnyk cleanly. 6-1 Dallas victory.
One step forward, one step back. Sure, the team will sell the tired from being in a back to back real hard but the truth is the team didn’t execute very well at all. Give Dallas credit for giving the Wild little time and space and finishing their checks consistently all game long. However the Wild had way too many pointless turnovers which played right into the Stars’ hands. Minnesota didn’t match its lines very well that meant we were playing with our 4th line of Foligno and Chris Stewart against Seguin, Benn and Radulov. Not the kind of formula for success.
Minnesota wasn’t ready to play mentally and a careless penalty meant the house of cards would implode pretty quickly and dramatically in the 2nd as Dallas struck 3 times in a few minutes. The Wild needed to find a way to earn a point tonight, if anything to prove that it can be done. Instead they felt their last two games were pretty good so they packed it in pretty fast. Not good enough. Not nearly good enough.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek, Zach Parise, Tyler Ennis, Chris Stewart, Marcus Foligno, Jason Zucker, Daniel Winnik, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Mike Reilly and Nate Prosser. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Matt Cullen and Gustav Olofsson were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Tyler Seguin, 2nd Star Kari Lehtonen, 3rd Star Stephen Johns
~ Attendance was 18,352 at American Airlines Arena.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 8, Bakersfield 0
It was a historic night on the road in Bakersfield on Friday. The 1st period was pretty even, but Iowa strike first as Gerald Mayhew pounced on a rebound and hammered it by Shane Starrett. In the 2nd the Wild would blitz Bakersfield for 3 goals in the first 5 minutes as Zack Mitchell, Kyle Rau and Colten Beck scored chasing Starrett. He would be replaced by Nick Ellis but that didn’t stop the bleeding for the Condors as the Wild scored 3 more times in the 2nd as Mitchell (his 2nd of the game), Sam Anas and Pat Cannone to make 7-0 Iowa after 2 periods of play. Iowa would add one more in the 3rd to seal an 8-0 victory, their first win in California in franchise history and their most lop sided victory ever. Niklas Svedberg has 22 saves in the shutout. Mario Lucia and Justin Kloos both had two assists on the evening. In fact, only Ryan Murphy and Alex Grant were the only Iowa skaters to not finish with at least a point in this game.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Jacob Golden (London, OHL) ~ the once-Harvard bound defenseman buried his first goal of the season in an 8-4 loss to Barrie on Friday. Golden has a goal, 7 points, and is a -1 in 44 games.
C – Jordan Greenway (Boston U., H-East) ~ the junior forward is centering the top line for the Terriers and he continues to heat up offensively as he had a goal in Boston’s 4-2 win over UMass last night. Greenway has 9 goals, 24 points, 42 PIM’s and is a +5 in 27 games.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the senior defenseman continues to be a big leader both on and off the ice for the Redhawks as he had a goal and an assist in Miami’s 4-2 win over Western Michigan on Friday night. The Skokie, Illinois-native has 9 goals, 24 points, 38 PIM’s and is a +6 in 25 games.
RW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ the Florida-native may have only ended up with a helper instead of a goal but it wasn’t for a lack of trying as he had 6 shots on goal in the Friars’ 2-2 tie against Vermont last night. Duhaime has 5 goals, 18 points, 60 PIM’s and is a +11 in 29 games.