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Late Surge Not Enough As the Wild Fall 3-2

Raise your hand if you thought the Minnesota Wild had a chance against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I don’t see any, still looking…ok, I didn’t think so.  The truth is, just about no one predicted it.  The Penguins don’t seem to be in much of a Stanley Cup hangover and Minnesota is still basically the same above average club it has been for the last four seasons.  So can Minnesota follow it up with another great effort against the Flyers?

Historically the Wild have struggled in games in Philadelphia.  The Wild often look a bit intimidated or gun shy against the physical Flyers.  Taking on the Flyers is similar to the Wild playing against many of its Central Division foes.  The Flyers should be a little fatigued after having played last night against Toronto (a 6-3 loss), so can Minnesota add another 2 points Saturday night?

1st Period Thoughts:  The Wild got out to a fast start, scoring just 21 seconds into the game on a goal from Nino Niederreiter.  It all started with the breakout after the faceoff as Eric Staal was able to work the puck deep to Charlie Coyle who fed the puck back out front to Nino who wasted little time getting off a shot that fooled Michael Neuwirth.  1-0 Wild.  Over the next few minutes the Wild seemed to have good control of the game, using its speed effectively and taking advantage of the Flyers’ soft play in their own end.  One player really buzzing early and throughout the 1st was Jason Zucker who was causing lots of havoc with his speed.  As Zucker crashed the crease after a nice little pass by Christoph Bertschy the Flyers took offense and this seemed to wake them up.  After this little scrum near their goaltender, the Flyers carried most of the play for the rest of the period.  Part of that was a willingness to take shots from just about anywhere.  This kept Devan Dubnyk busy right from the start.  Zucker’s late check on Travis Konecny gave the lethal Flyers power play an opportunity and you could see why they’re so dangerous.  From Shane Gostisbehere, to Ivan Provorov, to Mark Streit to Michael Del Zotto the Flyers have so many great options at the point and with quick puck movement make it tough to shut down.  The Wild caused the Flyers’ power play some problems early by challenging the puck carrier and Mikko Koivu won a few battles for the biscuit.  Minnesota would escape on the Flyers power play, but just seconds after it was killed off it was Brandon Manning finding the back of the net on a wrist shot from the point that beat a well-screened Dubnyk who was a little mad at himself for guessing wrong as he looked to the inside of the screen when the shot came from the outside.  1-1 game and the Wild went back to work.  Mikael Granlund did a nice job of setting up Koivu for a one-timer that he pushed just wide of the mark.  The Wild could certainly be better, but the Flyers were giving up some great opportunities.  Minnesota was outshot 17-7.  It was not the best period for Mathew Dumba who seemed to be getting into a lot of after the whistle shenanigans and looking a little weak in front of the Wild crease.

2nd Period Thoughts:  In the 2nd period, the Flyers would swap out goalie for Steve Mason as I think Neuwirth tweaked his groin late in the 1st.  I think Wild were inconsistent in the 2nd period.  It started off with some quality play as the energy lines of Bertschy, Chris Stewart and Zucker continued to create trouble.  Minnesota would kill off another Flyers penalty kill with a mix of clutch play by Dubnyk but good hustle by the Wild’s penalty killers who did a nice job of working sticks and bodies into shooting lanes and the Wild got a big kill.  The Wild would add to its lead as Mikko Koivu would work the puck into the slot where he went forehand to backhand and lifted a shot that went off the post and then the puck was tapped home by Granlund.  The Flyers would ask for a review claiming the Wild went offsides, but even though the replay appeared to confirm the offsides call but both Granlund and Stewart touched up as Koivu made his charge toward the goal and the tally would stand, 2-1 Minnesota.  The Wild seemed to relax a bit over the last few minutes of the period and it was Mathew Dumba with an ill-timed pinch that gave the Flyers an odd-man rush and it was Michael Raffl motoring his way into the Wild zone and he’d swing a centering pass to a crashing Del Zotto who had a step on Koivu and he’d tap it by Dubnyk.  Minnesota would request a review this time as the puck went off the skate of Del Zotto but there was no distinct kicking motion and the Flyers’ goal would stand tying the game at 2-2.  Minnesota needs to be a bit tougher on the puck in the tough areas near their crease if they want to win this game, and they need to try to force Philadelphia to take some penalties of their own.  The Wild were outshot again 12-7 in the period.

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Flyers looked hungry and determined and Minnesota looked a little bit fatigued to start the 3rd period.  Philadelphia was winning most of the short little races for loose pucks and Minnesota was spending energy it didn’t have trying to defend in its own zone.  Mikko Koivu would get tagged with a bit of a bogus tripping call as Raffl fell over the Wild captain’s stick.  The penalty would prove costly as Ryan Suter would over commit to the player along the boards which freed up a lane for Brayden Schenn to skate in all alone on Dubnyk who sprawled to stay in front of the puck but it wasn’t enough as he lifted it up and over the Wild goalie.  3-2 Flyers.  The Flyers would sit back a bit more as they hoped to defend their lead.  Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau would shorten his bench a bit, by using the Erik Haula, Tyler Graovac, Stewart line seemingly every other shift hoping for some kind of spark.  It seemed to work as the Wild started spending more time in the offensive zone and Minnesota started to generate more scoring chances.  The Wild would pull Dubnyk for an extra attacker.  Minnesota actually did a good job of working the puck deep and they would set up Staal on a back door play but he couldn’t lift the forehand shot quite enough as Mason came up with the huge save and Minnesota would fall 3-2.

Dubnyk played well enough for the Wild to win making 33 saves in the loss.  The only marginal goal he had was the Manning tally in the 1st.  The only problem was how the Wild defended in front of him which at times was about as soft as wet toilet paper.  Mathew Dumba was particularly bad, making poor decisions.  Whether it was an ill-timed pinch or an off-target pass that put his team in vulnerable situations his play drew the ire of Boudreau in his post-game presser.

“There was no way he was going to do anything even if he got it.  (Dumba) was rushing up where he shouldn’t have been.” ~ Bruce Boudreau

The Wild did some good things, but it was too little, too late for Minnesota to really push themselves over the top.  They had the lead twice, but they couldn’t put any real distance from themselves in the Flyers and at times it was a lack of willingness to pay the price on the forecheck.  I thought Tyler Graovac was terrific, looking assertive and playing the big body game Boudreau has been wanting him to play.  Unfortunately, not enough other players were willing to play that way.

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula, Joel Eriksson Ek, Tyler Graovac, Chris Stewart, Christoph Bertschy, Jason Zucker, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin, Mike Reilly and Mathew Dumba.  Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk.  Zach Parise and Nate Prosser were scratches.

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Michael Raffl, 2nd Star Wayne Simmonds, 3rd Star Brayden Schenn

~ Attendance was 19,851 at Wells Fargo Center.

Iowa Wild Report:

Iowa 4, Charlotte 5

With 13,000+ in attendance, including lots of school children attending from around the Des Moines area as part of their annual ‘school game’ the Wild took on a pretty potent Checker’s squad on Thursday morning.  The Checkers got out to a fast start as Valentin Zykov found the twine behind Steve Michalek on a power play tally just prior to the 3:00-minute mark of the opening period.  Iowa would answer right back as Mario Lucia scored his 2nd goal of the season off a nice pass by Jordan Schroeder.  Charlottte would re-take the lead a few minutes later as Brock McGinn managed to sneak a shot through traffic that surprised Michalek, 2-1 Checkers.  Iowa would respond with two goals of its own.  The first was off a Pat Cannone breakaway where he was stopped by Checkers’ goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic but the rebound was gathered up by Teemu Pulkkinen who sent a quick pass over to Cannone who buried it on a snap shot.  Iowa would then take the lead as Kurtis Gabriel pounced on a loose puck and lifted it top shelf to give the Wild a 3-2 advantage.  Charlotte would tie the game as Keegan Lowe swung a shot on goal that snuck through the leg pads of Michalek who seemed to get turned around and not facing the shot.  Iowa would re-take the lead a few minutes later as Teemu Pulkkinen cashed in off a rebound chance to give the Wild a 4-3 lead going into the 2nd.  The 2nd period was a total stalemate as both clubs seemed to sit back in more of a defensive posture.  Unfortunately the Wild would give up two goals in the 3rd period to Kyle Hagel and Patrick Brown and Iowa couldn’t seem to answer and they fell 5-4.  Michalek stopped 37 shots in the loss.


Wild Prospect Report:

D – Carson Soucy (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the tall defenseman is becoming a bigger factor on the scoresheet as he contributed an assist and 3 shots on goal in the Bulldogs 4-3 loss to Western Michigan on Friday night.  Soucy has 3 goals, 8 points, 16 PIM’s and is a +5 in 11 games.

About Derek Felska

I am a hockey blogger originally from Elk River, MN. I have been blogging about Minnesota hockey for over 13 years and I like to cover it from the NHL on down to High School hockey. I try to provide honest, objective perspective from a 'non-homer' sort of fan. I hope my work reflects this approach.

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