There was a collective sigh of relief on Thursday night as the Minnesota Wild rallied to a 4-3 overtime victory over division rival Chicago. While it felt good to win, the Wild certainly had their moments where they looked uninspired and slow which has been a disturbing theme early this season. Yet, at the same time they certainly showed more urgency and determination to create scoring chances in close which is a better formula for success than simply settling for shots from the perimeter.
Minnesota is hoping to follow up that success as the Carolina Hurricanes come to town. The Hurricanes are young, fast and appear to be re-energized under new Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour and that has pushed them atop of the Metropolitan Division. The Wild struggled mightily against Vegas and Colorado which are two of the faster teams in the West, will they fare better against one of the faster clubs from the East?
1st Period Thoughts: Since its ’80’s night at Xcel Energy Center I’ll stick with the theme. The 1st period was sort of like the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ferris’ dad gets stuck behind an old lady driver who swerves back and forth so much he couldn’t even pass her. Don’t remember the scene? Let me help.
This is pretty much like how the Wild played throughout most of the period. Slow, wayward and frustratingly ineffective. Poor lazy passes, no cohesion just on the ice turning the puck over and spending most of the period chasing the Hurricanes’ skaters around the Minnesota zone. Carolina was peppering Devan Dubnyk with shots. Minnesota was so discombobulated, their main strategy was to just try to skate it across the red line, dump it in and change. It was that bad. Carolina would light the lamp first as an absence of puck support allowed the Hurricanes to enter the Wild zone with speed where they sent a puck on goal that Dubnyk stopped but would be pushed in off the knee of a crashing Jordan Staal. The ‘NHL War Room’ would review the play but rule that the goal should stand since Staal wasn’t pushed into the crease. Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau challenged the call on the grounds of ‘goaltender interference’ but ultimately the officials overruled the challenge and the goal would stand. 1-0 Carolina. It was a ludicrous challenge by Boudreau who was more likely to find Al Capone‘s Vault than the ruling he was hoping for. The physical play would intensify as Matthew Dumba hip checked Valentin Zykov hard into the boards. Minnesota’s penchant for dishing out open ice hits would draw the ire of Carolina and Brett Pesce would go after Mikael Granlund and earn a roughing penalty in the process giving the Wild its first power play of the game. On the man advantage, the Wild would find the back of the net as Minnesota moved the puck quickly around the perimeter to set up Jared Spurgeon for a shot from the point that Curtis McElhinney juggled which gave Charlie Coyle the chance to pounce on the rebound. 1-1 game despite the fact the Wild were being out shot 22-5. Minnesota’s one bright spot was the performance of its penalty kill where the Wild killed off nearly a minute of 5-on-3 power play and one late just before the end of the 1st to take their tie into the 1st intermission. It has to get better right? I seriously don’t want to reference Howard the Duck in the 2nd period.
2nd Period Thoughts: I know I threatened to reference Howard the Duck, but that seems like too fine of a film to compare Minnesota’s 2nd period travesty. Maybe Weekend at Bernie‘s is a better choice since the Wild’s effort (at least from its skaters) was about as high energy as a dead body. Minnesota had no jump and Dubnyk was forced to make some outstanding saves to keep his team in the game including a diving save to stop Justin Faulk. The Wild would eventually start moving the puck out of the zone but couldn’t seem to handle it long enough in the offensive end to direct almost any shots on McElhinney who appeared bored out of his mind. Like that dead corpse, the Wild continued to just chip pucks into the neutral zone where they became easy turnovers for Carolina to pounce on. Minnesota would draw a power play late in the period as Andrei Svechnikov hooked Spurgeon. But the power play would last a whopping 9 seconds before Jason Zucker would kill it off with an ill advised slash and then berate NHL referee Steve Kozari who slapped him with an additional 2-minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty proved costly as the Hurricanes swarmed all over the Wild zone before Brett Pesce redirected a Sebastian Aho shot up and over the shoulder of Dubnyk. 2-1 Carolina. Minnesota would kill off the remainder of Zucker’s penalty but the damage had been done and the Wild ended another period in miserable fashion as they were outshot 37-8 to this point in the game. Perhaps a telling sign of Wild fan expectations, there were no boo’s for another atrocious effort on the ice. They’re either very easily entertained or they don’t care enough to air their frustrations.
3rd Period Thoughts: The 3rd period was more entertaining but it was still pretty lousy as the Wild continued to see how many more slashing penalties Steve Kozari would call. Minnesota would take the lead early in the period as a power play gave the Wild some time and space and Mikael Granlund set up Zucker for a one-timer he blasted by McElhinney. 3-2 Wild. Unfortunately the Wild couldn’t stay out of the box as they kept taking slashing penalties. Carolina would appear to miss on a golden chance as Aho fanned on an open net, but later in the power play he’d pounce on a big rebound given up by Dubnyk and tie it up at 3-3. The game appeared to be destined for overtime when Mikael Granlund somehow snuck a shot by McElhinney just a fraction of a second before he hugged the post. 4-3 Wild. Game over right? Nope as the Wild’s penalty problems gave Carolina additional chances and they’d pull McElhinney for an extra attacker and they’d cash in as Justin Williams shoveled home his 1st goal of the season tying the game at 4 and sending it to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: In over time the Wild seemed to forget that the one spark they had skating-wise was Jason Zucker and Bruce Boudreau kept sending out the old veterans which was a recipe for disaster. Zach Parise would skate the puck into the Carolina zone, turn to buy time for help and lose the puck in the process. The Hurricanes would counter attack and before Parise could catch up, Sebastian Aho blasted a shot by Dubnyk. 5-4 Hurricanes win.
Devan Dubnyk again had a terrific night, making 52 saves in the loss. He certainly was not to blame for tonight’s result. He kept Minnesota in the game when they had absolutely no reason being in it at all. The penalty kill was leaned on far too often due to poor discipline and an inability to adjust to the officials calls. They had to kill off 9 penalties this evening. You can’t do that and expect your goaltender to bail them out everytime. Minnesota needs to stay out of the box and move their damn legs.
Offensively the Wild was rewarded quite a bit considering how one sided the game was from a shots perspective. Nino Niederreiter is a turnover machine. It is incredibly annoying watching him try to dangle and just lose pucks over and over with little idea of what he’s really trying to accomplish. The only Wild player that seems dangerous on the majority of his shifts this season is Jason Zucker. The rest of the team’s forwards appear sluggish and slow.
Minnesota gave up the most shots on home ice in its history with the 57 shots the Hurricanes sent on goal this evening. The Wild didn’t deserve to even get a ‘mercy’ point and the shame is they had a pretty good chance to come away with 2 points in this one. The Wild look old, slow and more than a few of its older forwards seem to be a shadow of what they were just a season ago. Carolina is young and fast and again the Wild looked unable to really keep up. Its tough to see much hope with this current squad. Hopefully they give us reason to be less pessimistic on Monday in Nashville.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jordan Greenway, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Matt Hendricks, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nate Prosser was the lone healthy scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Jared Spurgeon, 3rd Star Sebastian Aho
~ Attendance was 18,715 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 4, Texas 3 SO
Iowa is off to its best start in its history and that continued on Friday night in Des Moines. It was a defensive battle in the opening period against these two divisional rivals. Both the Stars’ Landon Bow and Iowa’s Andrew Hammond were sharp and the period would end in a scoreless tie. Iowa would break the stalemate early in the 2nd as Ryan Murphy found a little space and he’d wire a shot by Bow. 1-0 Iowa. Texas answered right back less than a minute later as Adam Mascherin tied it up. The Stars would then take the lead a few minutes later as Gavin Bayreuther scored to make it 2-1 Texas. Iowa would tie it back up a few minutes later as alternate captain Mike Liambas scored his 2nd goal of the season off a rebound on a Gerry Fitzgerald shot. With the game knotted at 2-2 going into the 3rd Iowa would take the lead as Fitzgerald’s hot start to the season continued as he used his speed to wrap a shot by Bow. 3-2 Iowa. The Stars would pour it on for the equalizer and they’d tie the game with just 9 seconds left in regulation sending the game to overtime. In overtime Texas carried most of the play but Hammond stood tall and the game went to a shootout. Sam Anas would be the lone skater to find the back of the net in the shootout and Iowa would skate away to its 3rd straight victory. Hammond had 30 saves in the win. Kyle Rau led Iowa with 5 shots on goal to go along with a helper and Anas had 4 shots of his own.
Wild Prospect Report:
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ The big goaltender made 30 saves in the Remparts’ 6-2 win over Cape Breton on Thursday night. Baribeau is 4-3 on the season with a 2.54 goals against average and an .907% save percentage.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the Bulldogs survived a late-game scare from Michigan Tech as Swaney chipped in a helper in their 2-1 victory.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ The Pas, Manitoba-native had a monster game on Friday night as he had 2 goals, 2 assists and with 8 shots on goal in Everett’s 5-3 win over Edmonton. Dewar has 6 goals, 11 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -3 in 7 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian lit the lamp, but he was an awful 3 of 17 on his draws as Moncton lost 6-5 in a shootout to Rouyn-Noranda on Friday. Khovanov has 4 goals, 8 points, 14 PIM’s in 8 games.