Tampa Bay makes its first trip away from the friendly confines of Amalie Arena in Tampa to come north to face the Minnesota Wild. The Lightning are a team loaded with offensive firepower but so far they’ve been a bit muted this season. The Wild started off slow, figuratively and literally and seem to be catching their stride after a big road win in Dallas last night.
This is the 2nd back to back this week for the Wild, so they will have to dig deep to earn a win tonight over Tampa Bay. The Lightning hope to keep pace in a much-improved Atlantic division. It is Educator Appreciation Night at Xcel Energy Center. In that spirit I’d like to thank Mr. Bill Giles, my 5th grade teacher for inspiring me to join the profession myself. Can the Wild earn a victory against one of the best team’s in the Eastern Conference?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild would get the first real scoring opportunity. It looked like the Wild notched the first goal by Zach Parise, however it would be waived off for him batting it into the net with the back of his glove. Shortly after that, the Lightning would net the first goal by Ryan Callahan. 1-0 Tampa Bay. It was one of those bouncing pucks that Alex Stalock had no chance to stop it. After the Lightning goal, the Wild would struggle to get shots on goal. They had quickly gotten three shots on goal, but since the waived off goal, it seemed to stunt the Wild’s attempts at offense. Minnesota continued to chip-&-chase even when it didn’t need to; giving away pucks needlessly in the process. The Lightning would add to its lead a few minutes later as the 3rd line worked a puck down low but a terribly predictable pass by Jordan Greenway was intercepted and Tampa Bay quickly went on the counter attack. Minnesota was outmanned and Steven Stamkos set up Ryan McDonagh for a shot from the slot that Stalock stopped but he wasn’t able to corral the puck and Yanni Gourde followed up his shot for an easy put away. 2-0 Tampa Bay. Minnesota would answer back a few shifts later as Andrei Vasilevskiy would cough up the puck from behind the goal that Nino Niederreiter quickly worked out front to Charlie Coyle for a quick shot that found the twine. 2-1 Tampa Bay. The sellout crowd was appreciative of the goal, but the good feelings would be short-lived as Tampa Bay’s superior speed was evident and they’d crash near the Wild net that had Stalock sprawling and Minnesota defense scrambling but the puck would stay out of the goal. Minnesota couldn’t stay out of the box and the Lightning would capitalize on the man advantage as J.T. Miller redirected a shot by Victor Hedman that beat Stalock cleanly. 3-1 Tampa Bay. The Wild continued to flirt with disaster as J.T. Brown was tagged for tripping. Minnesota again would manage to get the late-period kill and only trail by two. Not a promising start for the Minnesota Wild.
2nd Period Thoughts: The 2nd period was much better for the Minnesota Wild overall from a competitive standpoint. The Wild were hustling more and the ice began to tilt in its favor. Minnesota would find the back of the net early in the period as Eric Fehr made a nice saucer pass to Marcus Foligno who skated in and dangled a backhander around Vasilevskiy. 3-2 Tampa Bay. Minnesota continued to apply pressure, swarming all over the Lightning zone. This was especially true of the top line of Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise who were winning all of the races to loose pucks but at the crucial moments they just couldn’t get the puck to settle or enough of the stick blade to put them into the back of net. Koivu had a dastardly toe drag around Anton Stralman to eventually set up Granlund who tried to pull a puck by a sprawling Tampa Bay defender but couldn’t manage to pull the trigger on a shot. Minnesota kept swarming but Vasilevskiy stayed calm and made the stops despite a furious effort by Parise and Matt Read to jam a puck through. The frustrating started to brim over as Jason Zucker got into it with Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli and both would earn a trip to the sin bin. Of course it would be helpful if the Wild could earn a power play but despite some obvious high sticks the officials didn’t seem to interested in granting Minnesota the man advantage.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild again had the better of Tampa Bay in the 3rd period. Minnesota was hustling early and they’d tie the game fairly early in the period when Jared Spurgeon made a terrific pass to Mikko Koivu who got off a quick shot that Vasilevskiy stopped but he couldn’t deny Parise from tapping it in. 3-3 game. With momentum clearly in the Wild’s favor they would continue to pour it on and this time it was Jason Zucker pouncing on a loose puck by winding up and hammering a slap shot on goal that burrowed through Vasilevskiy to trickle in giving Minnesota its first lead of the game, 4-3. The Wild looked like they would prevail but Tampa Bay would go on the attack and it was Anton Stralman who beat Stalock with a quick shot just inside the left faceoff circle. 4-4 game. Minnesota tried to push for the go-ahead goal late in the period as Coyle turned on the afterburners for a break away but Vasileviskiy would come up big and the game would go to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: In overtime, it seemed like the Wild were mostly playing with fire. Unable to get the puck away from the Lightning who were at least a step or two faster than Minnesota. Especially as the shift for Coyle, Suter and Dumba got longer the Wild seemed to be fading which usually is a recipe for disaster. Minnesota fortunately would get a change and after a nice save by Stalock, he’d then send a long pass to Coyle who then drove towards the goal before dropping a pass to Granlund and Finnish Baby Jesus moved in and let go of a slap shot that trickled through Vasilevskiy for the game winner. 5-4 Wild win!
Alex Stalock was active as ever in handling the puck and he earned a well-deserved assist on Granlund’s game winning goal beyond having 27 saves in the victory. Defensively the Wild did a reasonable job of keeping Tampa Bay’s potent power play to just one goal tonight. Greg Pateryn and Jared Spurgeon were absolutely exceptional tonight.
Offensively the Wild worked their way in close and were rewarded because of it. It was great to see the urgency in the 2nd and 3rd period as Minnesota wasn’t picky with it shots and Vasilevskiy gave up a few soft-ish goals. Parise, Zucker, Granlund are the names you expect to see on the scoresheet and they’re carrying the mail right now which is a good thing for the Wild. It has been good to see Coyle taking his chances to shoot the puck and Foligno’s goal was at a crucial point in the game.
This was a huge win in a tough back to back where the team faced a well-rested opponent waiting for them after they returned to St. Paul from being in Dallas the night before. The win gives the team some much-needed confidence to earn 2 points against one of the league’s most talented clubs. Now they get a few days off to rest up for their next game against Los Angeles on Thursday.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Matt Read, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Greenway, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Nate Prosser was the lone scratch for the Wild.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mikael Granlund, 2nd Star Zach Parise, 3rd Star Marcus Foligno
~ Attendance was 19,080 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Nick Boka (Michigan, Big 10) ~ the senior defenseman played on the Wolverines’ 3rd pairing and he registered an assist in their wild 6-5 win over Western Michigan on Friday night. Boka has 2 assists on the season.
LW – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ the Minnesota-native registered his first collegiate goal in the Huskies 4-1 win over Northern Michigan.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Pas, Manitoba-native continues to lead the way for the Silvertips both as team captain and on the score sheet as he found the back of the net in Everett’s 5-2 loss to Brandon last night. Dewar has 8 goals, 15 points, 19 PIM’s and is a -3 in 10 games.
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ the big goaltender had to make just 11 saves to help the Remparts defeat Acadie-Bathurst 6-1 last night. Baribeau is 5-4 on the season, with a 2.62 goals against average and an .899% save percentage.