If you stayed up late to watch the Minnesota Wild fall 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, its rather likely that alarm clock seemed to go off a bit sooner than normal after a shortened night of sleep. I know it seemed like that for me, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Certainly better than the Northwest Division days where the super late starts were an almost regular occurrence and chronic sleep deprivation was part of the price of being a Wild fan. Guess what, you get to do it all over again tonight? Or you’re reading this the next morning.
The Minnesota Wild haven’t spent much time on the road this season and now on their longest road trip in team history (well over 7,000 miles traveled) and we’ll certainly learn more about what this team is made of. Good or bad. So far it’s 0-for-1 on this 7 game road trip as they make their way to Edmonton tonight. Can the Wild earn a split in this back-to-back?
1st Period Thoughts: The Wild adjusted their lines a bit, looking for more jump and for the most part they got what they were looking for. The team was skating better than what we’ve been accustomed to seeing this season, but still that was mostly slower than the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were still able to fly by the Wild as they were sending shots on goal with regularity early trying to test Alex Stalock. Minnesota would try to counter with some speed of its own as Eric Staal raced into the Oilers’ zone where he’d try to center the puck towards a waiting Charlie Coyle who fanned on what would’ve been a tap in. Moments after that, Jason Zucker would steal a puck in the offensive zone for a quick chance that was denied by Cam Talbot. Greg Pateryn would take a high sticking penalty that gave Edmonton the first power play of the game. Minnesota did a decent job on the penalty kill, but as the penalty expired the Oilers would push hard and Stalock was forced to make 3-4 saves on Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid from point-blank range. The Wild then failed to clear the puck and work it back to Draisaitl who this time buried it by a sprawling Stalock. 1-0 Oilers with a fair amount of Wild skaters just sort of standing, turning and reaching / watching it all happen. The Wild would get a power play in the late portion of the period and they were showing some variety as they set up Zucker repeatedly for some quick shots but the Las Vegas-native was fanning on the puck instead. As the Wild power play was about to expire, Stalock would leave his crease to play a puck nearly the full length of the ice that was just out of reach of Nino Niederreiter but he stayed with it and tracked it down and worked it over to Matthew Dumba for a quick shot on goal that Talbot stopped and Zach Parise was there to pounce on the rebound. 1-1 game. It was a nice goal, but the Oilers would try to answer right back as McDavid set up Ryan Strome in the slot but his shot would find the crossbar. The Oilers kept attacking and Drake Caggiula would draw a hooking call on Pateryn. The Wild would manage to kill off the penalty with some difficulty but Stalock was again solid to keep the game knotted at 1-1. Minnesota would try to go on the attack and Jason Zucker had a few good chances late but couldn’t beat Talbot. The Wild were out shot 22-14. The new lines seem to be paying off so far. Having Joel Eriksson Ek seems to have brought out the best in Niederreiter and Zucker which is a good thing.
2nd Period Thoughts: In the 2nd period, the Oilers tried to assert its speed and this would give the Wild problems. Minnesota tried its best to match the speed of Edmonton, but the Wild were really bringing a knife to a gun fight. Mikko Koivu sort of surprised himself by stealing a puck down low beneath the goal line but instead of walking out front and scoring on an empty goal he instead tried to pass that never made it to Granlund. The Oilers would take advantage of the missed opportunity as they counter attacked and McDavid would turn on the jets and fly by Ryan Suter and beat Stalock to put Edmonton up 2-1. Instead of pushing back, the Wild seemed to revert to lazy penalties and a parade to the penalty box would ensue as Jordan Greenway and Matthew Dumba ended up in the sin bin to give the Oilers 25 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time. McDavid would again turn on the jets to get behind the Wild defense but this time Stalock would get a leg pad on the shot, sending the puck harmlessly into the corner. Minnesota would get the equalizer a few minutes later as Staal carried a puck down low and he’d feed a puck into the slot where Jared Spurgeon got off a quick shot that beat Talbot cleanly. 2-2 game. The relief was short-lived as the Oilers would take the lad back a minute late as Matt Benning would let go a shot from the point that was redirected by Alex Chiasson that found the back of the net. 3-2 Oilers. Minnesota would the game up late in the 2nd as Ryan Suter sent a wrist shot that was deflected by Staal that Talbot had no chance on. 3-3 game. The Wild were demonstrating decent resilience in a game where they were not creating a ton of scoring chances. Anyone’s game going into the 3rd, tough to find any fault in that.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would take a penalty early in the 2nd as Eric Fehr as tagged for tripping. Both clubs were wary of making a mistake which meant time and space were hard to come by. The game also seemed to get a bit more physical as teams finished their checks, hoping to slow the other team down. Minnesota was activating its defense in the offensive zone as they worked for the go-ahead goal. Every shot was contested but the intensity was ramping up the longer the game remained tied. Minnesota would draw a penalty as Zucker fed a pass to a crashing Niederreiter who was tripped up by Caggiula. Minnesota would take the lead on the ensuing power play as Granlund unleashes a wrister that goes top shelf on Talbot with a wicked snipe. 4-3 Wild. The Wild went into lockdown mode, applying a modicum of offensive pressure to keep the Oilers from going on the attack until the final two minutes of regulation. The Oilers would pull Talbot for an extra attacker with about 1:39 left but Minnesota would demonstrate plenty of urgency as they did whatever it took to block a few shots late and the Wild would pull out a 4-3 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Jordan Greenway, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Joel Eriksson Ek, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Matt Read and Nate Prosser were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Eric Staal, 2nd Star Leon Draisaitl, 3rd Star Mikael Granlund
~ Attendance was 18,347 at Rogers Place.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian had 3 assists and was 13-out-of-20 on his draws in Moncton’s 7-0 win over Acadie-Bathurst on Sunday. Khovanov has 8 goals, 19 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +2 in 15 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the former 3rd round pick of the Wild isn’t quite leading the way as he did with Erie, but he’s certainly contributing as he had a goal in Niagara’s 7-1 win over Flint on Sunday. Lodnia has 6 goals, 16 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +4 in 15 games.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the bottom 9 forward has had a slow start, but he registered his 2nd goal of the season in a 9-0 rout of Slovan Bratislava. Svetlakov has a 2 goals, 3 points, 15 PIM’s and is a +4 in 15 games.
LW – Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ he hasn’t been burning up the scoring charts quite the way he did last season, but he too had a goal in CSKA’s 9-0 win over Slovan Bratislava. Kaprizov has 10 goals, 16 points, 6 PIM’s and is a +13 in 21 games.