For a good portion of the Minnesota Wild’s history, a lot of what they did was strongly influenced by people who grew up in Montreal’s dynasty days. Hall of Famers like Jacques Lemaire (Head Coach) and Guy Lapointe (Director of Scouting) as well as role players like Doug Risebrough (General Manager) and Mario Tremblay (Assistant Coach) were there to instill that culture with a new organization. The move also added instant credibility in regards to the leadership of the organization among Minnesota fans who recognized their expertise and winning pedigree. While much of that Montreal influence has left the organization since those early days, for whatever reason any time we play the Canadiens I always think of where it all started for the Minnesota Wild.
Montreal is in a place similar to the Wild. Just outside of the wildcard window in the Eastern Conference, but a bit erratic in their performances. At times they can look rock solid and at others they seem to fail to show up? Sound like a team you know? Can Minnesota start the first game of a back-to-back with a win in Montreal?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota would start the game hoping to work quick transitions. As Canadiens turnover in the neutral zone was sent up the ice from Zach Parise to Luke Kunin who fired a sharp angle shot that missed wide. Montreal would answer back with a scoring chance of their own as Joel Armia found a little space and he’d rifle a shot that was knocked down and covered up by Devan Dubnyk. Moments after that Kenny Agostino would hit Eric Fehr from behind on a late check that sent him face first into the top of the boards along the Wild bench. Fehr was clearly worse for the wear as he struggled to get back to his skates while Wild athletic trainer John Worley attended to the Minnesota centerman as held a towel to his face. Nick Seeler would then go after Agostino for more of a wrestling match than a brawl. Agostino would get a minor for interference, a fighting major, a game misconduct while Seeler got an instigator penalty, a fighting major and a game misconduct. After a few minutes of 4-on-4, the Wild would go on a 3-minute power play. On the power play, the Wild were content to move the puck along the perimeter thoughout the first half of it. Minnesota would finally simplify its approach and Jordan Greenway was denied right at the top of the crease which caused Carey Price to sprawl in his crease. Nino Niederrieter would poke the puck towards the goal line but Price would just be able to stretch his glove arm onto the puck and keep it out a few inches in front of the line. That was as close as the Wild would get to scoring on this power play as Jason Zucker would get called for holding Phillip Danault which would negate the remaining 45 seconds of power play time. The Wild would kill off the 1:20-long Canadiens’ power play. A few minutes later Max Domi would put on a stickhandling exhibition in the Wild zone as he made Mikko Koivu look ridiculous as he walked by the Wild captain before firing a shot from a little above the dots that was held onto by Dubnyk. The move seemed to energize the Canadiens who really started to fly around the ice. Their pressure would help draw a delay of game penalty as Jonas Brodin cleared a puck from his own end into the seats. On the Habs’ power play, they peppered Dubnyk with shots as they set up Arturi Lehkonen‘s one timer repeatedly. The Fehr injury would force the Wild to get a little creative on the penalty kill as they used Kunin and J.T. Brown as penalty killers and they looked a little lost as they tried to disrupt Montreal’s shooting lanes. Minnesota couldn’t clear the zone to alleviate pressure and the Wild simply did their best to weather the storm. They’d get the kill, but Montreal appeared engaged and focused at this point in the game. The Wild stopped moving their feet and Montreal had taken control of the game. Even when the Wild did work their way into the Canadiens end, they got tagged with a holding call on Mikael Granlund in the offensive zone giving Montreal a power play to start the 2nd period with.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild would kill off the early Montreal power play and moments after the successful kill, the Habs would give Minnesota a gift. Carey Price would play a puck outside the trapezoid, which earned him a delay of game penalty. Minnesota wasn’t able to capitalize on the man advantage as Greenway tried to take a puck to the crease that force a bit of a save by Price and the puck somehow eluded the reach of Niederreiter who seemed to be set up for a great goal mouth chance. The Habs were starting to crank up their physical play as Jeff Petry rocked Kunin with a big hit behind the Montreal goal and then Petry was leveled by a hit by Marcus Foligno. The Wild would have some good opportunities as a turnover near the Canadiens blueline gave Eric Staal a partial breakaway but his wrist shot would miss high and wide. Minnesota was doing a decent job of backchecking as they challenged Montreal’s attempts to work pucks to the middle of the ice and quickly transitioning out of the Wild’s end. Clear shooting lanes were fleeting and not many shots were making it to either Dubnyk or Price. A few minutes later a nice turnover by Staal turned into a prime chance for Zucker who went forehand to backhand before missing way wide of the net. The Wild at times couldn’t seem to get out of its own way by trying to be fancy at the wrong time or just an inability to make the simple play. Granlund was set up all alone in the slot but instead of pulling the trigger he waits and the puck is knocked away off his stick and the period would end with both clubs still knotted at 0-0.
3rd Period Thoughts: With the game still in a contentious 0-0 balance both clubs knew every scoring chance had the potential to be a game winner. Minnesota would get lucky with another foolish penalty by Montreal as Mike Reilly inexplicably ran into Devan Dubnyk while chasing a puck in the Wild zone. The fans boo’ed the Wild for what they felt was a bad call as they must’ve thought Reilly was shoved into Dubnyk. Either way, the Wild didn’t do anything to really challenge the Canadiens on the man advantage as they settled for shots from the perimeter that were fairly easy for Price to deal with. Fortunately the Wild would find the back of the net a shift or two as a bad pass was swept up by Granlund and while Greenway denied Price’s vision which allowed Granlund to fire it into the back of the net. 1-0 Wild. Minnesota would try to add to its lead as Niederreiter had a potential chance thwarted by a wicked slash by Michael Chaput. The Wild would continue to force turnovers and transition to create some terrific chances but couldn’t seem to get another puck past Price. The Wild did a decent job of denying time and space on the ice as Montreal tried to push for the equalizer. Greg Pateryn would hit Domi up high, possibly with and elbow that appeared to cut Domi and he’d go after the Wild blueliner. Domi and Pateryn would both get sent to the box. The Canadiens would pull Price for an extra attacker, but Minnesota did a nice job of protecting the middle of the ice and forcing Montreal to settle for shots from the perimeter. Minnesota got sticks and bodies into the shooting lanes and they’d get a few big clears of the zone and they’d hold on for the 1-0 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Jordan Greenway, Nino Niederreiter, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Luke Kunin, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Greg Pateryn, Nick Seeler and Nate Prosser. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Matt Hendricks and Ryan Murphy were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Devan Dubnyk, 2nd Star Carey Price, 3rd Star Mikael Granlund
~ Attendance was 20,601 at Bell Centre.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Brandon Duhaime (Providence, H-East) ~ The Plantation, Florida-native had an assist and 2 shots on goal in the Friars’ 3-3 tie to Miami (OH) on Saturday. Duhaime has 6 goals, 18 points, 35 PIM’s and is a +14 in 20 games.
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips’ captain earned 1st star honors on Saturday night with a goal, 4 shots and went 8-for-16 on his draws in Everett’s 4-1 win over Tri City. The Pas, Manitoba-native followed it up on Sunday with a goal and an assist on 7 shots as well as going 8-for-16 on his draws in a 5-1 Silvertips’ win over Kamloops. Dewar has 28 goals, 52 points, 48 PIM’s and is a +18 in 37 games.
C – Bryce Misley (Vermont, H-East) ~ The sophomore forward registered his first goal of the season on Sunday in Vermont’s 3-2 overtime loss. Misley’s goal was his first point of the season.