A little while back, the Minnesota Wild went to Tampa Bay and won in a surprising upset over this year’s President’s Trophy winners and then followed it up the next night with a rancid loss to Florida. In some ways, the challenge will be similar after Minnesota’s 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals last night, albeit against a better opponent in the resurgent Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have been one of the hottest teams in the league since Wild did them a tremendous favor by dealing Nino Niederreiter to them for Victor Rask. Niederreiter has netted 24 points in 27 games since arriving in Carolina and has been a major factor in their climb to the top wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Hurricanes have a two-point lead on Montreal so they’ll want to get a win to keep that top spot while the Wild’s win has them sitting in that final wildcard spot of their own so they should be supremely motivated too. Can the Wild earn another big road victory or will they suffer another disappointing let down?
1st Period Thoughts: The game started out with a physical tone as Andrei Svechnikov hit Jared Spurgeon right on the first shift. Not many shots were being sent on goal, just pucks driven deep as they hoped to force a crucial turnover. The Wild looked a little sluggish early on. Not a lot of flow. Carolina’s Warren Foegele would send a puck up into the still mostly empty stands in his own zone to give the Wild a power play on the delay of game call. On the power play the Wild had a hard time with Carolina’s aggressive pressure on the puck carrier. The Wild sent a few shots from the perimeter towards the goal but nothing that would force Petr Mrazek to make a save. The Hurricanes killed off the penalty and they’d go on the attack and Foegele ripped a shot that was blocked to the corner by Devan Dubnyk. Anthony Bitetto would light up Justin Williams with a hit as the puck was nearby to earn an interference penalty. Minnesota’s penalty kill was pretty solid as they tried to deny time and space and even set up an early shorthanded bid as Luke Kunin took a shot off the rush that missed high. The Hurricanes would counter attack and Sebastian Aho made a nice saucer pass to Niederreiter for redirection that Dubnyk absorbed. Carolina would start to work their way in close and Dubnyk found himself under siege as they peppered him with shots but the Wild would get the big kill. Minnesota couldn’t seem to get out of its own way as the Hurricanes kept the Wild hemmed in their own end. Dubnyk was playing well, but Minnesota not only appeared disorganized but pretty fatigued at this point in the game. A few minutes later a good forecheck by the 4th line yielded a good scoring chance as J.T. Brown won a battle for the puck in the corners and he’d sent a shot on goal that was nearly pounced on by Marcus Foligno. Jason Zucker was stripped of the puck in the neutral zone by Svechnikov who raced in on a breakaway but his forehand to backhand bid was stopped just enough by Dubnyk before it was gathered up by Kunin. Another careless turnover by Kevin Fiala in the Wild zone nearly turned into disaster as Aho wired a shot that was fought off by Dubnyk and Minnesota had to feel lucky to still be knotted at 0-0 going into the 1st intermission.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota had a great opportunity at the start of the period as Jordan Greenway dug a puck down low in the Carolina zone and found Kunin in the slot but his shot was blocked by Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Carolina would force a turnover in the Wild zone and this lead to slap shot from the point by Justin Faulk that was redirected by Jordan Staal and by Dubnyk. 1-0 Hurricanes. The Hurricanes continued to apply pressure and it was Brett Pesce who had plenty of time and space and he’d skate in and rifle a shot top shelf, glove side on an unscreened Dubnyk. 2-0 Carolina on a soft-ish goal. On the next shift, Bitetto would get high sticked by Micheal Ferland that left him in pain on the ice. The officials would skate over and see Bitetto bleeding and his nose re-arranged so they gave Ferland a double-minor and the Wild had a major opportunity to get back into the game. Minnesota didn’t do a lot with the 1st half of the power play as they struggled to get set up in the offensive zone. The Wild’s persistence would be rewarded as Fiala made a nice diagonal feed to Eric Staal for a one-timer that he fired off the inside of Mrazek’s leg and in. 2-1 game. Minnesota kept lurking in search of the game tying goal as their pressure forced another turnover and Zucker was slashed by Jordan Martinook before he could pull the trigger on a shot giving the Wild another power play. The Wild didn’t get much accomplished on the power play; tired legs didn’t allow them to track down pucks or use their quickness to get some time and space to send some shots on goal. With the power play coming up empty, the Wild tried to keep up their offensive pressure as Jonas Brodin carried a puck down low and behind the goal where he attempted a wrap around chance that was kicked away by Mrazek who seemed to be caught a bit off guard by the move. The Hurricanes would cause some havoc late and Jordan Staal nearly cashed in off a chance from the slot and moments after that Svechnikov’s backhand attempt was denied by Dubnyk. Minnesota would appear to have a great opportunity late in the period as Greenway stole a puck in the offensive zone and fed a pass to Ryan Donato who fanned on the shot. The Wild trailed by one going into the 2nd, but they had to feel good about the fact they were finally generating some quality scoring chances.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Hurricanes seemed content to sit back in a passive 1-2-2 as the Wild were pushing for the equalizer early. Carolina was chipping pucks deep and forcing the Wild to attack from the full length of the ice or lying in wait for a costly turnover. The Hurricanes’ would ge their turnover as Jared Spurgeon lost a battle for the puck along the boards as Teuvo Teravainen fed a puck to Svechnikov for a quick shot that beat Dubnyk. 3-1 Hurricanes. The Wild just seemed to lack the energy to really make a strong push and a tripping penalty on Ryan Suter gave Carolina a power play to perhaps put a dagger in this game. The penalty killing effort by Minnesota was rather scrambly but they did a decent job of making sure pucks exited the zone and they’d get the big kill. The Hurricanes kept moving their feet and the Wild would get caught puck watching in their own end as Ferland found a trailing Lucas Wallmark all alone in the slot for a quick shot that Dubnyk had little chance on. 4-1 Hurricanes as they bury the dagger. A few minutes later, a rancid turnover by Greg Pateryn near his own blueline was intercepted by Teravainen who waited for Dubnyk to flop and he’d skate around the Wild goalie and pot the goal into an empty net. 5-1 Hurricanes. The last few minutes couldn’t evaporate fast enough as the Wild just seem emotionally and physically worn out. There were some little scrums towards the end, but it was mostly the result of frustration than anything Carolina was doing. The home crowd gave their team a standing ovation over the last minute as they roll to a 5-1 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Pontus Aberg, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Donato, Matt Read, Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, Eric Fehr, J.T. Brown, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Greg Pateryn, Brad Hunt and Anthony Bitetto. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nick Seeler was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Teuvo Teravainen, 2nd Star Jordan Staal, 3rd Star Brett Pesce
~ Attendance was 16,751 at PNC Arena.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 3, Stockton 5
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Connor Dewar (Everett, WHL) ~ the Silvertips’ captain earned 1st star honors as he netted 2 goals on 7 shots and went 22-for-31 on his draws in Everett’s 6-1 win over Tri-City in the first game of the playoffs. Dewar has 2 goals and is a +1 in 1 playoff game.