When the Montreal Canadiens struck early in the 3rd period, many Wild fans felt it was yet another late game collapse from a struggling squad. Instead, the Wild took advantage of a power play to tie the game and then used some hustle and dare I say it was speed to score their first goal of the season off the rush to earn a much-needed 4-3 win on home ice. Success at home was a rare thing a season ago and the team hopes to do better by the fans who normally fill the arena. Speaking of that, Sunday’s game marked the ending of a 252-game sellout streak, a clear side effect of their home woes.
The Edmonton Oilers have had their share of changes this off-season, a new coach and a greater commitment to team defense has them playing some of their best hockey in the last 5 years. The Oilers suffered their first loss, albeit in a 1-0 shootout to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. Can the Wild notch another home win against the red hot Oilers?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota’s best shift to start the game was from the 4th line as Ryan Donato, Gabriel Dumont and Gerald Mayhew caused a little havoc by taking every chance they could to fire shots on Mike Smith. The good shift was followed up with some assertive play by the Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Zucker line as Koivu was pulling the trigger more frequently than we normally see from the team captain. A few minutes later, Mats Zuccarello set up Eric Staal right near the top of the goal crease but Staal fanned on the puck. Minnesota was controlling the pace of play and not allowing the Oilers to turn it into a free-wheeling type of game. Defensively, Jonas Brodin was shadowing Connor McDavid and doing their best to keep him from having any time and space. The Wild’s diligence defensively also gave them a chance to catch the Oilers in transition as a turnover in the neutral zone had Jordan Greenway sending a puck over to Zuccarello who sent another pass out near the top of the crease and Staal would back hand it home. 1-0 Wild. After a TV timeout, the Wild would keep that line out on the ice and some hard work down low by Greenway along the wall and he’d send a pass back to the point where Carson Soucy stepped into a slap shot that was stopped by Smith but Staal was there to bury the rebound. 2-0 Wild. Edmonton would send out its top line in search of an answer, but some tight checking to deny time and space the Oilers’ were starting to exhibit some frustration. The 4th line would keep up the offensive pressure for the Wild as Donato set up Mayhew for a bomb from the slot that Smith held onto. Minnesota would draw a penalty as they had numbers off the rush and Jason Zucker appeared to have a lane for a breakaway but he was held up by Oscar Klefbom before he could fire a shot on Mike Smith. The Wild would take full advantage of the power play as they won the initial draw and the puck worked its way back to Matt Dumba who sent it across to Brad Hunt who one-timed a slap shot that blew by Smith. 3-0 Wild. The Oilers were clearly a little upset and the game would get a bit chippy as Zucker would get into it with Edmonton’s Brandon Manning in the area near the benches. Both would get sent to the box opening the ice up a bit 4-on-4. The Wild treated it with caution and did what they could to continue to prevent Edmonton from getting into a comfort zone with the puck and the period would end with Minnesota holding a 3-0 lead. Probably the best period of the season so far.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Oilers were looking get back into the game and so they were skating a with a bit more jump. A scary moment in the first few minutes as Dubnyk was flipped ass over teakettle and his head landed hard on the ice. Wild athletic trainer John Worley would go out there to check out Dubnyk who was able to skate off the ice under his own power. This meant Alex Stalock had to go out there and making the situation more difficult, Donato was called for interference on the play giving the top power play of the Oilers the chance they have been waiting for. Edmonton would have a great chance early as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins appeared to get a shot behind Stalock but the puck hit the post and stayed out. After the near miss, the Wild penalty kill did a good job at keeping Edmonton to the perimeter and they were able to escape unscathed. Minnesota kept taking its chances to attack and as Luke Kunin crashed the net after a shot by Ryan Hartman. The Wild kept up the pressure as Zuccarello continued to set up Staal for some great scoring chances that Smith struggled to keep out. The 4th line had another oh-so-close chance as Smith denied Dumont on an opportunity from near the blue paint. Edmonton would have a oh-so-close chance of their own as Klefbom wheeled behind the Wild goal and attempted a wrap around that was poked away at the last moment by an alert Brad Hunt. Minnesota’s 4th line would go back to work and Dumont set up Mayhew in the slot for a quick shot that Smith deflected up into the netting above the goal. Ryan Suter would find Zucker on a long outlet pass that put him behind the Oilers’ defense and he’d move in on a breakaway but his backhand attempt was thwarted by Smith. The frustration level for Edmonton was palpable as Smith tried to goad Stalock into a fight as the clubs headed for their respective locker room. Another solid period for the Wild.
3rd Period Thoughts: Initially the Oilers had Minnesota on its heels a bit with penalties, but the Wild penalty kill did a great job of shadowing McDavid and company. When Edmonton did set up well, like Leon Draisaitl‘s one-timer from just inside the left faceoff dot it was Stalock who was able to bail out his club with a big save. Minnesota wasn’t just sitting back and playing rope-a-dope, as they were looking for chances to attack. As a Wild penalty expired, Hartman found Kunin leaving the penalty box for a breakaway but he was stopped on two great saves by Smith from in close. The Wild kept attack as Staal set up Parise on the doorstep but the alternate captain couldn’t jam it through Smith’s leg pad. The rest of the period, the Wild were giving the Oilers’ very little space on the ice and they’d roll to a 3-0 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Donato, Luke Kunin, Gerald Mayhew, Gabriel Dumont, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt. Alex Stalock shared duties between the pipes with Devan Dubnyk. Nick Seeler was the lone healthy scratch. Kevin Fiala, Victor Rask and Joel Eriksson Ek are all with lower body injuries.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Eric Staal, 2nd Star Mats Zuccarello, 3rd Star Alex Stalock
~ Attendance was 17,189 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (5-0-1) 11pts 1st in AHL Central
21.1% Power Play (9th in the AHL)
93.1% Penalty Kill (3rd in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #7 Sam Anas ~ 3G 5A = 8pts
2. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 2G 4A = 6pts
3. #47 Louie Belpedio ~ 1G 4A = 5pts
4. #27 Brennan Menell ~ 1G 4A = 5pts
5. #25 J.T. Brown ~ 2G 2A = 4pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #22 Brandon Duhaime ~ 10 PIM’s
2. #47 Louie Belpedio ~ 8 PIM’s
3. #6 Mitch McLain ~ 8 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (4-0-0) 2.95GAA .886%SP
2. #60 Mat Robson (1-0-1) 1.44GAA .949%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 4, Manitoba 2
With two of their better scorers in Gerald Mayhew and Gabriel Dumont being a part of call ups to the big club, the mantra with the Iowa Wild is ‘next man up.’ So far it seems to be working Tim Army‘s squad as Iowa would jump out to an early lead on a power play goal from Sam Anas. After the Moose tied the game back up, it was Anas who would put the Wild back on top with a goal late in the 1st. The Wild would add to their lead mid-way through the 2nd period as Anas set up Nico Sturm for his 2nd goal of the season to make it 3-1 Iowa. Manitoba would cut the lead to one late in the period on a point shot by Cameron Schilling. In the 3rd period, with Iowa holding onto a 3-2 lead the Moose would try to throw everything they had at he Wild. Mat Robson was outstanding and Iowa’s hustle drew a few power plays down the stretch that kept Manitoba from really pressuring late in the period. Kyle Rau would put the nail in the Moose’s coffin with an empty netter to seal a 4-2 victory. Robson had 24 saves in his first win as a professional goalie. Brennan Menell had 2 helpers on the night.
Wild Prospect Report:
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ the big goaltender’s strong start continues as he had 28 saves in the Pete’s 2-1 win over rival Oshawa on Sunday night. Jones has a 9-1 record, a 2.40 goals against average and a .919% save percentage with 1 shutout.