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With the world a bit more frozen as the snow and ‘wintry mix’ combined to make us flee to the warmth of our homes it certainly feels like hockey season is in full swing. Minnesota is back at home and with some momentum going for them as they’ve had points in their last 8 games. The Wild treated fans to a Black Friday present with a 7-2 romp over Ottawa.
While Minnesota has done well to feast on Eastern Conference teams, they’ve had great difficulty against the clubs in their division. The Dallas Stars are playing better as of late. Can Minnesota earn a win on home ice against Dallas?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota started off a bit slow as the Stars were doing a nice job of applying pressure to the Wild puck carriers and forcing some early turnovers. The Wild’s modified 4th line of Ryan Hartman, Marcus Foligno and Ryan Donato would attempt to spark their team with some physical play as Foligno delivered a big hit to Dallas’ Andrew Cogliano. The Stars’ 2nd line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov had chance to set up a prime scoring chance but the puck wouldn’t settle for Benn so he could pull the trigger. Minnesota’s ‘ZZ Top’ line of Mats Zuccarello, Eric Staal and Jason Zucker would go to work and create all kinds of scoring chances from in close but couldn’t get one by Ben Bishop.
The team then had a small tribute to team captain Mikko Koivu who was playing in his 1,000th NHL game as he stood from the Wild bench for an appreciative wave at the gesture as they gave him a standing ovation and stick taps from both benches. The game would resume and the ‘ZZ Top’ line would draw the first penalty of the game as Jamie Oleksiak was tagged for holding up Zucker. On the power play the Wild were calculated as they set up Kevin Fiala for a shot from the half wall that hit traffic, but he’d gather up the puck and move into the slot but the mass of bodies near the crease would prevent him from finding the back of the net. Minnesota’s power play kept moving the puck and setting up shots. Give Dallas’ penalty killers credit for getting bodies and sticks into shooting lanes and Minnesota had a number of their shooting attempts blocked but the Wild were undaunted and would gather up the puck and fire it on goal again. The Wild were certainly taking any chance to shoot the puck which was good to see. Ryan Donato would get called for holding giving Dallas its first power play of the game. Dallas had some dangerous chances early on the power play as as Jamie Benn was denied by a great stop by Alex Stalock. Minnesota was showcasing more jump in its skates and were doing a fine job of making a quick and clean outlet pass out of the zone to put Dallas on its heels. The Wild were also backchecking well and helping prevent the Stars from creating much in the way of offensive chances off the rush.
In fact, Dallas also raised its backchecking effort and shots on goal were hard to come by the last few minutes of the period. A pretty good period by the Wild who seemed to get more comfortable and assertive with each shift. Still 0-0 after one.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota continued their shoot-first approach to start the 2nd period. The Wild were controlling the pace of play and doing a good job defensively at forcing Dallas to the perimeter. The best way to describe the first 5 minutes of the 2nd was a chess match as both teams were trying to gain some kind of an edge, working pucks deep and biding their time for some kind of mistake to be made. There were few whistles and stoppages in play. Zucker would get called for interference as he held up Corey Perry who was chasing after a puck, Zucker wasn’t happy with the call but it didn’t matter as Dallas went on the power play. Minnesota’s penalty killers were applying good puck pressure to the Stars’ puck carriers and forcing turnovers and making it difficult for Dallas to get set up in the offensive zone. The Stars were unable to get much of anything going offensively with the man advantage and Minnesota had a great kill. Jordan Greenway used his size well to muscle a Dallas player off the puck and carry it out of the Wild zone. The Stars were starting to use its speed to create a scoring chance as Denis Gurianov turned on the afterburners to fly by Brad Hunt but as he centered the puck near the top of the Wild crease the puck was pushed back towards another Dallas forward before it was poke checked away by Hunt. Minnesota would then draw a power play of its own as Eric Staal forced a turnover in the Dallas zone and Zucker was hauled down by Oleksiak near the Stars’ crease. Minnesota would cash in on the power play as Koivu had a puck batted back to him by Parise who chased into the corner for it and then he’d pass the puck out front to Fiala for an easy tap in. 1-0 Wild and the assist for Koivu was his 700th NHL point. Ryan Donato would take another penalty when he got tangled up with Esa Lindell. The Wild’s penalty kill didn’t apply as much pressure on the puck carrier as they did in their previous effort but they still kept Dallas to the perimeter and moved their feet well to get sticks and bodies into shooting lanes. The Stars would score in the closing moments (just 5 seconds left) of the power play as John Klingberg fired a shot that had the benefit of a screen by Benn that Stalock never had a good view of. 1-1 game. Minnesota tried to battle back for the go-ahead goal but time and space were hard to come by at either end of the ice as both clubs were wary of making some kind of major mistake in their own zone. A blocked Miro Heiskanen shot turned into a breakaway chance for the Wild as Zuccarello set up Staal for a chance and he’d move in but his wrist shot was denied by a blocker save by Bishop and the game would remain 1-1 going into the 2nd intermission.
3rd Period Thoughts: The intensity would ramp up a bit as Jamie Benn laid out Eric Staal with a big hit and the pace of play increased greatly. Minnesota tried to answer back with some offensive pressure as Hunt stepped into a slap shot that was gloved by Bishop. The Wild kept swarming in the Stars zone as the 4th line would set up Carson Soucy for a blast from the point. The Wild’s forcheck was doing an excellent job at forcing turnovers but initially it wasn’t resulting in extra scoring chances yet. The 4th line continued to cause chaos with their forecheck, keeping the Stars bottled up in their own end over a minute, but still the Wild were unable to turn that possession into shots on goal. Dallas was having great difficulty breaking out of their own end with any kind of flow and often had to just flip it out instead of making a tape-to-tape pass. Eric Staal would take a pass just before the Dallas blueline and he’d wind up and unleash a slap shot that nearly took off Bishop’s head who did his best just to fight off the shot. Foligno would try to pay Benn back for his hit on Staal with a big hit right in front of the Stars’ bench. The Stars tried to get traffic out in front and hope for some flukey goal. Dallas would nearly cash in moments later as Mattias Janmark‘s shot would ring off the right post and he was able to scramble back to cover up the puck in the crease. Yet the Stars would get the go-ahead goal where Blake Comeau fired a shot that Stalock struggled with which was swept out of danger but Comeau would gather it back up and fire a shot that beat Stalock 5-hole. 2-1 Stars on what was a fairly soft goal. The Wild didn’t seem to have a lot of jump in its skates and the Stars were content to work pucks deep and make Minnesota waste time defending in their own end instead of trying to mount a late-game rally. Radulov would get called for holding giving Minnesota a late-game power play. Minnesota wasted little time on the power play to bury the equalizer as Kevin Fiala ripped a shot on goal that Bishop struggled with and the puck was battled out of mid-air by Parise and in. 2-2 game. Beauty.
The Stars looked to go on the attack for the go-ahead goal in regulation and the Wild were showing a willingness to pay the physical price to block shots as Luke Kunin stepped in front of a slap shot by Andrej Sekera and the game would go to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: The Wild started Kevin Fiala, Eric Staal and Jonas Brodin for the first shift of 3-on-3 overtime. Minnesota won the initial draw and the Wild had the first quality shot as Fiala ripped a shot on goal that was blocked away by Bishop. A few moments later it was Fiala sending another wrist shot on goal that Bishop gloved. Minnesota would regain possession as Greenway stole a puck away. The Stars were not able to get much of anything going as Minnesota controlled possession for most of overtime. A pass into the skates led to a Wild turnover but Dallas would do nothing with it. Zuccarello would find Zucker with a long pass off the boards that was called offsides but the review demonstrated the error on the call. Stalock would make a nice save on Roope Hintz. Minnesota would have an excellent chance late as Fiala ripped a shot into the glove of Bishop and the game would go to a shootout.
Shootout Summary: The Wild would opt to shoot first and the first shooter was Zach Parise who moved in fairly slow and he went forehand to backhand and he lifted it just underneath the crossbar. Dallas’ next shooter was Joe Pavelski who moved in and he fired a shot off the right post and off Stalock’s leg and in. The Wild’s next shooter was Kevin Fiala who moved wide left and he’d rip a shot underneath the arm of Bishop and in. 2-1 Wild. Tyler Seguin was the next shooter for Dallas and he’d go wide left and he’d fire it top left corner on Stalock. 2-2 game. Mats Zuccarello was Minnesota’s next shooter and he’d make a quick deke forehand to backhand but Bishop was able to make the save. This meant Alexander Radulov could win the game and he’d try to pull of a similar forehand to back hand move that Stalock stopped. The Wild’s next shooter was Mikko Koivu and he’d pull off his signature move, forehand to backhand move and roofing the backhander perfectly. 3-2 Wild. This put the game into the hands of Corey Perry and the former Ducks’ forward would move in and he’d lose handle of the puck and never even got a shot off and the Wild would win 3-2 over Dallas.
Can’t write it much better as the Wild get through an overtime unscathed for the first time this season only to get a winner off Mikko Koivu dusting off his signature move like it was no big deal. Kudos also should go to Kevin Fiala who arguably had his best game as a Wild player tonight and is looking more and more comfortable with each game. Great victory for Minnesota!
~ Wild roster this afternoon was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Ryan Donato, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt. Kaapo Kahkonen backed up Alex Stalock. Nick Seeler and Victor Rask were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mikko Koivu, 2nd Star Zach Parise, 3rd Star Kevin Fiala
~ Attendance was 17,096 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ CreaseAndAssist: A Legally Compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog would like to congratulate team captain Mikko Koivu on playing in his 1,000th NHL game. In addition, the game was also Alex Stalock’s 100th start.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ the skilled winger had a big night on Black Friday as he tallied 2 goals and a helper on 7 shots in the Huskies’ 6-4 win over Miami (OH). Firstov leads UConn in scoring with 4 goals, 9 points, 19 PIM’s and is a -1 in 13 games.
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the Saskatoon-native earned 2nd star honors as he had a goal and an assist on 3 shots in Spokane’s 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver on Friday. He followed that up with another goal on 3 shots in Spokane’s 4-3 OT win over Victoria on Saturday night. Beckman has 13 goals, 38 points, 6 PIM’s and is a +15 in 24 games.
C – Matvey Guskov (London, OHL) ~ the versatile center had an assist on 2 shots and went 11-for-15 on his draws in London’s 6-3 win over Windsor. Guskov has 5 goals, 11 points, 16 PIM’s and is a +1 in 22 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the skilled winger continues to light the lamp as he had a goal and an assist on 1 shot in the Ice Dogs’ 5-2 win over Sarnia. On Saturday, he added two more helpers on 1 shot as Niagara edged Windsor 3-2. Lodnia has 13 goals, 27 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +9 in 16 games.
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ the goaltender continues to be a force field for the Petes as he had 24 saves in Peterborough’s 5-3 win over Hamilton on Friday. On Saturday he was even better as he made 39 saves in the Petes’ 3-1 win over Erie. Jones has a 17-3 record, 2.62 goals against average and a .914% save percentage with 1 shutout.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian is really taking off for the Wildcats as he earned 2nd star honors as he had 2 goals and an assist on 4 shots in Moncton’s 8-5 win over Blainville-Boisbriand. He went 9-for-22 on his draws too. Khovanov has 19 goals, 42 points, 42 PIM’s and is a +27 in 22 games.
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ the Spirit’s captain had a goal on 2 shots as Saginaw lost 5-4 in overtime to Owen Sound. The Hanmer, Ontario-native has 16 goals, 26 points, 10 PIM’s and is -8 in 25 games.