The Minnesota Wild’s point streak wasn’t going to last forever. The Wild had garnered at least a point in their last 11 games which helped them crawl out of the cellar and into 5th place in the division and ‘wild card’ sport. Still, it was fun while it lasted as the team had been playing some of its best ‘team’ focused hockey we’ve seen in years. Now the Wild return home for 3 games which should be a welcome respite from what has been a fairly long grind of road games through the first 1/3 of the season.
First up is the Anaheim Ducks who had a strong start but then have faded to near the bottom of the Pacific division. The Ducks have proven to be a pesky opponent for the Wild to deal with in the past, but Minnesota should have some confidence after its latest streak. Can the Wild get back on the winning track with a victory over the Ducks?
1st Period Thoughts: After a pre-game ceremony honoring Mikko Koivu for having played in 1,000 NHL games, the feeling was emotional going into the faceoff to start the game. Minnesota started the game with its ‘GEEK’ line to get some energy going early. Ryan Donato had a great opportunity early as he had a 2-on-1 with Zach Parise and as he skated in he got John Gibson to drop to this pads early but he was unable to tuck it inside the right post. The pace of play was rather subdued as neither club was playing a high tempo game. Anaheim would strike first as the Ducks would work the puck deep and Sam Carrick sent a shot on goal that Kaapo Kahkonen fought off only to have it gathered up by Jakob Siflverberg who fed it over to Rickard Rakell for an easy tap in. 1-0 Ducks. The Ducks were dictating the pace of play and the Wild still looked a bit sleepy in the first few shifts after Anaheim’s goal. Kahkonen made a big stop on Devin Shore to keep the Wild within one after a nice pass by Erik Gudbranson. The GEEK line tried to get things going as Jordan Greenway camped out in front of Gibson, as he tried to screen him while Matt Dumba blasted a shot from the point. After Gibson made the save, Greenway would get tangled up with a few Ducks players after the whistle in a spirited scrum.
We have action after the whistle! pic.twitter.com/oJlssQW8cq— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 11, 2019
The Ducks were quick to retreat and sit back in a 1-2-2 neutral zone trap and let Minnesota turn the puck over and they’d go back on the attack. Anaheim would draw the first power play of the game, as Dumba was called for interference. The power play would prove costly, and even though the Ducks had the 30th ranked power play would light the lamp as Cam Fowler one-timed a shot that beat somewhat screened Kahkonen. 2-0 Ducks. The Ducks were hustling well enough to win many of the small races for pucks and Minnesota just couldn’t match. A interference penalty on Carter Rowney would give the Wild a power play and perhaps a chance to build some momentum. I must admit I was surprised to see Brennan Menell getting a chance on the power play through the first 35 seconds of the power play. The Ducks’ penalty kill was applying timely puck pressure and forcing the Wild to turn the puck over. As the power play was about to expire, Eric Staal would run into the linesman and was clearly hurt on the play as he went face first into the officials elbow. The Wild training staff would all go out on the ice as you could hear Staal laying on the ice in pain. He would eventually sit up and leave the ice to applause but we’ll see if he can come back and play. The Ducks went right back on the attack after Staal’s apparent injury. Victor Rask would poke check a puck away from a Ducks’ defenseman but he was unable to win the races to the loose biscuit as Gibson skated out and cleared the Anaheim zone. Perhaps sensing his team needed a bit of life, Ryan Hartman would drop the gloves with Derek Grant and in a short but even scrap the fight would end as Hartman wrestled Grant to the ice. Anaheim ended up with an extra penalty as Korbinian Holzer was tagged with a trip giving the Wild another power play. Minnesota seemed to have more pace on the man advantage but they were unable to connect on its passes and spent 3/4ths of the power play just trying to get set up in the offensive zone. By the time they did, instead of taking the shot from the perimeter that the Ducks was giving them, Kevin Fiala tried to make a cross-ice pass that was intercepted and sent out of the zone. With another awful power play and the crowd feeling a bit anxious, Marcus Foligno would try to set the tone with a big hit on Carrick. Unfortunately that was about the only thing to get excited about as Minnesota was trailing 2-0 after being outshot 14-1 by Anaheim. Minnesota looked very disjointed and Anaheim didn’t have too much trouble keeping the Wild at bey.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Ducks continued to control the pace of play to start the 2nd period as Minnesota didn’t seem to have the speed nor where they anticipating the play very well. Lots of chasing and reacting to what was going on out there. Jason Zucker forced a turnover for a 2-on-1 with Mats Zuccarello but instead of pulling the trigger, Zucker tried to pass it to Zuccarello only to have it deflected away by the outstretched stick of Nicolas Deslauriers.
Zucker and Zuccarello nearly connected for a nice scoring chance, but Deslauriers redirects the puck to disrupt the play. pic.twitter.com/MFxrOTHxtj— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 11, 2019
The frustration level continued to build as Dumba was sent to the box for tripping as he got his stick under the skates of Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks’ power play looked confident as they made quick tape-to-tape passes as they set up a few shots on goal while the Wild still appeared to be half asleep. Minnesota’s penalty killers looked a bit shaky as they cleared the zone like a team afraid to handle the puck but they’d manage to kill the penalty. Zucker would send a weak shot on goal that was gloved by Gibson that drew a healthy Bronx cheer from the annoyed home crowd. The crowd would finally get something authentic to cheer about as a blocked shot by Menell turned into a rush into the Ducks zone where Foligno fed a pass to Ryan Hartman who wound up and fired a slap shot that would sneak underneath the leg pad of Gibson and then curl its way into the back of the net. 2-1 Ducks. The game would revert back to the frustrating chess match as Staal’s injury forced the team to juggle its lines and passing again became problematic for the Wild. The Wild’s 4th line had another great shift as Foligno, Hartman and Rask outworked the Ducks and kept sending pucks on goal and keeping Anaheim bottled up in its own end for nearly a minute. Minnesota would draw a power play late in the period, but the Wild did very little with the man advantage as even a little pressure seemed to result in them coughing up the puck. Beyond a quick shot for Kunin and a point shot by Ryan Donato the power play was nothing to write home about and they’d go into the 2nd intermission trailing by one. 2-1 Ducks.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would tie the game early in the 3rd period as Zach Parise won a battle for the puck down behind the Anaheim goal and he’d work a pass out to Donato who ripped it by Gibson. 2-2 game. The Ducks would try to respond with some offensive pressure of their own and the Parise, Donato, Kunin line nearly got caught on a backdoor play to Max Comtois who was stopped by a save by Kahkonen. Dumba would then take an interference penalty (his 3rd minor penalty of the game) to give the Ducks another power play. Getlzaf tried to work a puck in close to Adam Henrique but Kahkonen and the Wild defense were able to poke the puck away and clear the zone. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a good job of working bodies into shooting lanes to help their goaltender and then were able to be poised enough to clear the puck and get a big kill. In a strange sequence Hampus Lindholm would send a puck into the Wild zone that took a strange bounce off the stanchion that forced Kahkonen to make a save near his left post. Both clubs were quick to retreat defensively as they didn’t want to make the mistake that would lead to the go-ahead goal. The Ducks’ top line nearly cashed in as Silfverberg set up Rakell for a quick snap shot that was gloved by Kahkonen. The Wild had a good scoring chance by Rask who turned on the jets and raced in and was stopped by Gibson at close range. A few minutes later a big hit by Carson Soucy turned the ice into a yard sale as Lindholm’s helmet and stick went flying. As Minnesota counter attacked, Lindholm stayed on the ice and because of it would get a penalty for playing without a helmet. Seconds after the official’s arm went up, Zuccarello would miss wide on an open net but the Wild still ended up with a power play. On the man advantage the Wild were able to get set up and they flirted with a few opportunities as Parise attempted a lacrosse goal only to have it fought off by Gibson. Minnesota would come up empty on the man advantage but at least it wasn’t a complete practice in futility. In the last few minutes, the Ducks would apply offensive pressure late but Kahkonen and the Wild were able to hold them off to send the game to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: The Wild would put Eriksson Ek, Fiala and Jonas Brodin first for 3-on-3 play. Eriksson Ek would win the initial draw and the Wild quickly swapped out Ek for Donato and immediately that paid off as he turned on the jets forcing Getzlaf to haul him down on the near breakaway. Yet it drew a penalty giving the Wild a 4-on-3 advantage. The power play was fairly static and slow moving with Zuccarello, Dumba, Suter and Parise on the ice. There was not much in the way of player movement or puck movement making it simple for the the Ducks penalty killers to stay in tight around Gibson. Minnesota had little or no shooting lanes to exploit and so they more or less killed time much to the crowd’s frustration. The Wild did nothing with the power play and the Ducks were more than happy to carry the puck and wait for a Minnesota mistake. Fiala did a nice job of working hard to set up one last chance for Brodin but Gibson was able to make the stop and send the game to a shootout.
Shootout Summary: The Wild would shoot first and he’d move in slowly and try to beat Gibson 5-hole that he shut down quickly for a save. Rakell would take a slow, wide approach and he’d move in wait for Kahkonen to drop before lifting it over for the goal. 1-0 Ducks. Minnesota’s next shooter was Fiala who moved in and he lost the handle on the puck and never got a shot off. Max Comtois would move in and like Rakell waited for Kahkonen to move a bit before going forehand to backhand and lifting a puck over the sprawling goalie to give Anaheim a 3-2 shootout victory.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Donato, Victor Rask, Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Carson Soucy, Brad Hunt and Brennan Menell. Alex Stalock backed up Kaapo Kahkonen. Nick Seeler was the lone healthy scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Rickard Rakell, 2nd Star Ryan Hartman, 3rd Star Ryan Donato
~ Attendance was 17,154 at Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian had a goal and two helpers on 5 shots and went 8-for-15 on his draws in Moncton’s 6-3 loss to Drummondville on Saturday. Khovanov has 20 goals, 53 points, 56 PIM’s and is a +27 in 26 games.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the former 3rd round pick is having a strong start and continued that on Saturday with 2 goals and a helper on 6 shots in Niagara’s 6-5 win over Sarnia. Lodnia has 15 goals, 31 points, 10 PIM’s and is a +9 in 19 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Cape Breton, QMJHL) ~ the 6’5″ power forward had a big night, earning 1st star honors by burying two goals and a helper on 5 shots in Cape Breton’s 5-1 win over Halifax. He also registered 4 hits. Boudrias has 19 goals, 37 points, 40 PIM’s and is a +18 in 28 games.
C – Sam Hentges (St. Cloud State, NCHC) ~ the sophomore had a goal on 2 shots in the Huskies’ 5-3 win over Miami (OH) on Saturday night. Hentges has 7 goals, 20 points, 6 PIM’s and is +1 in 14 games.
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the offensively gifted winger had a goal and an assist on 3 shots in Spokane’s 4-3 win over in-state arch rival Tri-City on Saturday. He earned 2nd star honors on the evening. Beckman has 14 goals, 40 points, 6 PIM’s and is a +21 in 27 games.
RW – Nick Swaney (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ the junior winger had two helpers on 6 shots in the Bulldogs’ 4-3 series sweeping win over Nebraska-Omaha this weekend. Swaney has 4 goals, 12 points, 2 PIM’s and is a -1 in 13 games.
C – Matvey Guskov (London, OHL) ~ the versatile center had an assist and went 4-for-8 on his draws in London’s 3-1 win over Guelph on Sunday. Guskov has 5 goals, 13 points, 24 PIM’s and is a +1 in 27 games.
G – Hunter Jones (Peterborough, OHL) ~ the Brantford, Ontario-native is part of Team Canada’s invite for the World Junior Championships and he’s continuing to play at a high level as he had 26 saves in the Petes’ 3-1 win over Kingston on Saturday. Jones has a 19-3 record, a 2.53 goals against average and a .918% save percentage with 1 shutout.
RW – Jack McBain (Boston College, H-East) ~ the sophomore winger had 2 goals on 3 shots in Boston College’s 6-1 win over Notre Dame. McBain a has 4 goals, 9 points, 21 PIM’s and is a +4 in 15 games.
C – Matt Boldy (Boston College, H-East) ~ the Wild’s top pick has had a slow start as points have been few and far between which no doubt played a role in the fact he was left off Team USA’s World Junior Championships roster. On Sunday, he had an assist on 1 shot in the Eagles 6-1 win over the Fighting Irish. Boldy has a goal, 3 points, 4 PIM’s and is +1 in 15 games.
D – Marshall Warren (Boston College, H-East) ~ the mobile defenseman had a goal on 3 shots in Boston College’s 6-1 series sweep of Notre Dame this Sunday. Warren has 3 goals, 5 points, 14 PIM’s and is a +10 in 15 games.