Just as the Wild were about to start their game in Pittsburgh, officials skated over to the Minnesota bench and informed Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau that Greg Pateryn could not play because he was not on the team’s line up card. Pateryn had no choice but to go sit in the pressbox and Minnesota had to play with 5 defenseman and instead put Ryan Donato in as extra forward. The embarrassing clerical error ballooned into another ugly penalty-filled performance as the Wild got blitzed 7-3 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Is this the bottom for this club or is there still more pain to come?
Meanwhile, the Wild come home to play the hottest team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay has re-ignited its offense and stingy defensive play that made them a President’s Trophy winner a season-ago. It doesn’t sound like a good match up against the Wild who are struggling mightily to keep pucks out of its own net. Can the Wild defy the odds with a win against the Lightning?
1st Period Thoughts: The Lightning were swarming early in the period as Mikhail Sergachev fired a shot on goal from the point with Minnesota defenders sort of spinning in place and watching as Alex Stalock made the first quality save of the game. Minnesota was trying to keep its shift short so it could being playing as up tempo as possible. The Wild looked slow and uninspired through the first few minutes of the game while Tampa Bay kept Minnesota bottled up in its own end of the ice. Joel Eriksson Ek made a nice play to step around a defender and then made a nice backhand pass to Luke Kunin who was behind the Lightning defense as he skated down the slot but he fanned on the backhand as he had Curtis McElhinney sprawling and at his mercy. Whenever the Wild did go on the attack, they were almost guilty of overhandling the puck as Victor Rask made his way into the slot in Tampa’s zone but he wasn’t able to pull the trigger in time before the puck was poked off his stick making for an easy stop by McElhinney. The Lightning’s speed was allowing them to control the pace of play while the Wild seemed to be a good two or three steps slower than Tampa Bay. Minnesota would draw the first penalty of the game, as Jan Rutta was called for holding Eric Staal who was trying to move into position for a redirection. The Wild power play featured a younger group to start, but beyond a shot from the perimeter by Matt Dumba they didn’t do a whole lot out there. Minnesota then went to a more veteran-laden group, but spent most of the time just trying to get set up in the offensive zone and even though they had a man advantage they were finding themselves outnumbered in a few puck battles that drew the ire of the home crowd. Boo’s trickled down as the power play neared an end, as fans were again tired of just how futile special teams have become for this team. Just as the Wild power play expired, Jordan Greenway sent a shot on goal and then he crashed the net but McElhinney was able to cover it up for a whistle but it was the first sign of life this Minnesota team had shown. Anthony Cirelli would get into a bit of a scrum with Carson Soucy as he tried to cause some trouble near the Wild crease. Mats Zuccarello would draw another penalty as Brayden Point was tagged for tripping. On the power play, the Wild would send a shot on goal that missed wide but the puck was gathered up by Kevin Fiala who then tried to jam it home but McElhinney would hold the post and keep Minnesota at bey. Late in the power play the Wild would cash in as Jared Spurgeon sent a puck towards the goal that reached Staal who then fed a no-look backhand cross-ice pass to Zach Parise who fired it by McElhinney. 1-0 Wild. The Wild would continue to apply pressure and Kunin was denied by McElhinney who then had to stop Soucy’s rebound chance as well. The Lightning would counter with some offensive pressure of their own as they set up Steven Stamkos for a chance from the slot that was just steered aside by Stalock. Tampa Bay kept pressing but Stalock was able to stand tall and keep Minnesota’s 1-0 lead intact going into the 1st intermission.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild a fantastic opportunity in the first few minutes of the period as Jason Zucker was open for a breakaway but his wrist shot was blocked aside by McElhinney. The Lightning would have a breakaway of their zone as Sergachev set up Nikita Kucherov for a breakaway and Stalock shut down both of his chances on two fine saves. A few minutes later the Wild had another promising odd-man rush from the 4th line but McElhinney denied both Ryan Hartman and Greenway. Tampa Bay continued to attack and they’d get the equalizer on some nice passing as Ondrej Palat dropped it back to Sergachev who fed it over to Kucherov just underneath the left faceoff dot for a one-timer that Stalock had no chance on. 1-1 game. Dumba would take offense to a bit of a bump by Kucherov and the two players would chirp at one another with the officials skating in to make sure it didn’t result in a fight. Zach Parise would track down a puck in the Tampa Bay end and he’d send a pass to Staal who ripped a quick shot on goal that rang off the right post and stayed out as he caught McElhinney moving a little too nonchalantly in his crease. Minnesota would take back the lead a few shifts later as Marcus Foligno won a battle for the puck along the wall and he’d make a no-look pass to Kunin who fed it back to Eriksson Ek for a quick shot that beat McElhinney. 2-1 Wild. Minnesota would add another goal a few shifts later as the forecheck forced a turnover and Hartman would dish it to the point where Ryan Suter would step into a slap shot that beat McElhinney cleanly. 3-1 Wild. The Lightning seemed to be sort of going through the motions and Minnesota was playing with a purpose and winning most of the puck battles. Zuccarello would send a shot on goal that McElhinney kept out, and Staal pounced on the rebound for a shot that the Lightning goalie was just able to fight off. Minnesota kept applying pressure and as Jason Zucker set up Fiala on the door step his shot would go off McElhinney and the left post but Soucy was there to tuck it into the back of the net. 4-1 Wild, or not so fast as the Lightning would ask for a challenge on the the play saying it was offsides. After a review, the goal was determined to be ‘no good’ but Alexander Volkov would get called for hooking on the play and Minnesota would go to the power play still up 3-1. Minnesota wasn’t able to do much of anything on the power play as they struggled to get set up in the offensive zone. Fiala would have a great chance in the 2nd half of the power play as he turned on the afterburners to skate right through the Lighting defense for a scoring chance that was steered away by McElhinney. A long pass by Dumba would spring Fiala for a partial breakaway and he’d let go a heavy shot that was just deflected away by McElhinney. The Wild would get an appreciative cheer from the home crowd as they carried a 2-goal lead into the 2nd intermission.
3rd Period Thoughts: Tampa Bay was looking to cut into the Wild’s lead early by working the puck deep and trying to get their cycling game going. Stamkos would get a forearm to the chest by Suter that sent him to the ice awkwardly but it was Mikko Koivu heading to the box for holding. Minnesota’s penalty killers did a reasonable job of applying puck pressure early in the man advantage making it tough for the Lightning to get set up in the offensive zone. Once they did, the Lightning set up Stamkos for a one-timer that was blocked by Soucy. Moments after that, a good initial stop on McDonagh’s slap shot, he’d stop Kevin Shattenkirk‘s attempt off the rebound. Tampa Bay kept firing away and Shattenkirk would ring a shot off the post and out. Minnesota would get the big kill, and they’d try to defend their lead by playing tight defensively and giving the Lightning little in the way of time and space on the ice. Tempers continued to flare as Stamkos lit up Fiala which drew the ire of Dumba and the two players would get into a scrum near the Lightning bench. Dumba would receive a roughing minor and Tampa Bay would get another chance with the man advantage. The Lightning power play was playing with a focused anger as they wanted to light the Wild up but Stamkos’ bid would miss high over the net. Moments later it was Kucherov backhanding a puck towards the goal that went off the skate of Greg Pateryn but Stalock was able to cover it up for a whistle. Tampa Bay still wasn’t clearing the zone and that meant more sustained pressure by the Lightning and Kucherov would score his 2nd goal of the night as he sniped a shot just above the right faceoff dot. 3-2 Wild. Minnesota’s 4th line would draw a penalty as Stamkos was tagged with a hooking minor. The Wild had good early-ish chance on the power play as Zuccarello let go of a heavy shot off the rush that McElhinney steered away. Much of the rest of the power play was spent just trying to get possession of the puck and mostly just watching Tampa Bay play keep away and unable to do much of anything about it. The Wild tried their best to keep applying pressure to Tampa Bay’s puck carriers but at times they flirted with disaster as Alex Killorn charged into the Minnesota end and nearly cashed in on a sprawling Stalock as his chance skittered just wide of the goal. Minnesota was more or less playing rope-a-dope, just holding onto its lead by working pucks deep and hoping to force turnovers as Tampa Bay moved through the neutral zone. The Lightning would pull McElhinney with a little under 2 minutes left in the period. Foligno would have a chance to seal the deal with an empty net but his backhand bid was denied by a backchecking Stamkos. The Lightning had to put McElhinney back in with 44 seconds left as there was a neutral zone faceoff. Minnesota forced Tampa Bay to waste some precious time gathering up the puck but the Lighting would re-group and would have two great chances late but Stalock stopped them both to give the Wild a 3-2 victory.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Jason Zucker, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Carson Soucy and Greg Pateryn. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Nick Seeler and Ryan Donato were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Ryan Suter, 2nd Star Alex Stalock, 3rd Star Nikita Kucherov
~ Attendance was 17,305 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (22-13-2) 49pts 2nd in the AHL Central
20.3% Power Play (11th in the AHL)
84% Penalty Kill (8th in the AHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 26G 16A = 42pts
2. #7 Sam Anas ~ 12G 30A = 42pts
3. #42 Kyle Rau ~ 8G 25A = 32pts
4. #27 Brennan Menell ~ 4G 23A = 27pts
5. #11 Nico Sturm ~ 9G 10A = 19pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #47 Louie Belpedio ~ 53 PIM’s
2. #17 Mike Liambas ~ 48 PIM’s
3. #20 Gerald Mayhew ~ 46 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (14-4-1) 2.60GAA .902%SP 2SO
2. #60 Mat Robson (7-7-4) 2.86GAA .903%SP 1SO
Recent Score: Iowa 5, Bakersfield 2
Iowa would get out to a fast start as Luke Johnson scored just 53 seconds into the game. The Condors would answer back a few minutes later as the Oilers’ top prospect Evan Bouchard would light the lamp behind Kaapo Kahkonen. The Wild would take the lead back late in the period on the power play as Brennan Menell would wind up and unleash a slap shot that beat Stuart Skinner to give Iowa 2-1 advantage going into the 1st intermission. Iowa would then add to its lead in the 2nd as Gerald Mayhew buried a pass from Dmitry Sokolov to give the Wild a 3-1 lead going into the 3rd. Sokolov would add another goal early in the 3rd to make it 4-1 in favor of Iowa. The Condors would cut the Iowa lead to two on a power play goal from Logan Day. Mayhew would score seal the deal with an empty net goal to give Iowa a 5-2 victory. Kahkonen had 17 saves in the victory. Mayhew finished the night with two goals and an assist.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ the talented winger just keeps piling up the points as he had a goal and an assist on 5 shots. Beckman has 31 goals, 66 points, 12 PIM’s and is a +29 in 40 games.
LW – Vladislav Firstov (UConn, H-East) ~ the skilled Russian had the game winning goal on 2 shots in the Huskies’ 3-2 win over Maine on Wednesday night. Firstov has 7 goals, 14 points, 23 PIM’s and is a +4 in 22 games.
High School Hockey Report: With Hockey Day Minnesota coming up on Saturday at Minneapolis’ Parade and how that is a great showcase of high school hockey I thought it would only be helpful to post the latest rankings by Let’s Play Hockey. Here are the ranking as of January 15th, 2020.
#3 Cloquet / Esko / Carlton
#4 South St. Paul
#6 Proctor / Hermantown
#8 Chisago Lakes Area
#9 Rochester Lourdes
#4 Eden Prairie
#5 Maple Grove
#8 Holy Family Catholic
#9 North Wright County
#10 Forest Lake
#1 St. Cloud Cathedral
#5 East Grand Forks
#7 Duluth Denfeld
#8 Little Falls
#10 Little Falls
#1 Eden Prairie
#5 Maple Grove
#6 White Bear Lake
#7 Cretin-Derham Hall
#9 Lakeville South