When you lose something of value, you typically spend time trying to find it. As you try to find what you lost it can put you through mental gymnastics as you consider all of the possibilities where you may look into places you haven’t checked in years because somehow you’ve convinced yourself it must be there. I wonder what sort of thoughts are going through the minds of the Minnesota Wild who went from being a disciplined team to being one that is careless and found itself giving the Vancouver Canucks 13 power plays the last two games. Truth be told, the Wild have also gone 0-for-13 on its own power plays the last two games so its not because of a lack of similar opportunities.
The Wild find themselves on the precipice, win and they can play another game. Lose and its all done. For a team that talked so much about feeling fortunate to have an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup a certain portion of the club seemed to be rather uninspired in their last effort. Can the Wild keep their season alive or will it end tonight?
1st Period Thoughts: The first few minutes were spent mostly in the neutral zone as both clubs were wary of giving either team any kind of uncontested rush into the offensive zone. The firsticuffs would start out early as Ryan Hartman dropped the gloves with Jake Virtanen and the two would face each other down a bit and throw down near the Vancouver blueline. Virtanen landed more punches than Hartman who then wrestled the Canucks’ winger to the ice. I’d give the win to Virtanen on the scrap. Both players would head to the penalty box with fighting majors. Minnesota was trying to assert itself physically as Jordan Greenway tried to screen Jacob Markstrom on a point shot by Matt Dumba that seemed to strike Chris Tanev near the head. The Wild were finishing their checks with regularity to start the game as Minnesota tried to get into Vancouver’s kitchen on every shift. Tyler Myers would get tagged for roughing as he retaliated after being hit by Eric Staal giving the Wild its first power play of the game. Minnesota would waste little time on the man advantage as Mats Zuccarello fed a puck down low to Luke Kunin who took the puck right to the net and he’d jam a shot through Markstrom and in. 1-0 Wild. The Wild were certainly trying to work their way in close as the 4th line nearly cashed in as Nico Sturm one-timed a shot that was steered aside by Markstrom after a nice pass by Mikko Koivu. The Canucks nearly answered back as Zack MacEwan was dismissed by a nice save by Alex Stalock. Vancouver would start to cause some trouble by working their way in close as well as Bo Horvat made a small move to get away from Carson Soucy and he’d try to lift a shot over the shoulder of Stalock who knocked it down as Alex Galchenyuk tackled Horvat for a penalty. The Canucks power play was looking dangerous as they set up Horvat on a redirection from the slot that Stalock pounced on for a key whistle. Nico Sturm would make a nice play near the Wild blueline to force a turnover and Minnesota was able to clear the zone. Stalock was also sharp, as he made a nice glove save on a shot by Brock Boeser despite a screen by Elias Pettersson. The penalty kill would come up big to preserve the Wild’s lead. The next few minutes was kind of like a chess match as they waited for their opponent to make a mistake they could take advantage of. Vancouver nearly got that mistake as a pass by Zach Parise was intercepted by J.T. Miller and he’d rifled a shot that was directed up into the netting by Stalock. Hartman would poke a puck away from Quinn Hughes and he’d take off down the ice on a breakaway only to be foiled by the long reach of 6’7″ Myers before he could get a shot off. The game would open up a bit as both teams were trading rushes and this did not bode well for the Wild as they caught the Wild pinching with its defense and Horvat threaded a cross-ice pass to Tanner Pearson who ripped a shot by Stalock. 1-1 game. Minnesota would answer back less than a minute later as Eric Staal sniped a shot top shelf from a sharp angle to give the Wild its first even strength goal of the series as well as a 2-1 lead.
GOAL. Eric Staal scores from a super weird angle. Barely gets it past Markstom, but it counts. Wild lead again.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 8, 2020
Minnesota continued to apply pressure as the 4th line came close to cashing in again as Sturm forced a turnover in the Canucks’ zone before setting up Jared Spurgeon for a slap shot and then crashing the net but Markstrom was able to corral the puck and keep his team only down by one.
Ill-advised play by Markstrom and it almost results in a Wild goal. Nico Sturm in the middle of it. pic.twitter.com/3QODgDJ1fs— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 8, 2020
The Canucks tried to press for the equalizer as they got some room off the rush and Pettersson made a quick dish to Horvat for a fast shot that Stalock got across on to make a huge save. The last minute was a bit frantic but Stalock and the Wild would go into the first intermission holding a 2-1 lead and showing the kind of fire that had been lacking the last two games.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota’s top line would create some excellent chances in the first minute of the period as Kevin Fiala found Soucy on a beautiful backdoor pass but his shot would miss wide of the mark. Vancouver would try to answer back as they set up Myers for a point shot that Stalock held onto as Antoine Roussel tried to poke at that drew the ire of the Wild’s skates. The Canucks followed up that shift with one from its top line as they set up Hughes with a few blasts from the point that didn’t miss by much. Vancouver was looking for any little window of opportunity to attack as Loui Eriksson took off and split the Wild defense for a breakaway but he was stonewalled by a fine save by Stalock. Minnesota would answer back with its 2nd line and as Joel Eriksson Ek took the puck in deep before dropping it off to Kunin who fed it back to Jonas Brodin who hammered a slap shot that handcuffed Markstrom as Parise battled out front. Parise’s presence made it impossible for Markstrom to gain control of the puck and it was swept up by Eriksson Ek and he’d fire a shot at a sharp angle that snuck by the Canucks’ goalie to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead.
Parise got a stick on Brodin's shot to help force the rebound. pic.twitter.com/b0GMRhdXFB— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 8, 2020
The good feelings were short-lived as the team effort that was so good in the offensive zone was followed up by a passive effort that resulted in a goal by Brandon Sutter who crashed the net with 3 Wild players standing around him. 3-2 game.
GOAL. Puck goes airborne and Brandon Sutter bats the puck into the net.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 8, 2020
Minnesota’s Matt Dumba would get called for high sticking giving the Canucks a golden chance to tie the game. The Wild’s penalty killers would do a good job at challenging Vancouver’s zone entries early. But the penalty proved costly as they set up Hughes for a wrist shot from the point that rang off the post and in. 3-3 game. The Canucks seemed to tilt the ice into the Wild end as Minnesota were just flipping pucks out of the zone trying to get a line change rather than going on the attack themselves. Vancouver had Minnesota chasing all over its end of the ice as the Wild continued to flirt with disaster.
Ryan Hartman blocks a quality scoring chance for Vancouver. pic.twitter.com/wJ7fBS4Jn8— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 8, 2020
Foligno would be tripped up by Roussel that drew a stare down from the Wild’s resident tough guy, but it would give Minnesota a chance to re-take the lead. Minnesota set up a few point shots that the Canucks blocked painfully as Jay Beagle took a shot to the glove that had him in pain. However as the penalty expired, the Wild would strike late as Nico Sturm sent a shot from just beneath the left faceoff dot that trickled through Markstrom giving the Wild a 4-3 lead with less than a minute left.
The Canucks would nearly tie the game with about 20 seconds left as Stalock made a toe save on a chance by Boeser that kept Minnesota’s lead intact going into the 2nd intermission. Boeser, perhaps a bit frustrated by Stalock’s save would take a penalty late which will put the Wild on the power play to start the 3rd.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Canucks wanted the equalizer right away and Brandon Sutter drove to the net and was disrupted at the last moment by Jared Spurgeon who took a penalty in the process in order to save a possible game-tying goal. Minnesota’s penalty kill did a good job at denying time and space on the power play and gave Stalock a good view of the incoming shots and the Wild were able to get a big early kill. The Wild were content to keep working pucks deep into the Canucks zone and force them to have to go the full length of the ice. Vancouver was pinching with its defense and Minnesota would find Fiala with a long pass and he’d get a step on the defense and he’d race in get a shot off as he was hooked by Boeser and drawing a penalty in the process.
Kevin Fiala turns on the jets and draws a penalty. pic.twitter.com/ZXAeOjKF2m— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 8, 2020
With the delayed penalty call, the Wild would pull Stalock for an extra attacker and Minnesota wasted nearly another minute getting set up with a 6-on-5 before finally Parise was stopped from in close by Markstrom. The power play didn’t go so well as Fiala would trip and fall and as the Canucks raced for the puck one of their penalty killers tripped over Fiala drawing a penalty of their own and negating the rest of the man advantage. Minnesota’s penalty killers would do a good job at denying the middle of the ice and the Wild would get another big kill. The Canucks would tie the game up as Bo Horvat scored at even strength.
GOAL. Bo Horvat scores to tie it. Awesome play by Pearson behind the net.— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) August 8, 2020
Horvat’s goal changed the emotional tone of the game, to one of anxiety almost everytime the Canucks put a shot on goal. Minnesota wasn’t crumbling mentally, as they seemed just as eager to take back the lead. But not many quality chances in the last minute as the game would go to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: Just 11 seconds into overtime, Chris Tanev fired a shot from the point that beat Stalock cleanly to give Vancouver a 5-4 win and ending the Wild’s season.
Stalock had 26 saves in the loss and while I think there might be a few shots he wished he had back. I think he had some great stops too to keep the team in the game. But defensive breakdowns proved costly. Carson Soucy was out there for 3 of the goals, while Jared Spurgeon was out the for 4 of them. While one might want to talk about Ryan Suter’s absence but it appears to have hurt the Wild significantly this evening.
Offensively, the Wild played with more desire and they got more traffic in front of Markstrom which is why they finally were able to score some goals at even strength against the Canucks. But ultimately it was too little too late, and it makes you wonder if the Wild had shown this kind of effort in Game 2 and Game 3 if this series could’ve turned out differently than it did.
So now the Wild will likely be returning back to Minnesota sometime this weekend and the organization will then focus on the draft lottery to see if it’s 12.5% chance at getting the 1st overall pick which could really help boost a franchise that has been above average to mediocre throughout most of its existance.
One last thing. On the behalf of everyone here at Crease And Assist: a Legally Compliant Minnesota Hockey Blog (Derek Felska, Theresa Ferries, Aaron Lindgren, Bruce Lange) Thank you! Thank you to all of our readers out there whether you are a Wild fan or not. We appreciate your support, your feedback and conversations we have on Twitter and elsewhere. The 2019-20 was a strange season to say the least, but it had its fun moments too! We hope you had some of that fun with us! We will be covering the draft as it unfolds this fall as we normally would. So take a deep breath and before you know it we will soon be talking hockey again! Thanks again!
~ The Wild roster tonight was: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, Alex Galchenyuk, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Hartman, Marcus Foligno, Nico Sturm, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matthew Dumba, Brad Hunt, Carson Soucy and Matt Bartkowski. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Ryan Donato, Luke Johnson, Gerald Mayhew, Kyle Rau, Louie Belpedio, Brennan Menell, Mat Robson and Kaapo Kahkonen were the healthy scratches. Ryan Suter was out of the lineup with a lower body injury.