Minnesota did not wait long to pounce on the Golden Knights as the forecheck forced a turnover by Shea Theodore whose puck was gathered up by Joel Eriksson Ek and he’d fired it by Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Wild a 1-0 lead just 19 seconds into the game. The Golden Knights would answer back about a minute later as they swarmed in the Wild end and Dylan Coghlan moved in from the point and he’d let go of a wrist shot from the point that went bar down behind Kaapo Kahkonen. 1-1 game. Kyle Rau would get leveled by a big open ice hit by Brayden McNab that seemed to catch the former Eden Prairie star completely by surprised as he was sent backwards and landed on the ice upper body first and he would head to the locker room early as the team followed league concussion protocols. Unfortunately he wasn’t the only injury as Kirill Kaprizov took a puck to the ear and he’d leave for the locker room for some repairs but he would return later.
Meanwhile the Wild kept on attacking and they had two fantastic chances in a span of about 30 seconds as Kyle Rau rang a shot off the post and then moments after that it was Nico Sturm being denied on a glove save by Fleury. After a while, the game would slow down just a bit as both teams were falling back to help out defensively but the game would remained knotted at 1-1 going into the 2nd period.
In the 2nd period, it was more calculated as both teams recognized even a small mistake could turn into a goal. Minnesota still was able to create some outstanding chances including breakaways for Mats Zuccarello and Jared Spurgeon but Fleury was up to the task. Vegas would have some great opportunities of their own as a turnover in the Wild end turned into a point-blank chance for Cody Glass who was denied by Kahkonen. You could tell the frustration level among both clubs was intensifying as there were more scrums and chirping after the whistle. Both teams were finishing their checks with some ferocity and the period would end with the game still tied 1-1.
The Wild would take back the lead early in the 3rd period, and strangely enough it was the power play that gave Minnesota the go-ahead goal. With Nic Hague sitting in the penalty box for holding, it was Mats Zuccarello hammering a slap shot on goal that Fleury stopped but he couldn’t deny Kaprizov’s backhander and the Wild scored its 6th power play goal of the season. 2-1 Wild. Minnesota continued to flirt with adding to its lead as Kyle Rau was denied three times by Fleury, the last one had the veteran sprawling on the ice. Undaunted the Wild continued to apply pressure and Jordan Greenway would set up Eriksson Ek for a chance that Fleury stopped but he couldn’t control the puck and Ek crashed the net and jammed it home. 3-1 Wild. Minnesota wasn’t done there, and they’d add another as a turnover in the neutral zone would turn into a 2-on-1 as Sturm moved in and he’d swing a pass over to Carson Soucy for a one-timer that he blazed by Fleury. Vegas Golden Knights’ head coach had seen enough and he’d swap out Fleury for Logan Thompson. 4-1 Wild.
Kaprizov would slash Chandler Stephenson giving the Golden Knights a power play. Vegas would create a great chance early in the man advantage as they’d set up Jonathan Marchessault for a back door opportunity that was denied by Kahkonen. A few minutes later Kahkonen would make another great save on Glass as Minnesota was looking to lock this game down and come away with a series sweep. The Wild would relax a bit defensively and Coghlan would score his 2nd goal of the evening to cut the Minnesota lead in half 4-2. Vegas would pull Thompson with a little over 5-minutes left for an extra attacker. The Wild did what they could to deny the middle of the ice an forcing Vegas to settle for shots from the perimeter. Yet the Golden Knights continued to apply pressure and Vegas would cut the lead to one as Coghlan blasted a shot from the point that beat Kahkonen stick side for a hat trick. 4-3 Wild. It was a crazy last minute or so as Vegas through everything but the kitchen sink at Kaapo Kahkonen but the Wild got enough sticks into shooting lanes and were able to just enough to escape as Alex Tuch missed on an open net and Minnesota snuck by with a 4-3 win. Kahkonen finished with 24 saves in the victory.
What did you think of the Wild’s series against the Vegas Golden Knights? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist!
Why is Ryan Suter on the Wild’s power play?
It was Talladega Nights: the Legend of Ricky Bobby that gave us the line, “if you ain’t first, you’re last” as it referenced the life mantra of a fictional NASCAR race car driver. Speaking of last, how about the Minnesota Wild power play which sits in last place in the NHL at just 6.8% (6-for-76). To put it the way Tom Hoen (@THoen88 on Twitter) did, 23 players in the NHL have at least or more power play goals than the 6 the Wild have as an entire team.
The team’s futility with the man advantage is remarkable when you consider the fact the team is 12th in the NHL in offense scoring 3.09 goals per game. Obviously, the team has been getting it done at even strength but the team needs to find a way to get its power play going as it continues to battle through the tougher portion of their schedule. So why is this Minnesota power play so abysmal?
Faceoffs, or rather the inability to win draws on the power play has meant the team has spent lots and lots of power plays just trying to get set up in the offensive zone instead of focusing on getting shots on goal. The team has tried a variety of different players to win draws from centers like Joel Eriksson Ek, Victor Rask and Nick Bjugstad or even wingers like Zach Parise. The other issue I think is personnel and this is the focus of this short feature.
Why is Ryan Suter still on the team’s top power play unit? Currently, the 36-year old defenseman is still quarterbacking the power play despite the fact he has no goals this season. Why is he still in that role? Ice time-wise, Suter is 3rd on the team while teammates Jonas Brodin and Matthew Dumba average about a minute more than the 22:24 the alternate captain has this season. Yet Brodin and Dumba both have 4 goals and 5 goals respectively, why are they not being used in that role? I think that is a rather fair question when you have the 31st ranked power play in the league.
Especially when you consider the chance to work with a superb playmaker like Kirill Kaprizov, one would think you’d want to have a cannon at the point to put opposing power plays more at conflict. Teams give Suter plenty of time and space because they don’t see him as a real threat to score. By using Dumba or Brodin in that role, you have a more potent threat and that will possibly also open up chances for Kevin Fiala as well as teams have to pick their poison.
So hopefully Wild Head Coach Dean Evason or whichever assistant coach that is in charge of the power play takes steps to address this. I realize with the compressed schedule, the team has skipped practices as they’ve tried to provide opportunities for the team to rest up but at some point this team has to fix this so it can supplement its offense with some contributions from its special teams. If changing personnel doesn’t work, they can go right back to what they have been using and be just as ineffective. But trying the same thing over and over and hoping for different results is only driving everyone (including their fanbase) insane.
Iowa 3, Rockford 4 OT
The Ice Hogs and Wild were not able to find much time and space in the offensive zone throughout the first 5-6 minutes of the game. Hunter Jones seemed to be fighting the puck a bit as he’s had rocky start to his first AHL season. The Ice Hogs would strike first as Andrei Altybarmakian scored off the rush to make it 1-0 Rockford. Iowa would answer back late in the period on the power play as Connor Dewar ripped a shot that Colin Delia never saw to tie the game at 1-1 going into the 1st intermission.
Rockford would take back the lead a few minutes in as Evan Barratt ripped a shot from the left faceoff dot that eluded Jones to make it 2-1 Ice Hogs. Iowa would again respond with a goal of their own as Calen Addison sent a shot on goal that Delia stopped but Dewar wound pounce on the rebound to tie the game. The Wild would then get the go-ahead goal on the power play as Damien Giroux would gather up a loose puck in the slot and he’d find the back of the net to give Iowa its first lead of the game. Rockford tried to answer back and they came dangerously close to notching the equalizer as Jones was out of position as D.J. Busdecker fired a shot up and over the goal even though he had most of the cage to work with.
In the 3rd period, the Ice Hogs would tie the game as Busdecker who was flying all over would score off the rush to make it 3-3. Iowa would do its best to play rope-a-dope and Jones was good enough to keep the Ice Hogs at bey and was able to force the game to overtime.
In overtime, both clubs were careful to not give up an odd-man chance and early on the Iowa Wild was in control of the puck. Iowa’s Damien Giroux would get some open space in the offensive zone but his wrist shot was kicked aside by Delia. The Ice Hogs would counter attack and it was Altybarmakian firing a shot from near the high slot that beat Jones quickly for the game winner. Jones had 21 saves in the loss. Addison had 3 primary assists while Dewar scored his 4th and 5th goals of the season. Gabriel Dumont‘s assist on Dewar’s first goal of the game extends his point streak to 10 games. Iowa’s next game is Saturday against Chicago.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ The 4th line center did not have any points and went a not-so-great 6-for-16 on his draws in CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow on Sunday. On Tuesday, Svetlakov had 2 shots on goal but went 2-for-7 on his draws in CSKA Moscow’s 3-1 win over Spartak. CSKA Moscow won the series 4-0. He has just an assist, 2 PIM’s and is a +1 in 4 playoff games.
D – Brennan Menell (Dinamo Minsk, KHL) ~ The ‘Woodbury Workhorse’ had two primary assists on 4 shots and 21:01 of ice time in Dinamo Minsk’s 2-1 win over SKA St. Petersburg staving off elimination as his team trails 3-1 in the series. Menell has a goal, 6 points, and is a -3 in 4 playoff games.
High School Hockey Report:
Here is your weekly rankings for Class A and AA for boys and girls hockey across the state of Minnesota. @KarlEastHockey provides the list for Class AA boys and the rest come from Let’s Play Hockey! If you want to read Karl’s explanations for his rankings you can read more about that here.
Girls Class A:
#2 Chisago Lakes
#3 Gentry Academy
#4 Proctor / Hermantown
#6 South St. Paul
#7 River Lakes
#8 Duluth Marshall
Girls Class AA:
#5 Benilde~St. Margaret’s
#7 Lakeville South
#9 Maple Grove
Boys Class A:
#2 Gentry Academy
#4 Little Falls
#5 Duluth Denfeld
#7 East Grand Forks
#8 Fergus Falls
#9 Northern Lakes
Boys Class AA:
#1 Maple Grove
#3 Eden Prairie
#4 Grand Rapids
#5 Lakeville South
#7 St. Thomas Academy
#8 Cretin-Derham Hall