The Anaheim Ducks may be the last place team in the Honda West division, but they were not going to just roll over for the playoff-bound Minnesota Wild. The Ducks tried to play a more up-tempo game at the start and Minnesota found itself spending most of the early portion of the 1st period defending in its own end. Anaheim would strike first as a point shot by Josh Mahura was redirected perfectly by Rickard Rakell who knocked the puck down where it bounced off the ice and beat Cam Talbot 5-hole. 1-0 Ducks. The Wild were playing better than they did on Friday where they appeared sloppy, but the goal served to motivate them to ramp up their urgency and they would answer back a few minutes later as Kevin Fiala moved a puck up to Kirill Kaprizov who moved into the Ducks’ zone and then made a calm drop pass to a trailing Jared Spurgeon who tapped it home by Ryan Miller who was caught way out of position as he thought Kaprizov was going to shoot the puck. 1-1 game going into the 1st intermission.
The Wild and Ducks were more cautious in the 2nd period. Time and space were tougher to come by and that meant scoring chances were few and far between. Talbot and Miller didn’t have to be especially great, as players were getting people and bodies into shooting lanes and the game kind of ground down to a slog. However the Wild would strike later in the period as Mats Zuccarello swept up a puck in the Minnesota zone and he’d find Kaprizov on a long-outlet pass and he’d race into the Anaheim end in a 2-on-1 with Ryan Hartman and the skilled Russian made a perfect saucer dish for Hartman to tap in. 2-1 Wild as Kaprizov proves he can be a deft playmaker too. Minnesota would add to its lead less than a minute later as Nico Sturm would take a puck beneath the goal line and then feed a wide open Nick Bonino who had his stick raised for a one-timer and he bombed a shot from the slot that Miller had no chance on. 3-1 Wild going into the 2nd intermission.
The Ducks would answer back early in the 3rd as Max Comtois found Trevor Zegras with a cross-ice pass and the talented rookie moved in and ripped a shot top shelf by Talbot to cut the Minnesota lead in half, 3-2 just a little over 2 minutes into the period. This made the Ducks feel like they were back in the game and they would spend most of the period working for the equalizer. A bit later in the period it was Zegras again finding some space and he’d be denied by a diving save by Talbot. Despite the close call the Wild continued to seem content defending their 1-goal lead which only encouraged Anaheim to continue to apply offensive pressure. Their persistence would be rewarded with 26 seconds left in the period as Comtois rifled a shot by Talbot to tie the game, sending it to overtime.
In overtime the Ducks had a great opportunity when Comtois would drop a pass back to Jamie Drysdale who stepped into a slap shot that was steered aside by Talbot. A few minutes later the Wild would find an overtime answer from an unlikely source as Matt Dumba sent a long pass up to Victor Rask who was being given a lot of room by Josh Manson and with no options to pass the Swedish center took his chance to shoot and he fired a laser by Miller to give Minnesota a 4-3 victory. Talbot had 19 saves in the win.
Before I say anything else, I want to wish a Happy Birthday to my wife, and my online partner in crime in this blog Theresa Ferries (@MNSOTA24)! I love you and Wild hockey brought it us together so long ago and it has been great sharing that passion for the game together!
What did you think of the Minnesota Wild’s latest series against the Anaheim Ducks? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!
The Victor Rask hater-ade continues
A very popular topic among the Wild podcast-is-sphere was center Victor Rask. From Talk North‘s Worst Seats in the House with Michael Russo & Anthony LaPanta, to Sound the Foghorn to the Huskies Warming House they were all talking about the center and discussing whether he’s a help or a hindrance to the Minnesota Wild. Whether you believe Victor Rask is beneficial to the team or not, at the very least he’s got the fanbase talking even if he’s a bit of a polarizing figure among the fan base.
However, when you look at it with objective viewpoint. He’s 10th on the team in points (20) and his 10 goals is tied for 7th best on the club. He’s 3rd on the team in shooting percentage at 17% even though he has just 31 shots on goal for the season as the time of writing. Yet, for those that are not happy with Rask’s place and role in the Wild lineup they can’t help themselves pointing out any mistake he makes but rarely if ever giving him any credit for the positive things he does on the ice.
Is that still carry over from fans that are still angry we traded fan favorite Nino Niederreiter for him? Perhaps? Is it his $4,000,000 / season price tag? Probably. Most of the criticism seems to stem from the fact he was used as a center on a line with Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov. It was his inclusion on this line that made many feel as though he was holding back the team’s young superstar.
The 28-year old center is still under contract one more season after this one, will he still have a role with the squad with young players hoping to earn spots with the big club like Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy. Yes. You read that correctly, but I think Victor Rask will still have a roster spot for the big club at the start of next season. Rossi hasn’t skated in a game since December and is still not working out as he manages his Myocarditis. With effectively was a lost-year of development (mostly in terms of experience, but also needing to recover physically) I think that would make him a long-shot to make Minnesota’s roster next season. Boldy is more of a winger than a center, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the team give him a chance at center just to see if he can handle it at the NHL-level but his time with Minnesota’s top 6 will come along eventually.
I realize the fanbase is impatient for a center to work with Kaprizov and or Kevin Fiala, but Rossi should not be rushed which means Rask probably has a spot. Afterall the team still has him under contract and as much as fans may malign the Leksand, Sweden-native but clearly the organization seems to appreciate what Rask brings to the lineup whether the fans choose to acknowledge that or not.
Wild Prospect Report: The Minnesota Wild signed 2020 NHL Draft pick defensemen Ryan O’Rourke and Daemon Hunt to entry level contracts. O’Rourke has been playing with Iowa since the Ontario Hockey League never got their season rolling and Hunt started the season with the club’s AHL affiliate before playing an abbreviated season as captain with the Moose Jaw Warriors. My guess is they will report to the Iowa Wild who are wrapping up their AHL season and will soon be beginning their divisional playoff series.
LW – Adam Beckman (Spokane, WHL) ~ The Saskatoon-born sniper had a goal on wicked one-timer but it wasn’t enough as the Chiefs fell 4-3 in overtime to in-state arch rival Tri-City Americans. On Saturday, he had the lone goal for the Chiefs (on 8 shots) in their 5-1 loss to Portland. Beckman has 17 goals, 26 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -6 in 20 games.