A blizzard did its best, but it couldn’t stop the Minnesota Wild from showing up and getting a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. The snow-caked roads and windy conditions made for late-arriving Wild players and definitely bunches of late-arriving fans.
Some of the Wild players had quite the interesting journey to the rink.
While getting a police escort in the last mile of their hellacious three hour drive from Minneapolis, Tyler Ennis slammed right into the back of Matt Dumba’s car
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 23, 2018
Several guys showed up at 615. Some by police escort, #mnwild had some valets meet some Wild players stuck in traffic two blocks away and swap out and sit in their cars
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 23, 2018
“It sucked,” said Matt Dumba. “Granny (Mikael Granlund) told me ‘calm down here, nothing we can do.’ That helped me.”
Afterward, head coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t seem too concerned about the potential that he’d have a shorthanded roster to work with when the game started.
“As long as you put the names on the scoresheet, they’re eligible to play,” Boudreau said. “They all left around 3 o’clock. You just figured that they’d be here at some point.”
The team did offer the players a hotel for the day, but they “all thought they were big and brave,” Boudreau said lightheartedly.
All the blizzard drama aside, the Wild (26-17-5) went to work inside Xcel Energy Center, earning a victory over the Senators (15-21-9) on Monday night. The win was a nice follow-up to the Wild’s effort over the weekend for Hockey Day Minnesota, and it’s their fourth straight win over the Senators.
The victory means the Wild improve to 13-6-3 against Eastern Conference teams this season. Meanwhile, the Senators dropped their third game in a row, surrendering 11 goals to opponents. The Wild have points in seven of their last 10 contests against the Senators and are now 4-5-2 at home all-time against them.
The Wild led for nearly the entire game as Zach Parise put the Wild up 1-0 just 45 seconds into the game. It was his second goal in as many games. Parise waited in his office on the side of the crease out front, just waiting for the feed to come to him from Eric Staal.
Daniel Winnik earned his ninth assist on the goal. The Winnik-Staal-Parise line continues to play well and take up time and space in the offensive zone. Between them, they had three points and four shots on goal for the night.
The score stayed at 1-0 for the rest of the first period as the Wild played a little more laid back. For a time in the second period, it looked like the Wild might have to look back at this game as one of missed opportunities.
There seemed to be a momentum shift halfway through the game when Matt Duchene tied it up 1-1 with a breakaway goal at 9:38 of the second period. Soon after, the Senators got a power play. Though they didn’t score, the Wild were back on their heels a bit, especially considering the only puck they put in the net so far came so early in the contest.
Much of the second period became a show of missed chances and no finishes for the Wild. In other words, not something that’s unfamiliar territory.
Matt Cullen and Winnik went in alone while shorthanded. Cullen smartly elected to shoot but found the goalie pad at the other end. The Wild had a 3-on-2 chance and Winnik was denied. Chris Stewart fanned on a chance right in front of the crease.
Joel Eriksson Ek can’t seem to buy a goal this season, despite his solid offensive play lately. He was on the ice in the final minute with an empty net at the other end but didn’t get a chance. He finished the game with a team-high seven shots on goal. Eriksson Ek has one goal this season, in game No. 1.
Eriksson Ek played very well in the game, Boudreau said.
“At some point, he’s going to get rewarded,” Boudreau said. “Other than scoring goals, he’s just doing everything really well right now.”
Even just before the horn at the end of 40 minutes, Jason Zucker couldn’t get a clean shot off on a breakaway. The puck slid away from his stick as he shifted to his forehand while being heavily defended by Erik Karlsson. Zucker got his redemption about five minutes into the third period.
The Wild made Ottawa’s backup goaltender Mike Condon look like a superb stopper for a stretch. Then the tide turned in the third period.
“You just know this is a game that you should be winning,” Boudreau said. “So I think we pushed a little harder in the third.”
Zucker scored at 4:59 of the third period to put the Wild up 2-1, tallying a goal in four straight games. It was his 19th of the season, tying Staal for the team lead, plus his team-leading sixth game-winning goal of the season.
“It was nice to push and get the second goal in the third there and keep pushing,” Zucker said.
Granlund worked the puck along behind the net to make the play happen, going out front and tossing the puck through the crease to a waiting Zucker on the other side. Mikko Koivu got credit for the second assist; he has five helpers in the past six games.
Fans will remember that Zucker scored six consecutive team goals for the Wild in three games from Nov. 8-11, one off the NHL record.
The Wild opened up a two-goal lead with 9:51 left in the game when Dumba and Granlund combined for a power-play goal off the rush. Granlund took the puck into the zone with Dumba at the blue line. They turned on the speed and headed for the goal, with Dumba getting the puck and floating it back to Granlund for his 14th of the season. It was Dumba’s 16th assist of the season.
The power play was made possible after Fredrik Claesson took out Staal at the benches in the neutral zone as Staal raced toward the puck. That’s interference, and Staal was slow to get up but out there for the power play.
Goaltender Alex Stalock is 4-1-1 against the Senators in his career. He got the start to get some work in and again looked solid with a few great saves among the 38 shots he faced during the night, including the 15 shots he faced in the third period alone.
Stalock (8-8-2) with 37 saves on 38 shots. Condon (3-6-4) with 33 saves on 36 shots.
The Wild have one power-play goal in each of their last four games.
This was Granlund’s 10th multi-point game of the season.
Zucker turned at the last minute and took a puck off the back of the helmet in the first period. He skated off the ice, seemed to be stung a bit, but returned later in the period.
Kyle Rau appeared to get elbowed up high by a referee in the second period. He registered a shot on goal and three hits in 13:11 of ice time and didn’t seem any worse off the rest of the way.
The Wild’s penalty kill was a perfect 2 for 2.
The Wild head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Thursday night, their final game before the NHL All-Star weekend.
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