Jason Zucker and Greg Pateryn made long-awaited returns for Minnesota, but penalty problems for Minnesota doomed their prospects for a much-needed two points, as Vancouver downed Minnesota 4-1 at Xcel Energy Center.
The Minnesota Wild had a couple chances early, including a Marcus Foligno net crash and a Ryan Hartman breakaway. And while the Wild earned the game’s first power play when Antoine Roussel of the Vancouver Canucks got a bit too aggressive crashing the net, drawing two minutes for goaltender interference, the momentum went the Canucks’ way as the Wild spent a large chunk of the rest of the period in the box. Mikko Koivu started the march to the sin bin when he was tagged for tripping just seven seconds into the Wild’s power play. Jordan Greenway was called for elbowing just over a minute later, and as soon as the Wild were able to kill those infractions, Jonas Brodin tried to clear the puck and dumped it over the glass, earning a delay-of-game call. But as much as the Wild have struggled recently on the penalty kill, Devan Dubnyk made a series of big saves to keep the Canucks off the board in the first.
The penalty trouble didn’t get any better for the Wild in the second, as they started the period with back-to-back penalties by Zucker for hooking and Ryan Suter for slashing, giving Vancouver 1:20 of a 5-on-3 power play. But despite a couple of shots by the Canucks, the Wild’s penalty kill continued to limit high-danger chances, and escaped without giving up the game’s first goal. Minnesota earned a 5-on-3 of their own when Roussel was nabbed for holding and Tim Schaller got tagged for tripping. But as was the case in the first period, the Wild couldn’t escape their penalty troubles, and a too-many-men call that nullified Minnesota’s man-advantage turned into a short Vancouver power play. This allowed the Canucks to finally make use of it when Elias Pettersson buried a slap shot past Dubnyk.
The Wild were able to equalize thanks to Foligno, who drove the net and picked the puck out of the air to beat Jacob Markstrom.
But the good times didn’t last long, as just 20 seconds later Vancouver got the lead back on a garbage goal at the side of the net by Bo Harvat.
Then, roughly a minute after that, the Canucks extended the lead to two on a nice wrister by Troy Stecher, beating Dubnyk on the short side.
The Wild had another power play opportunity on a cross-checking penalty to Jake Virtanen that generated some good shots by Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba. However, Markstrom was up to the task, and the Canucks carried their two-goal lead into the third period.
In the third, Minnesota had another power play opportunity, thanks to a high hit on Hartman from the Canucks’ Horvat, but it was yet again cut short when Zucker was called for tripping halfway in, continuing the theme of penalty woes for the Wild. Minnesota was able to kill both the 4-on-4 and the short Vancouver power play, with Jason Zucker and Jordan Greenway almost connecting on a fantastic chance as Zucker got out of the box.
The Wild continued to generate chance after chance, but couldn’t finish. As yet another Wild penalty was elapsing, Zucker and Staal had a great opportunity to get a shorthanded score, but couldn’t connect on the pass.
Mats Zuccarello and Staal had a 2-on-1 under a minute later, but they too were unable to find a way past Markstrom.
In the final 10 minutes, the Wild peppered Markstrom with shot after shot, but no matter if it was Parise, Donato, Staal, Zucker, or Kunin, no one could solve the Canucks netminder.
With Dubnyk out of the net for the extra attacker, Horvat’s clearing attempt trickled down the ice toward the empty net and curled in before Soucy could bat it away, giving Vancouver a 4-1 victory.
Minnesota heads out on the road for the last time prior to the All Star Game, a one-stop road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
Answer to our Burning Questions
1. Will the Canucks look fatigued in their second game of a back-to-back?
Not at all. Vancouver looked like the stronger, faster team for 50 minutes, and in the last 10 where the Wild were getting most of the decent chances (perhaps due to the Canucks beginning to feel the fatigue), Markstrom was more than up to the task. If anything, it was the Wild who looked a step slow, and had to rely on using their sticks and hands to make up for being out of position, resulting in a bunch of time in the penalty box. Speaking of the penalty box...
2. Can the Wild hold off Vancouver’s power play?
Surprisingly, the answer is... yes, kind of? When you give up eight power play opportunities (including a 5-on-3), allowing your opponent only one goal is kind of a win. The problem wasn’t that the Wild allowed a bunch of power play goals, it was the fact that they were in the box for most of the game, preventing Minnesota from building any kind of momentum.
3. Will Parise break his scoring slump?
Nope. The only goal for the Wild was by Marcus Foligno on a nice drive to the net. Parise did have a strong third period with a couple of great chances to get the Wild back in the game, but couldn’t convert.
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