Where to start?
The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Wild in St. Paul by the score of 5-4 in overtime. If you just saw that score on the scroll of the bottom TV on NHL Network, you’d think it was a good game. However, that’s leaving out the absurdity of this game in favor of brevity.
For the “Too Long; Didn’t Read” crowd, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk made 52 saves as the Wild were heavily out-shot 2:1, had nine shots through 40 minutes, and still had a chance to win the game both in regulation and in overtime. The Wild had no business being in this game to the degree it did by the way they performed through two periods. Ultimately, they secured a point, lost the game, but as HW writer contributor Greguisition said on Twitter, “This game is both the most infuriating and most fun game of the season.”
In what has become customary for the Wild through three games this season, Minnesota yet again had poor execution, lacked cohesion, and were losing battles all over the ice to start the game. The Hurricanes and their speedy forwards gummed up the neutral zone, bottled up the Wild in their defensive zone, and shot from everywhere.
Devan Dubnyk was solid yet again. He was the only reason the Wild made this one a game. He’s the only reason this team has 4 points in the standings. He’s the only real bright spot on the season. He tied a career high in saves with 52, and faced a career high shots with 57 pucks directed towards his net. Yes, the Wild surrendered more shots against than he ever faced when he was goaltender for the Edmonton Oilers, and that was when the Oilers were bad.
The Hurricanes hurled 20 shots just in the first period alone. Yet the only puck to get past Dubnyk was a puck that was pushed into the net by Jordan Staal’s knee pad. The Wild let the Canes get to the crease twice in that shift, and the second time ended with Staal receiving a shove from Jonas Brodin that caused him to fall to a knee. Dubnyk made the initial save on a shot from a low angle, but couldn’t cover the puck after it came off his left pad.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Curtis McElhinney saw only five shots in the first 20 minutes. Three of those shots came at even strength.
Yeah...the Wild did their best impression of that Billingham Stars U13 hockey team that got shelled 66-0 and gave up 151 shots.
However, the Wild got out of the period knotted at one because Charlie Coyle put home a rebound off a Jared Spurgeon shot. It was Coyle’s first goal of the season, and a good sign from him as he out-muscled the defenseman in front to get his stick on the puck.
The Wild were called for three penalties in the first. J.T. Brown, getting his second game of the season, lined up Brock McGinn near the Hurricane bench for a big hit and committed throughto the contact. McGinn would have received the puck along the boards right as Brown met him, but he let the puck go through without touching it, and Brown finished him off anyway. Then Marcus Foligno put the Wild in a 2-man disadvantage with a slashing penalty - slashing being the penalty of choice for the night. Later in the period Coyle pitchforked a puck over the glass. Minnesota killed off all the minors in the period because Dubnyk was sensational.
The Wild were lucky to get to the locker room tied and hoped to be able to not just reset the game, but pull the plug, wait ten minutes, and reboot it. (That solves all problems, right?) Yet, the second period was somehow worse for the Wild. They mustered only four shots total, while having more icing infractions than shots through 40 minutes. It appeared the wheels would completely fall off when Brett (somehow not name Joe) Pesce scored by redirecting a shot up and into the upper right corner of the Wild goal for a 2-1 lead. It was really more of the same when it came to the execution of passes, and finding any sort of lane to the net. On top of it the Wild were short-handed two more times, while getting assessed four more minors.
After Zucker served his time for not just slashing, but also an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, he drew a holding call from Carolina’s Lucas Wallmark 19:12 of the second period. The time carried over to the third period.
It looked hopeless for the Wild at the start of the third. The power play had all kinds of issues just getting set up in the offensive zone until the power play had just under 30 seconds left. Yet, that zone time allowed the puck to get worked around to Spurgeon in the slot. Spurgeon shot a backhander at the net and found room to McElhinney’s right to tie the score at two.
Minnesota had no business being tied in this game. Spurgeon’s shot was the Wild 10th shot of the game, while Carolina had 37. Hockey is a weird game and this game was out to prove it.
Four minutes later, the Wild got its first lead of the game. On the power play, Mikael Granlund passed the puck up to the point for Ryan Suter who gave the puck right back. Granlund skated down the left wall and fed the puck to Jason Zucker who was posted up near the slot. Zucker launched a one-timer with a Hurricane defenseman screening McElhinney for the go-ahead goal. It was Jason Zucker’s 100th goal of his career. He and his line were brutally quiet and getting hemmed into their zone all game long, but he found a way to pot what was a huge goal at the time. The power play goal was also the second power play goal of the season for the Wild.
But the penalties weren’t over. Nick Seeler was called for interference. Sebastian Aho missed a wide open net earlier during the ensuing the power play, but when the puck came to him a second time, he hit the upper corner from the right circle before Dubnyk could dive over and get his glove on the puck for a tying tally. Matt Hendricks then got called for slashing. Andrei Svechnikov got called for the make-up call when he high-sticked Suter. During 4-on-4 play, Eric Staal and Calvin De Haan went to the box for coincidental minors as those two were involved in a skirmish in front of the Carolina net.
A rare offensive zone faceoff for the Wild proved to be fruitful. Mikko Koivu isn’t on the score sheet, but he tied up his faceoff opponent and allowed Zach Parise to pounce on the puck first. Granlund took the puck from Parise and found just the tiniest of windows, top shelf, on McElhinney to put the Wild back on top 4-3.
Staal carelessly took a second poke at Aho’s left skate in the neutral zone, causing the young Finn to go down. Staal was in the box again for the Wild’s 9th penalty of the game. Minnesota successfully killed off the minor, but the pressure by the Canes kept coming. The Wild weren’t able to clear the zone with the net empty at the other end. That’s when Justin Faulk’s shot went off the end-boards behind Dubnyk. However, Justin Williams was there for the carom and tucked the puck in to tie the game.
Minnesota had the lead twice in the third period, and couldn’t hold on.
The Wild fought for a good portion of the extra frame to just gain possession of the puck, let alone skate with it into the Carolina end looking to make any sort of play. Aho stripped Parise of the puck just inside the Hurricane blue line, started the play in transition, and then finished the game with a long shot from the right circle blocker side on Dubnyk.
It’s a gigantic disappointment for the Wild to lose the game, even though in fairness, they probably didn’t deserve to win based on their performance early. Yet, hockey proves that with good-to-elite goaltending, a team who’s vastly out-played can steal a game. Minnesota didn’t steal this one, but were right there to do exactly that.
This was the fourth game in four games to start the season where the Wild came out not just flat, but apathetic, comatose, and unresponsive for the majority of the game. This team has a gigantic uphill battle in this division just with how stacked the division already is. This team already struggles to score, and can’t rely on Dubnyk to continue this kind of effort night-in, and night-out. But when they surrender almost 60 shots on goal, play sloppy and uninspired, while barely getting a sniff of the other team’s net, they aren’t even giving themselves a chance. These types of performances are exacerbating their already difficult task to get back to the post-season.