The Minnesota Wild looked to spoil the fun in Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday night as they squared off against the 17-11-1 Carolina Hurricanes on the deemed “Star Wars Night” at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes entered the game winning six of their past 10 contests, most recently a shootout victory against the San Jose Sharks — a game that saw goaltender
The Wild came into the night riding an 11-game point streak that started, coincidentally, against the Hurricanes back on November 16. Funny enough, that point streak would come to an end at the hands of Sebastian Aho and the Hurricanes Saturday night.
The Wild got a quick lead in the first period as Marcus Foligno sent a pretty feed to a breaking Ryan Donato, who eventually beat Mrazek to break the ice. Upon receiving a tremendous pass from Foligno, the newly appointed center of the fourth line fumbled the puck trying to get it to his backhand, actually setting himself up for a juicy rebound off a Mrazek pad save. With the goal, Donato has three goals in six games while averaging over 11 minutes of ice time over that stretch.
Carolina countered at the 11-minute mark to tie things up at one goal apiece. Trevor van Riemsdyk received a pass from forward Lucas Wallmark and fired a wrister on net that Alex Stalock guided to the corner. From there, Hurricanes forward Ryan Dzingel tracked the puck down and found a crashing Wallmark in the slot, who roofed it up and over the blocker of Stalock.
Later in the first period, Sebastian Aho drew two penalties, putting the Hurricanes on a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes. Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway both were sent to the box at the hand of Aho. Eriksson Ek went for holding, and Greenway for tripping.
On the ensuing 5-on-3, Andrei Svechnikov tapped in one of his easiest goals of the season, making it his team-leading 13th goal of the season. With Teuvo Teravainen manning the point on the power play, he received a pass from Aho and quickly sent a perfect feed to the 19-year-old standing pat backdoor for the easy finish.
Carolina started to assert itself in the second half of the first period and it continued into the second frame. The Wild fell back into their old ways, opening the second period by allowing a goal within the first five minutes. Guess who this time?
Teravainen collected his second assist on the night after a Ryan Suter turnover in the neutral zone, creating an odd-man rush the other way. Aho picked up the turnover, made a nifty move in the offensive zone and dropped it to Teravainen. From there it was a bang-bang one-timer, leaving Alex Stalock with not much of a chance.
The Wild countered back with an odd-man rush of their own to cut the deficit back down to one goal. The Zucker, Staal and Zuccarello line stayed toasty as Staal made a quick move in the neutral zone to spring the line in on a 3-on-1. The once captain of the Hurricanes passed the puck over to Zuccarello, who no-looked a shot past Mrazek. The goal marks the 10th point for Zuccarello in his past 10 games.
The struggles on the penalty kill continued, though. Entering the night, the Wild had allowed at least one goal against on their penalty kill in seven of the past eight games. For the second time on the night, Carolina capitalized on their power play. Aho continued his already big night by adding his second goal in the same period.
The third period was much of the same, as Carolina continued to drive play and control puck possession. The Hurricanes added two goals in the final frame, and Minnesota was unable to keep up. One of those goals came from, of course, Sebastian Aho, who capped off a career night by scoring an empty-netter to complete the hat trick, earning his first career five-point night in the NHL as the Hurricanes picked up the 6-2 victory.
1. Can the Wild continue to fill in for their injured players?
On Thursday in Tampa, the Wild managed to play well without Jared Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu. Saturday was a different story. The team looked out of sorts with Victor Rask stepping into Koivu’s spot in the middle between Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala. That line was horrendous for much of the night. By the third period, Ryan Donato replaced Rask in the middle of Parise and Fiala. The same went for Spurgeon’s natural spot alongside Ryan Suter on the team’s top defensive pair. With Matt Dumba playing alongside Suter, the pair seemed to not be in sync for most of the contest.
Saturday’s performance is by no means a “sound the alarm” situation. After all, it was the last game of a road swing against a very good Carolina team. Both the injuries are short-term and the lineup we saw in Florida should be back in less than two weeks, barring no injuries to any others (knock on wood three times).
2. Can the Wild score on the power play?
Did we really think this would happen? The power play looked all out of sorts. Pucks were fumbled, blind passes were thrown to the middle with nobody there and, again, the Wild failed to take advantage of being a man up. For a team that ranks 10th in the NHL in power play percentage, the team struggled on the three-game road trip. To start the trip, Minnesota went 0-for-1 against the Panthers and 0-for-2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In Carolina, the Wild continued the goose-eggs by going 0-for-4.
3. Can the Wild avoid being significantly outshot?
Nope! All across the board it seemed to be a disappointing night for Minnesota. The Wild got outshot by the Hurricanes 40-24. Deservedly so, the Hurricanes won and did so by dominating every facet of the hockey game, including the shot department. Minnesota ended the road trip getting outshot by a combined 120 to 71 in three games.
The Wild head back home to St. Paul for a three-game homestand starting on Tuesday, when they host the Anaheim Ducks at 7:00 p.m. CT.