It was the Minnesota Wild’s home opener Saturday night. What a welcome for the roster filled with Iowa call-ups.
Too bad they couldn’t end the night with a victory, as the Wild lost 5-4 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets (4-1-0).
“That’s all four games we’ve played so far we’ve been tied or ahead in the third period, and we’ve only got one win to show for it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau.
The fourth game of the season for the Wild (1-1-2) – their home opener – almost felt like the season opener when a team is full of new faces and rebuilding. With five Wild forwards out with injuries – Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Marcus Foligno and Charlie Coyle – the team called up a bunch of guys from the Iowa Wild.
They brought in some reinforcements: forwards Luke Kunin, Christoph Bertschy, Landon Ferraro and Zack Mitchell.
The new guys left their mark.
Ferraro, 26, scored a goal to make it a 3-1 Wild lead in the second period when he dove for a loose puck in the crease. Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky thought he had it squeezed in his pads. Instead, the puck squirted through on its end and into the blue paint. It was Ferraro’s seventh goal of his NHL career and first tally overall since December 2016.
“I’ve been waiting to see what that feels like again,” Ferraro said after the game.
The Wild picked up Ferraro this summer as a free agent. He’d played with the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.
Bertschy contributed in a less desirable way on the scoresheet – by skating to the penalty box twice. He went off for slashing and holding, neither of which led to a Columbus goal. The 23-year-old Switzerland native also played five games with Minnesota last season. He’s a 2012 Wild draft pick.
Mitchell is also back with the Wild, having played in 11 games with the big club last season, including his NHL debut last November. He assisted on Ferraro’s goal.
Kunin made his NHL debut Saturday at 19 years old. He didn’t mind throwing his body around Saturday.
“You could tell they were really nervous at the beginning of the first period,” Boudreau said of the youngsters. “I thought they settled down. Heck, they scored a goal.”
Another new face to the Wild this season, Tyler Ennis, scored his first two goals in a Wild sweater. Both were on the power play. His first fittingly came on a feed from his childhood chum Jared Spurgeon for a 2-1 lead in the second period.
No injury excuse for this loss
Yes, the Wild lost in overtime. Just don’t blame it on the fact that it was the Iowa/Minnesota team playing tonight. Sure, the first period looked a little slow and rough as guys undoubtedly got used to playing with each other. There were a lot of icings and not much for scoring chances in the first 20 minutes.
Eric Staal scored his third of the season to get the Wild a 1-0 lead. It was a pretty, upstairs goal as he moved toward the goal with speed. It was a tie game 35 seconds later.
But the Wild had the ever-popular two-goal lead -- albeit briefly -- in the third period. Ennis scored his second goal of the game at 1:42 of the third period on the power play to put the Wild up 4-2. Mikko Koivu passed the puck over, possibly intending for Spurgeon, and the puck tipped off Ennis’ stick in the slot and into the goal.
For the second time in the game though, Columbus answered quickly. Cam Atkinson scored 57 seconds later to make it 4-3. The Blue Jackets didn’t let up the rest of the period, starting with a power play they got off a questionable tripping penalty on Spurgeon. Columbus took the man advantage and momentum to spend plenty of time in the Wild’s zone. They outshot the Wild 35-21 for the game and 13-5 in the third period alone.
2 shots 14:16 into the 3rd for the #mnwild, and one was the redirection off Tyler Ennis' skate for a goal
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 15, 2017
Jason Zucker thought he scored the Wild’s fifth goal of the night, raising both arms in celebration after his hard shot following his move around a defender. One of many goal reviews on the night -- most were very speedy -- confirmed the puck hit off the top of the crossbar and back out again. It never went into the net.
That was about all the excitement the Wild had the rest of the way. Then Columbus finally tied the game 4-all with 3:37 left in regulation. This one also needed a look. The point shot was deflected with a stick along the way, but it wasn’t a high stick. Good goal.
The Wild held the puck in the offensive zone briefly in overtime before the Blue Jackets ended things just 47 in. Artemi Panarin took a shot off Devan Dubynk, and a video review confirmed the rebound went off the shaft of Alexander Wennberg’s stick for a good goal.
So even with the good efforts of the youngsters, the Wild couldn’t overcome a rough third period. It’s not the way any team wants to end their first game in front of the home crowd. They did get another point, for those that look at the bright side of things.
Dubnyk (1-1-1) with 30 saves. Bobrovsky (4-0-0) with 17 saves.
Since it was the home opener, the entire Wild roster was announced with much pre-game fanfare as they skated out to center ice. Unfortunately, the injured Niederreiter and Coyle were both standing on the bench. On the other hand, it must have been a cool entrance for the Iowa re-calls.
Four games into the season, the Wild have registered in each column: 1 win, 1 regulation loss, 1 shootout loss, 1 overtime loss. Officially, their record is still 1-1-2 with shootout and overtime losses being combined.
Six Wild players registered assists (Chris Stewart, Matt Dumba, Spurgeon, Ryan Suter 2x, Mitchell and Koivu) on the four goals.
The Wild hadn’t lost a home opener since 2013 when the Los Angeles Kings beat them 3-2 in a shootout. The Wild are 14-0-3 in home openers.
It’s another long layoff for the Wild as they sit with this tough loss. They’ll head to Winnipeg for a game Friday night at 7 p.m.
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