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  • Inside the Wild's Catastrophic Second Period Meltdown

    Aaron Heckmann

    After a dominant first period, the Minnesota Wild had a second-period meltdown and never recovered on Thursday night, losing Game 3 to the Vegas Golden Knights, 5-2.

    The Wild’s .785 point percentage at home is the fifth-highest in the league, and for the first 20 minutes, it seemed like that trend would continue in the postseason. Instead, they came out of the locker room flat in a demoralizing loss that has them down 2-1 in a series against one of the best teams in the league.

    Saturday night’s game in St. Paul suddenly becomes a must-win if they’re going to advance in the playoffs.

    What makes this loss so perplexing is how a team comes out with energy and physicality right out of the gates but then strayed away from their game after the first intermission. All momentum they obtained in the first period was wiped away in the horrific second period full of defensive breakdowns and a lack of urgency.

    “We left Cam out to dry there,” Ryan Hartman said in the post-game presser. “We gave them everything. We had no possession, no work ethic, no battle. We got away from our game, and we let them dictate. Like I said, we gave them everything there.”

    At least he came out and said it. There seems to be an acknowledgment in the locker room that they went away from what worked in the first period and allowed the Golden Knights to dictate the game in the final 40 minutes. Given the importance of Game 4, you would think the Wild would be able to bounce back and even the series.

    The referees certainly didn’t help; there were many questionable and missed calls. However, their poor second period wasn’t just a result of poor officiating. It also went further than goaltending, although Talbot’s minus-0.94 goals saved above expected didn’t help matters.

    While the work ethic wasn’t there, and it appeared they weren’t focused, the problems were far deeper than just a period filled with a lack of motivation. They were also out-chanced, outplayed, and outscored between intermissions and relinquished a 2-0 lead, going into the locker room down 3-2. By letting up in the middle frame, they have lost their chance to take charge in the best-of-seven series that they will likely have to go in the distance in to advance to the second round.

    The Wild had a 38.46 Corsi for percentage at 5-on-5, an indicator that they could not maintain possession of the puck. Their inability to maintain possession and generate shots was problematic. Furthermore, Vegas outshot Minnesota 22-5 in the second period, encapsulating their failure to control play.

    In terms of scoring chances at 5-on-5, the Golden Knights had the decisive 12-7 edge, which is good for over 63 percent of the second period’s scoring chances. Likewise, Vegas was also favored with a 5-2 advantage over the Wild in terms of high-danger chances -- not surprising given they scored three goals on those chances. Minnesota was unable to generate scoring chances, which became increasingly evident as the period dragged on.

    Furthermore, the Golden Knights had a 70.86 expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 in the second period, and that could have been even worse when considering the shot differential. The Wild were completely lost the whole time.

    The most frustrating aspect of the loss is that the Golden Knights scored three goals in just over two minutes, with the latter two just three seconds apart. You could just see it coming with the way they were just holding back and not buckling down to escape the period with a tie game which certainly could have changed the final results of the game.

    While the third period capped a disappointing game, it was a much more cohesive period. The Wild were much better defensively and found a way to generate some quality scoring chances, including two that nearly found their way past Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Minnesota needs to make some critical adjustments going into Saturday night’s game: It’s time to tinker with the lines to generate more chances. But ultimately, Minnesota has to play a 60-minute game if they want to take this series.

    All Data Via Evolving-Hockey & Natural Stat Trick

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