The Minnesota Wild had not yet faced the Edmonton Oilers this season. That all changed tonight, as it marked the first of two match-ups between the 2 teams in 3 games for the Wild. The Wild will close their 5-game road trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, and then play host to the Oilers on Friday.
The Oilers would be on the 2nd night of back-to-backs. They played against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, a 3-2 overtime victory for the Oilers. Tired legs may play into the later stages of the games, and with this one going to overtime as well, you’d expect the Oil to be gassed.
It took the Oilers just under 3 minutes to show the Wild they are not the team the league has walked all over for the better part of a decade. Patrick Maroon would clean up a rebound on a Mark Fayne shot to put the Oilers up 1-0 early in the contest. Fayne would get the feed from Zack Kassian and rip a shot from the point. Maroon beat Tyler Graovac around from behind the net and found the loose rebound on the weak side for an easy goal.
The games first penalties would come 8 minutes and change into the period, before the puck dropped on an offensive zone faceoff. Chis Stewart and Kassian earned matching slashing penalties as they battled to prove which of them could be dumber before the draw. No clear winner was decided in that contest, though Kassian would take the lead later in the period. Jason Pominville would give the Oilers their first legitimate power play of the game for hooking Matthew Benning with just 11 seconds left in the matching Stewart/Kassian tough guy contest.
Back to Kassian. He would fight (of course) against Kurtis Gabriel (duh). Gabriel would get the worse of the match up, but I think we can all agree there are no real winners in a hockey fight.
The Wild would find the equalizer off the stick of Charlie Coyle in the final minute of the period. This series features a hell of a heads up play coming from Nino Niederreiter. Nino would fire an bad angle wrister on goal and the rebound would come right back out to him. Instead of firing another shot off, he fed the puck out to the top of the paint where Coyle was streaking through the slot. Charlie Coyle had all kinds of net staring right at him, and he doesn’t miss those kinds of shots.
The Wild would have momentum on their side going into the 2nd period, but they would need to work to keep it. The teams traded off a couple odd man rushes in the opening moments of the period but nothing came of those chances. Edmonton would give the Wild a little extra help retaining momentum when Milan Lucic took offense to Nate Prosser, prossering Oiler golden-boy Connor McDavid. Lucic in-turn slashed Prosser in the calves. It wasn’t vicious, but enough to draw the eye of the stripes and get him 2 minutes in the box.
The Wild would not be able to convert on the power play opportunity, but leading out of that the Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Zucker line had some great zone time and got a few pucks on net. A little later Jared Spurgeon would take a trip to the box for tripping McDavid. With just 9 seconds left in the power play for the Oilers, Prosser would get flagged for delay of game. Only small benefit to the Wild here was it appeared a concussion spotter tagged McDavid for slamming his face on the ice (as a result of the Spurgeon trip, so quite delayed) and he would be sent down the tunnel to go through the protocol.
With the Oilers best player off the ice, the Wild were able to dodge any disasters from the 2 penalties which barely overlapped. The period would come to a close shortly after a great chance, but Zach Parise could not beat the far post and the score remained tied after 2 periods.
Of course all good things must come to an end, and McDavid being stuck in the concussion protocol came to a result that allowed him back on the ice for the 3rd period. Now, I’m not saying I wish he got a concussion, I’m just saying they could have took their sweet time keeping him off the ice is all.
The teams spent most of the first half of the period exchanging tests for each others defensive rotation. Looking for kinks in the armor but neither team was able to find much success. The period was rather boring for the first 12 minutes really. Teams looked like they were playing for the tie or just waiting for the other to make a mistake.
The Wild would get a prime opportunity when Graovac would have a pass catch his stick behind the Oilers D and he was off on a breakaway. He would get his shot away despite being tripped by David Letestu, and the rebound would give Parise a great shot on goal with Jonas Gustavsson prone on the ice. Gustavsson would somehow stop Parise’s chance, but Graovac had drawn a tripping call and the Wild would go on the power play.
Watching the power play though, you would have thought maybe Edmonton had the extra skater. The Wild failed to keep up with Edmonton’s speed and pressure and forced passes which led to an odd-man rush for the Oil. Not a good power play showing for the Wild as they failed to land a shot on goal with the extra skater, late in a 1-1 game. Late in the period the Wild would give McDavid a great opportunity too. He had the team chasing him down as he rifled a shot off at Devan Dubnyk. As we know now, The Dub Abides, and he was able to stop the boy-wonder from finding the score sheet.
The game would go to overtime.
The Wild rolled out Granlund, Koivu and Jonas Brodin to start the OT session. Things were going well, and then they gave up possession and the Oilers quickly got McDavid out on the ice. Kid in open ice is good, scary good. Fortunately no harm came from his effort.
Parise had a fantastic shot to end things when he got in behind the Oilers defense, but Gustavsson had a beauty poke check to stop the opportunity. Great play by the Oilers netminder. Following that up however Koivu was able to skate in behind the Oilers defense once again and was able to avoid the Gustavsson poke check. Koivu had a wide open net and back handed home the winner.
The Wild were able to secure their first win on this road trip, and keep the always dangerous Connor McDavid off the score sheet. Not a bad trip into Edmonton’s new barn (oh yeah, Edmonton has a new hockey arena. It looks like a space ship). The Wild managed 33 shots in the game, although it took them into overtime to attain such a high mark.
Up next for your Wild, they travel over to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs and close out their 5-game road trip. The Wild will be eager to get home, but they cannot sleep on the Maple Leafs who have a young stud in Auston Matthews.
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