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  • Panthers 5, Wild 4: Florida steals two points with late goal


    Despite looking like the stronger team for most of the game, answering three times to tie the game after going down a goal and holding a one-goal lead of their own with under five minutes to play, the Wild just couldn’t earn two points Monday night. Thanks to a tip by Florida winger Noel Acciari that beat Wild goaltender Alex Stalock with five seconds left, the Florida Panthers stole a victory from Minnesota in a high-scoring affair at the Xcel Energy Center.

    While the Wild owned the majority of the shots and the zone time for the first ten minutes of the game, the Panthers showed how dangerous they can be, taking advantage of a momentary defensive breakdown by Minnesota and grabbing the game’s first goal when Mike Hoffman sent a pass to the open post finding Keith Yandle, who was able to easily tap it past Alex Stalock.

    The Wild had an opportunity to answer with a power play at the 13:31 mark with Florida’s Josh Brown in the box for holding. Zach Parise had a couple chances to stretch his scoring streak to four games, but couldn’t get a shot or a tip to go. Just after the penalty elapsed, Jason Zucker drove hard to the net and tried to get Sergei Bobrovsky to bite on the deke, but the Panther netminder was up to the task.

    Brett Connolly nearly stretched the Florida lead to two, getting behind the Wild backcheck and driving to the net, but Stalock made a huge pokecheck to knock away the puck and send Connolly head over heels.

    The Wild dominated the opportunities for the last five minutes, with Bobrovsky making big saves to protect the Florida lead. Marcus Foligno and Joel Eriksson Ek had the best even-strength chance, but neither could find the twine as Bobrovsky stood tall.

    A late delay of game penalty thanks to a puck over the glass by Anton Stralman gave the Wild their second power play, and the Wild were able to equalize just 20 seconds into the man advantage when Jared Spurgeon lifted a loose puck over a sprawling Bobrovsky with 15 ticks remaining in the first.

    The second period saw both teams lock down their defense, with only a few shots finding their way to the net for the first eight minutes. But the Panthers were able to break things open at 12:32 on a three-quarter ice pass from Josh Brown to a streaking Aleksander Barkov. The Florida captain made a slick move to get Stalock to drop, and snapped the puck back against the grain to the top of the net, giving Florida back the lead.

    Florida earned its first power play of the game on a tripping call assessed to Victor Rask, and early on the Panthers were peppering. But on the ensuring zone clear, Eriksson Ek made a great play to earn the puck and find Luke Kunin on the shorthanded rush. Kunin’s shot somehow trickled through the pads of Bobrovsky, tying the game and causing Florida to give up only its second shorty of the season.

    With about 5:20 left to go in the second, Spurgeon sprung Eric Staal on a wide open breakway, but the centerman missed wide on his bid to give the Wild their first lead of the game.

    Bobrovsky continued to stand on his head, keeping the score tied by stoning Kunin with about a minute to go. When the buzzer sounded on the second period, the Wild and the Panthers found themselves once again tied as they headed into the final stanza.

    Fifty seconds into the third, Kevin Fiala got sent for boarding after a heavy hit on Frank Vatrano. The Panthers took full advantage on Evgenii Dadonov’s tip of a Yandle shot, surprising Stalock and giving Florida its third one-goal lead of the game.

    Fiala made up for his infraction by driving the net and getting tripped up by Florida’s Mike Matheson, drawing the Wild’s third power play. After winning the initial faceoff, the Wild defense were able to move the puck around the point, giving Spurgeon an open shot on net. Ultimately, Parise was able to slide the rebound through the wickets of Bobrovsky, tying the game once again and increasing his goal-scoring streak to four games.

    Three minutes later after a massive Stalock save on Dadonov to keep the game tied, Kunin took a pass from Eriksson Ek for a great chance, and despite losing the handle on the shot, the puck knuckled under Bobrovsky’s glove for Kunin’s second of the night, giving the Wild their first lead of the contest.

    The Wild kept up the pressure while the Panthers started trying to wear down the Wild by throwing their weight around. Brown of Florida upended Foligno in the neutral zone to much indignation from the Wild winger, and later, Brian Boyle took a questionable run at Parise, dumping him from behind along the boards. Both players were able to continue, and no penalties were assessed. Later, Zucker did manage to draw a penalty for tripping on Florida’s Vatrano, and despite three massive blasts from Matt Dumba, none got past Bobrovsky.

    All night, Florida had a good amount of success generating chances on long pass plays to gain the Wild end of the ice. The Panthers were able to pull it off again as Stralman found Vincent Trocheck entering the zone, and Trocheck beat Stalock through the five hole to equalize with just over four minutes to go.

    Despite some sustained pressure by the strong third line of Kunin, Eriksson Ek and Foligno, the Wild weren’t able to get much toward Bobrovsky. But as both teams seemed to be content with taking things to overtime, a puck dumped in by Mark Pysyk was tipped first by Aaron Ekblad and a second time by Noel Acciari. Though Acciari’s tip looked like it was very close to crossbar height, the goal call on the ice stood, and Florida got the game-winner with just 5.6 seconds on the clock to deny the Wild.

    A heartbreaking finish cost the Wild a much needed two points in the standings, ending the Wild’s two-game winning streak. Next up for the Wild are the Detroit Red Wings in Minnesota’s final matchup prior to the All-Star Break.

    Answers to our Burning Questions

    1. Will Zach Parise continue his great play as of late?

    Parise did indeed continue his goal-scoring streak with a power-play marker to tie the game for the Wild. Parise also had a couple of chances and even won a faceoff in just under 17 minutes of ice time. He did end up with a minus-2 on the scoresheet, but offensively, he looked just as strong as he has been recently.

    2. Can the Wild shut down Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov?

    Huberdeau, yes. Barkov, not quite. Barkov had a sweet goal to beat Stalock and added an assist on Dadonov’s power-play tally. Yandle had the strongest game for the Panthers with the game’s first goal and three additional assists and Bobrovsky made some amazing saves to make way for the win, but Barkov did make his presence known all over the ice.

    3. Will the Wild continue their success on the power play?

    For once, the weakness of the Wild was not the power play. The Wild actually looked very good on special teams, with two conversions on four power plays thanks to goals by Spurgeon and Parise, and even added a shorty thanks to Luke Kunin. Instead, the Wild faltered at 5-on-5, and found themselves susceptible to the stretch pass that Florida used to attack the defensive zone. But it is nice to see Minnesota’s power play succeed after their recent cold streak with the man advantage.

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