Where has that been? The Minnesota Wild explodes for a touchdown and the extra point in South Florida with a much needed win over the Florida Panthers. Eric Staal scored two goals and added an assist as Minnesota fought for the win by attacking the blue paint of the goal crease.
For a team that scored just five goals in the previous four games, the Wild’s 7-4 victory looks huge. They’ve been boxed out of the slot in the offensive zone in 3 of the last 4 pretty consistently. Friday night, we saw a team committed to getting to the center of the ice.
Minnesota struck first when Jason Zucker got just a piece of a Jonas Brodin shot from the point to re-direct it past James Reimer. Mikael Granlund made a nice play to draw defenders to him before dishing the puck to Brodin. Minnesota had a jump in its game early.
Then Martin Hanzal took a tripping minor when he toppled Jussi Jokinen. It didn’t take long when Jonathan Marchessault got credit for a goal that actually went in off Ryan Suter just 7 seconds into the power play. It was all Panthers after that. Darcy Kuemper was turning away pucks and doing a fine job in net. That’s until Mark Pysyk was allowed to waltz down the slot unmolested and he ripped a shot past Kuemper.
This game was chippy. I have no idea where this nastiness came from between the two teams, but it was ever so apparent in the middle frame. Five penalties were called in the period, and three of them came when a wild Nino Niederreiter crashed the net, invading the natural habitat of the panther after a shot on the power play and was converged upon by three males trying to protect their young.
OK, but seriously, Nino was jumped by three Panther players and Nino was going to have none of it while getting called for the extra minor in the scrum.
Niederreiter made a nice play in the corner to work the puck behind the Florida net. Staal made the original play to advance the puck along to the wall to the corner for Niederreiter then went to the slot. Niederreiter found Staal in the slot for the tying goal with a nice feed. It was Staal’s 20th of the season.
Minnesota then took the lead on what is likely the greasiest, dirtiest, grimiest goal of the season. Hanzal was stopped on a one-timer to Reimer’s left. The puck was was dug out from Reimer’s attempt to clear, and with Zach Parise crashing the net, the puck squirt out to the top of the crease. Mind you, Reimer has already lost sight of the loose puck and was just lying down in his crease, hoping he had it covered. Pominville found the loose puck and lifted it up and over the prone Florida goaltender.
The Wild were hoping they could then hold their own in the defensive zone for the win. That was until Jaromir Jagr scored his 13th goal of the season. He came around the Wild net and into the right corner. He spun around and fired a low angle shot that ricocheted off of Darcy Kuemper and in. Kuemper was mostly good in the game, but that was a bad goal to give up. Kuemper would finish his night stopping 25 of 28 shots faced with a .893 save percentage.
Devan Dubnyk would enter the game following the second intermission as head coach Bruce Boudreau looked to get an edge in net with the game in the balance. Unfortunately, the move would backfire when a puck that was dumped in a rimmed around swallowed number 40 up and deflected out front to Aleksander Barkov for an easy go-ahead goal.
But Eric Staal is the savvy veteran with Cup experience. He took advantage of a Marco Scandella rebound to tie the game for his 21st of the season. The game had a feverish pace and was up and down with a 4-4 tie. Pominville would take a shot from the left point and Reimer couldn’t squeeze the puck under his arm tight enough. As the puck trickled through the blue paint, Parise finished it off. The Wild were in front for good.
Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle would each add a couple empty-net goals to extend the lead. Staal would notch his third point of the night on the Coyle goal in an unselfish play by him, foregoing the hat trick.
Minnesota out-shot the Panthers 46-40, went 0-for-3 on the power play, while going 1-for-2 on the penalty kill. Niederreiter led the team with 5 shots on goal and just one point on the night. The Niederreiter - Staal - Coyle line were very good all night on the forecheck and got a number of chances, while combining for six points. Brodin had two assists and Matt Dumba, returning from missing two games with an illness, got an assist. Dubnyk got the win, his 36th of the season.
Minnesota will head to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on a Sunday morning brunch meeting. The game time for Sunday’s game has been changed 11:30 CDT and will be on NBC for the broadcast. Chicago lost Friday to the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 in the final time the Blackhawks would play in Joe Louis Arena ever.
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