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  • Recap: Hartman, Fiala team up to stun Oilers 5-1


    An end of the season battle between two postseason teams always seems to create good hockey. With the Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers both confident in their postseason chances, Tuesday night saw a matchup where Minnesota had the opportunity to prove to themselves that they can beat Western Conference playoff teams.

    With Minnesota missing two defenseman due to injury, their healthy defenseman would be tasked with shutting down two of the best players in the NHL. Cam Talbot would start in net, continuing the alternating between himself and Fleury that has occurred since Fleury was acquired at the trade deadline.

    Despite a loss to Colorado in their most recent game, Edmonton had won six in a row beforehand. Minnesota came in red hot as well, 10-1-2 in their last 13. With two crucial points on the line, the fans in St. Paul were due to witness a good one.

    Minnesota came out of the gates flying, with the top line generating a couple good chances. The second McDavid jumped on the ice for the second shift of the game, Edmonton found a few good chances as well. On the next shift, Kevin Fiala came inches away from the opening goal. It quickly felt like the game was going to be the dynamic style that both teams enjoy playing.

    Just over five minutes into the first, Freddy Gaudreau capitalized on an errant Duncan Keith turnover in the slot and patiently turned a short breakaway into a 1-0 lead for Minnesota.

    Edmonton showed no signs of going away. When McDavid returned to the ice, the GREEF line got trapped for a minute and a half in the defensive zone. Fortunately for Minnesota, the onslaught ended when Edmonton took an unfortunate too many men penalty. Minnesota was unable to convert.

    Much of the attention coming into the night was on Edmonton’s stars, but from his first shift Kaprizov seemed intent in proving he belonged in that conversation as well. His, and for that matter his whole line’s, first period was excellent.

    The teams entered the first intermission about even on shots, but Minnesota had more high quality chances and a one goal lead. Aside from McDavid’s line, Edmonton was spending much of their time in their own zone. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they lost Jordan Greenway midway through the period to an upper body injury.

    With Jost taking Greenway’s spot on the third line, the second period got underway. Minnesota did not wait long before growing their lead. After gaining the zone off of a patient play by Benn, Kevin Fiala forced a turnover from an Oilers defenseman. After moving the puck to Kulikov, who then moved it to Boldy, Fiala got the puck back and grew the Wild lead to two. A beautiful effort, beautiful passing, and most importantly, a beautiful goal.

    After the goal, Edmonton strung a few offensive zone shifts together that threatened the Wild lead. Talbot kept all but one of the pucks in front of him. Fortunately for him, that puck, fired by Kassian, found the crossbar instead of twine.

    Edmonton’s defensive woes continued to be exposed. This pass, right to the tape of Fiala, was lucky to not end up in the back of the net.

    Kevin Fiala’s great period continued just under halfway through the period. Entering the zone, he found a puck in the corner and quickly elevated it over the near shoulder of Koskinen. With it, the Wild surged to a 3-0 lead.

    The impressive goals did not end there. Entering the wall near the offensive zone blue line, Kaprizov outmuscled three Oilers and fed a wide open Ryan Hartman. Hartman quickly elevated the puck and put the Wild up four.

    Just after, Kaprizov was tripped and the Wild headed to the powerplay up four. Even though they generated some good chances, they were unable to score.

    Edmonton began to gain some momentum after Zack Kassian got around Benn for a breakaway. Although Talbot made the save, the Wild took a penalty soon after. On the powerplay, Edmonton generated several amazing chances. None of them were able to beat very solid Cam Talbot.

    The second period was a great one for Minnesota, with their lead growing by three. They were able to capitalize on Edmonton’s mistakes, especially from their defensemen. Despite these mistakes, the Wild simply outworked Edmonton in all zones.

    After Edmonton controlled the first few minutes of the third, Minnesota responded with their fifth goal. A point shot from Jordie Benn was found in front of the net by Hartman. With Zuccarello one point away from a franchise record in assists, it seems possible that it was reached on the play. The league will review it to be sure.

    Five minutes into the period, Minnesota took their second powerplay of the night. Unlike the first time, Edmonton found the back of the net. The Wild lead shrunk to four and Cam Talbot’s shutout was spoiled.

    Edmonton’s frustration showed as the period went on. Evander Kane, after Kaprizov just missed on a between the legs shot, cross checked Kaprizov. He was met with a swarm of Wild jerseys, including Ryan Hartman, who refused to be separated from Kane. Minnesota earned a powerplay from the scuffle.

    Another Minnesota penalty sent Edmonton to the powerplay with 8 minutes left in the third. Unlike their previous one, Edmonton was kept off the board.

    As the final horn sounded, Minnesota earned two crucial points in a 5-1 domination of Edmonton. After their recent woes with beating Western Conference playoff teams, they had to be happy with their performance. While Edmonton has probably the highest top end talent in the league, the Wild were able to use their great shutdown lines to neutralize the attack at even strength. Additionally, Cam Talbot continued his great stretch as of late, allowing only one goal on almost 30 shots.

    Finally, a new stat was born:

    Burning Questions

    Boldy looked good in his return with two points against the Kings. Can his line with Kevin Fiala and Frederick Gaudreau feast on the Oiler’s bottom lines?

    Yes they could. Fiala scored twice on two plays where talent won out. Boldy made countless great plays with the puck to control possession, including a brilliant play on Fiala’s first goal. Gaudreau also had a great game, especially on the defensive side of the puck.

    Overall, the line proves the importance of secondary scoring. In the postseason, if lines other than Kaprizov’s line can take advantage of better matchups, success seems much more likely.

    Can GREEF limit the dynamic duo?

    The GREEF line did a great job shutting down the offensive powerhouses in Edmonton’s lineup. While Dean always maintains that he doesn’t match lines, there seemed to be constant coincidences that the GREEF line and Brodin were on the ice when McDavid was. These coincidences proved to be useful, completely shutting down Edmonton’s offense at even strength.

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