After seeing their seven game winning streak snapped Thursday night against Pittsburgh, the Wild packed their bags and headed to Carolina to take on the Metropolitan division leading Carolina Hurricanes. In addition to losing the game, the Wild also would be debuting a new lineup against Carolina with the subtractions of Matt Boldy and Jon Merrill from the lineup. With recently acquired Marc-André Fleury between the pipes, the Wild would see if they could keep his perfect record with his new club alive.
After both teams ran their checking lines to start the game, Minnesota’s second shift saw them take a hooking penalty and send Carolina to the powerplay. Despite allowing a few close calls, Minnesota was able to finish the kill without being scored on. Just about halfway through the period, Brodin outskated a Carolina and drew a penalty. Fifteen seconds into the man advantage, a Spurgeon shot from the point beat everything but the post. Immediately after, the Wild were unable to put the puck across the red line and the score remained even.
Just about a minute later, Kaprizov fed Mats Zuccarello who beat Andersen to take a 1-0 lead. With the assist, Kaprizov broke the Minnesota Wild single season scoring record.
With just over four minutes left in the period, Fiala’s quickness forced Brady Skjei to take a holding penalty. Unlike their first attempt, Minnesota did not generate any great chances and was blanked.
Despite leading after the first period, Minnesota spent a great portion of the period in their own zone. Fleury had a great period and was forced to make several high quality saves, including a one timer in the final minute of the period that went off his glove and the post. If the Wild wanted to retain their lead, they would have to put together a better performance for the next 40 minutes.
Carolina came out for the second the way that the ended the first: controlling play. Three minutes into the period, Kulikov was whistled for tripping and the Wild would once again be forced to kill. As the penalty expired, Kulikov stormed out of the box to join the rush with Jost and Brodin. After a great pass by Jost, Kulikov beat Andersen to grab a two goal lead.
A great Wild kill led to a beautiful goal, but the kill wasn’t without its sacrifices. Jacob Middleton, already banged up from Thursday’s game, seemed to only see his condition worsen after he took a puck to the hand on the kill. With the Wild relying on him even more than normal, he remained on the bench and demonstrated why Guerin traded for his toughness.
While Carolina was heavily outshooting Minnesota, Minnesota still found their looks. A great play by Kaprizov and Eriksson-Ek almost found the back of the net, but Andersen had other plans.
The MVP of the second was, hands down, Fleury. Minnesota began allowing more chances, but Fleury proved he was up to the task. With 25 saves through two, he would need to keep it up to preserve the two goal Minnesota lead.
The first several minutes of the third were defensive minded. Carolina continued their possession advantage, but Minnesota seemed to adjust to better protect the high danger areas. When Carolina was able to get the puck to the net, Fleury continued his great play to keep them in front of him.
With just over 12 minutes left in the period, Minnesota found a way to extend their lead. From an inconspicuous angle, Kaprizov beat Andersen short side and gave the Wild a 3-0 lead in a game that saw them control a minority of possession in.
In the final 1/3 of the third period, Fleury’s shutout was ended on a snap shot by a freshly stitched up Teräväinen. Now, the Wild would be forced to dig on, as Carolina’s momentum surge could be seen by anyone watching the game.
With 3:45 left, Andersen vacated his net and the full attack for the Hurricanes began. Kevin Fiala had a few good looks at the empty net early, but both barely missed. In the final minute, a shot from the point beat Fleury through traffic. It was immediately waved off for goaltender interference and quickly upheld in its review (despite Spurgeon pushing Nino into Fleury). Unable to score on the empty net, the game ended in a 3-1 decision.
Good teams need to win games where they get outplayed. Minnesota never seemed to have the edge, but they capitalized on the chances they had and found saves in the defensive zone when they needed them. Going forward, I’m sure Dean and his staff will be looking for more control of possession. However, it is hard to be upset with a win.
Who wins in tonight’s Dueling Goaltenders?
This one is easy. Minnesota did an okay job of keeping chances to the perimeter, but Fleury still completely kept them in the game. Several massive saves, many in crucial periods of the game, kept the momentum flowing Minnesota’s way. Andersen didn’t have a bad game, but given the volume of pucks he faced, he probably wanted at least one of the goals to be a save.
Will Kirill Kaprizov set a franchise points record tonight?
With a goal and an assist, Kaprizov now holds the franchise record for most points in a season. With three more goals, he will also break the single season goals record. We are lucky to watch this kid play every night.