They did it! It didn’t look like they were going to, but the Minnesota Wild have forced a Game 6 in their series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Ahead of tonight’s game a couple of changes to the lineup were announced; top defensive prospect Calen Addison would come in for an injured Carson Soucy, Victor Rask would be back with Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman would take Rask’s place with Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala.
The tensions were high coming into this game. This team earned a reputation during the regular season as being a comeback team that didn’t give up, but up until tonight had never had their backs against the wall like this. Over the last 4 games, the Golden Knights have outclassed the Wild and they really needed to get their game together. Luckily for them — and their hopes for a Stanley Cup — they did manage to do that for two periods. And only two periods.
The game started off in a familiar fashion, in the worst possible way. I don’t know who provoked Mark Stone — and Alex Tuch — to start a blood feud with the Wild, but the man always does damage. It only took him 8:14 and it was very reminiscent of the other goals that Vegas has scored in this series;
I know that Mark Stone is one of the best hockey players on the planet, but he seems extra good when playing against the Wild. There was no need to panic, as Kirill finally got the monkey off his back and finished off a beautiful effort from Mats Zuccarello to draw the game even at one.
God bless our beautiful Russian son.
The Wild continued to pour it on too, as they got blue-collar goals from Zach Parise and Jordan Greenway before the first frame drew to a close. Greenway was amongst the best forwards on the ice for the Wild, ending the game with 13 shot attempts and 51 xGF% according to NaturalStatTrick.com, third amongst Wild forwards (the other two were his linemates). He was heavy on the forecheck and always seemed to be involved in whatever fracas was being started after the whistles.
Those two goals are prime examples of the lack of puck luck that has vexed the Wild. While they did finally benefit from some favorable bounces, the other problem that has ailed them all series has been the cratering in the quality of their play during the second period. In the series, the Golden Knights are outscoring the Wild 8-1 in the second frame and tonight was no different. In fact, they set a brand new low for how horrendous the second period can be.
The Golden Knights brought the game to within one with a powerplay goal from Alec Martinez that redirected off of the skate of Jonas Brodin.
This was the only goal of the period, but was somehow not the lowest point; that prestigious title belongs to the fact that the Wild managed three whole shot attempts, and one registered shot, in 20 minutes of playing time. Outshot 22-1 — and out-attempted 40-3 — the Wild spent the entire period in their own end. Here is the one-shot, that occurred 13 minutes into the period, in all its glory.
Lucky to escape that period with their lead intact, the Wild forged on and managed to continue on that terrible play in the third. Hemmed in their own end, they had to rely on Cam Talbot to bail them out with some truly terrific and timely saves.
The reprieve didn't come until the empty-net goal by Nico Sturm iced the game with 39 seconds left on the clock.
They didn’t deserve to win this game after the way they played in the final 40 minutes, but maybe that’s a market correction for at least one game the Golden Knights stole by having Marc-André Fleury playing like the second coming of Dominik Hasek.
Game six will happen. They are still in this.
Will there be powerplay opportunities? Will the powerplay score a goal?
Nope! But there definitely should have been. Plenty of extra-curriculars in tonight’s game but while the Wild weren’t handed a single powerplay opportunity the Golden Knights got two opportunities — albeit one was off of a delay of game penalty. The referees may have swallowed their whistles, but I find it very hard to believe that outside of two can’t-miss calls, there were no penalties in this game.
Which Wild player shows up tonight?
It’s hard to find a bright spot after the way the last two periods were played. Of all the forwards, it was the usual suspects chipping in; Greenway, Marcus Foligno, and Joel Eriksson Ek. Everyone else was summarily garbage.
That leaves us with Matt Dumba, who gave a penultimate Matt Dumba performance tonight. He was excellent with the puck, active on the rush, and had some well-timed pinches. He was also tied for the team lead in blocked shots and was crucial on the penalty kill. His 60.5 xGF% led all Wild players and generated the bulk of the Wild’s scoring opportunities.
But all that goodwill was wiped away with the bone-headed delay of game penalty that led to the Golden Knight’s second goal of the game. It’s truly wondrous how consistent Dumba is at embodying the “two steps forward, one step back” philosophy.
Can Cam Talbot get an easy night?
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