A week ago, the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning handed the Minnesota Wild a shootout loss at home in Florida after the Wild had twice come back from two-goal deficits. In the rematch on home ice in St. Paul, the Wild prevented the Lightning from flipping the script, preventing Tampa Bay from equalizing late and holding on in a 4-2 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Wild goals leader Ryan Hartman had the game winner and was joined in the scoring by Nick Bjugstad, Victor Rask, and Marcus Foligno. Cam Talbot stopped 28 of 30 shots and had an assist of his own, the fourth of his career and first with the Wild. Tampa Bay netminder Andrei Vasilevky got shelled with 36 shots, as Corey Perry and Alex Killorn had the goals for the Lightning.
Through the first ten minutes, Xcel Energy Center had little excellence and not a whole lot of energy, and you could hear a pin drop in the building—that is, until Bjugstad finally gave the hometown crowd a reason to use their inside voice with a beautiful snipe over the left shoulder of Vasilevsky to score the first goal of the game.
The Lightning quieted the Minnesota crowd just 48 seconds later when Perry, the historic Wild killer, wristed a shot past Talbot to tie the game at 1.
Late in the first period, Rask made the most of his return to the ice after being a healthy scratch for the last two games, finding a loose puck off a missed shot from Kevin Fiala and beating Vasilevsky up high to regain the lead for the Wild.
The Lightning came out flying for the second period, but the Wild were up to the task. Talbot didn’t bite on a 2-on-1, stopping Pat Maroon’s shot and sprawling to corral the rebound. Minutes later, Mikhail Sergachev got a shot off on Talbot, who kicked aside the rebound right to Ross Colton with an open net, but Fiala broke up the play. Not long after, Jordie Benn continued to make the most of his increased icetime with Jared Spurgeon out of the lineup, giving up the body to break up a Tampa Bay 2-on-1.
A scary moment occured where Hartman and Mathieu Joseph had a nasty colision in front of the Tampa Bay net. Both players limped off the ice tried to shake off the pain on the bench, but while Hartman stayed in the game, Joseph reportedly headed down the tunnel for the trainers to have a look - and didn’t return to the game.
Fiala, who had a tough first period with turnovers and missed shots, stepped up in the second with some nice plays - his best being a driving chance that drew a tripping call on Zach Bogosian.
WIth just over 10 minutes to play in the second, Killorn took the puck off an offensive zone faceoff, walked the upper part of the zone, and then used a massive screen to wrist a shot past Talbot to once again tie the game.
The Foligno/Greenway/Eriksson Ek had a strong shift near the eight minute mark, starting with some extended zone time and a nice exploding shoulder by Jordan Greenway behind the net, after which he maintained the puck, finding Joel Eriksson Ek in front for a chance. In the ensuing scrum with Eriksson Ek and Foligno jabbing for the puck, Bogosian cross-checked JEEK, drawing another minor and putting the Wild back on the power play.
Tampa Bay killed the penalty, but just seconds after the penalty elapsed, Rask had a brilliant chance to regain the lead as his shot was deflected by the glove a sprawling Vasilevsky. As the puck looked to be floating into the net under the crossbar, the recently-returned Bogosian tapped the puck above the crossbar and over the net, denying an amazing chance.
Immediately after, Bogosian pushed the net off its moorings, and headed back to the box for a third time in the second period - though for the third time, the Wild couldn’t convert. Minnesota did maintain the momentum, and had some good zone time late in the period after Fiala battled hard to keep the puck in Tampa Bay’s zone. But as the Lightning went to clear, Matt Dumba took a careless high-sticking call, handing the Lightning a power play that the would carry for 1:39 into the third.
The Wild would kill off the penalty and used the momentum to dominate possession and chances in the third, though both teams traded opportunities early. Talbot stoned Bogosian’s shot from the slot, while Vasilevsky turned away an Eriksson Ek shot that Greenway nearly deflected. Moose got in on the action, standing up Maroon at his own blueline with a hit that kept the Tampa Bay forward on the ice for a few moments while he tried to remember where he was.
The Wild would earn their third lead of the game when absolutely red-hot Hartman took a nice pass from Kirill Kaprizov, spun and wheeled to whistle a wrist shot past the Lightning netminder, putting the Wild up 3-2. With his 12th goal of the season, Hartman has goals in three straight (and four of his last five), and has 13 points in his last 14 games.
Wild fourth-liner Brandon Duhaime, in the midst of a strong game and especially a strong third period, went to the box for tripping right after getting boarded from behind by Sergachev (which surprisingly earned no call), giving Tampa a late opportunity to equalize. But despite some good zone time and puck movement, the Wild denied the Lightning and earned the kill.
Tampa Bay would pull Vasilefski with over three minutes left, but despite lots of good looks, the Wild seemed to get bodies in front of every attempt the Lightning could get on Talbot. Minnesota had their own chances, as both Greenway and Dumba took hail-mary looks at the empty Tampa net, but missed the net and incurring icing calls.
With under a minute to go, it looked like the Lightning’s pressure was going to result in another tie game, but Talbot was up to the task. After the clear, Greenway lit up Ondrej Palat in the neutral zone, and the puck found Foligno’s stick, who sent it from mid-ice and this time found the net to put the game on ice, 4-2.
With the win, Minnesota stretched their division lead over the idle St. Louis Blues to four points. The Wild will look to continue their winning ways by earning their fourth victory in a row against the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.
Another multi-point game for Kaprizov?
Alas, Kaprizov had only a single primary assist, though it came at a critical opportunity as it was his pass that set up Hartman’s game winner. Without his dynamic linemate Mats Zucarello - who was scratched as a game-time decision due to a hand injury suffered against the Winnipeg Jets last Friday, Kaprizov’s new-look like of Dolla Bill, Hartman and Rem Pitlick found some success with an expected goals for percentage at five-on-five of 50.85%, but nowhere near as dominant as the Wild’s other scoring lines - Fiala/Gaudreau/Rask finished at 85.81% and Foligno/Eriksson Ek/Greenway had 80.94%.
With a matchup with Arizona looming on the horizon - a team that currently owns the league’s worst goal differential of -38 - Kaprizov should have a golden opportunity to get back on the multi-point train.
Will they shut down what’s left of the Lighting’s star forwards?
For the most part, they did manage to stifle the Lightning’s biggest remaining goal producers, with Killorn the only top-five goal scorer to find the net. Tampa’s leading points earner Steven Stamkos did have the only assist on Killorn’s goal, but shutting down Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat (not to mention handing star defenseman Victor Hedman a minus-four for the game) helped the Wild prevent the Lightning from holding a lead at any point of the game.
They did allow ancient relic Corey Perry to score only his second goal of the season, so you can’t win ‘em all, I suppose.
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