Make that two losses in as many games for the Minnesota Wild as they dropped a 4-2 decision tonight on the road to the Colorado Avalanche. Goals from Ryan Suter and Zach Parise weren’t enough as Devan Dubnyk, who did more than his fair share to earn a win tonight, denied 28 shots in defeat.
A slow start and an inability to stay out of the box is what ultimately crushed Minnesota this evening. The Avalanche are a team you can’t afford to hand opportunities or give ample time and space. Two goals against in the first 5:57 without a legitimate scoring chance going the other way, paired with six penalty kills, is a difficult combination to overcome in any game, let alone against this Colorado team. The Avalanche only converted once on the power play, but that’s still too much time to be down a man to a team that buzzes in the offensive zone like Colorado.
Not happy with his team’s performance on Thursday, head coach Bruce Boudreau tweaked a pair of forward lines and swapped out a blue liner. The decisions to move Zach Parise onto a line with Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway, move Ryan Donato onto a line with Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello and to sit Nick Seeler in favor of Carson Soucy didn’t produce much in terms of results despite pushing play a little better. Parise’s new line finished the game with a 59 expected goals-for percentage, but weren’t able to beat Philipp Grubauer at full strength. Donato’s presence did help Staal’s and Zuccarello’s numbers at 5-on-5 a bit, but a 34.14 expected goals-for percentage with zero goals isn’t going to get the job done. As for Soucy, he had five hits and blocked two shots in 13:02 in his season debut with a 54.98 expected goals-for percentage.
The game didn’t start off on the best foot for the Wild. Colorado lived in the Minnesota zone for the opening minutes of the contest, which led to the home team earning the game’s first power play after Zuccarello hooked Tyson Jost. On the ensuing power play, Mikko Rantanen walked through the trio of Kunin, Koivu and Jonas Brodin before he ripped one through traffic and past Dubnyk to open the scoring.
It took the Avs all of 1:27 to extend their lead to two, as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was given way too much time at the side of the net to fumble his way into possessing the puck before he wristed one across the goal line.
With his team being outshot 9-2 and down a pair of goals in a game that wasn’t even six minutes old, Boudreau utilized his timeout. The move seemed to work as the offensive pressure from the Avalanche lessened and gave the Wild a chance to finally produce an offensive cycle, which resulted in their first tally of the evening. Following a Kevin Fiala trip that caused Grubauer problems, the puck traveled to Suter at the point, who managed to blast one through bodies in front to make it a one-goal game halfway through the opening frame.
Halfway through the second period, Matt Dumba made up for his ill-advised neutral zone trip on Jost. With a nice move on the man advantage, Dumba rocketed a shot that glanced off of Parise’s hip and by Grubauer for a 2-2 game with 11:29 left in the second period.
It looked as though the teams would skate into the third period tied, but Gabriel Landeskog had other ideas.
Despite a flurry of chances from the line of Kunin-Parise-Greenway in the opening moments and near the 10-minute mark of the third period, Minnesota failed to find the equalizing goal in the final frame. Kevin Fiala’s one-timer off a cross-ice feed was robbed by Grubauer seconds before Ryan Graves flipped the puck down the ice and into the open net to finalize the score.
The Wild close out their season-opening three-game road trip on Thursday with a visit to the Winnipeg Jets.
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