With the trade deadline only two days away, Minnesota squared up with Chicago for its second of nine in a row at home. With a troubling streak in their rearview mirror, Minnesota hoped to keep it there against an underperforming Blackhawks lineup. In their first three matchups of the season so far, Minnesota came out on top three times. With the sweep on the line, the Wild hoped to continue to put distance between the All-Star break slump that worried many, as well as prove to Bill Guerin that they are worth investing in for a Stanley Cup run.
The unusual starting time seemed to bleed into the first few minutes of the game. Both teams gave up great chances, including a Chicago 2-1 that was disrupted by a great stick from Brodin. Just under four minutes into the game, a Jordan Greenway trip put Chicago up a man. The terrible-of-late (worst in the league since early February) Minnesota kill would get a chance to build some positive momentum. Thanks to a great takeaway by Fiala and an amazing sprawling save by Talbot, Minnesota did something they have been unable to say as much as they’d like: kill a penalty. Soon after, former linemates Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane got tangled up and both received minor penalties.
That is a trade that Minnesota probably did not mind at all, especially considering how good Kane has been of late. On the ensuing 4-on-4, Foligno found Eriksson Ek for a breakaway. With back pressure making it difficult, Eriksson Ek was unable to execute. However, with some great cycles, Minnesota began to establish their game.
Chicago also had their fair share of chances, including this one, that reminded fans why Jonas Brodin is one of the best defensive defenseman in the NHL. There are very few players in the league that could stick with DeBrincat like that.
After a great shift by the third line, the BFF line broke the ice. A line rush led by Fiala found a trailing Gaudreau who was able to put a great snap shot behind Lankinen.
Almost immediately after, Minnesota was put on the man advantage after a Chicago penalty. The (also struggling) powerplay hopped on the ice looking to extend the lead to two. The first unit was able to generate some solid chances, including a redirection by Hartman that almost squeaked through Lankinen. However, neither unit was able to get one past the red line.
The beginning of the period was sloppy for Minnesota. There were several missed passes, defensive lapses, and passed up shots that handed chances to Chicago on a silver platter. As the period went on, Minnesota kept the same intensity but decreased the frequency of those mistakes. As a direct result, play began to be controlled more and more by them.
Minnesota picked up the second where they left off. However, Chicago tightened up their defense and Minnesota was less able to generate quality chances. Despite this, they controlled the puck very well and limited Chicago’s looks. The period was pretty dull until the final nine minutes. First, a Caleb Jones turnover in the slot gave Hartman a great chance, but he was unable to capitalize. Then, about a minute later, Fiala caught Kane with a stick up high and sent the team down a man. Once again, the Wild kill came up big and energy seemed to return to the game.
With everything going Minnesota’s way, Kaprizov was tripped off a faceoff and sent the Wild to the man advantage. Just has been all too familiar as of late, the powerplay could not convert and Chicago was still within one goal. With the momentum they gained from the penalty kill, Chicago came roaring back. Minnesota found themselves with several intense shifts in their own zone. Cam Talbot was forced to make a huge sprawling save on Jonathan Toews to keep the score even. As time expired on the period, Minnesota had to be kicking themselves for not growing their lead to two in the chances they had to do so.
Right off the opening faceoff of the third, Kaprizov flew down the ice for a great scoring chance. He had Lankinen beat, but could not find the open window in the net. Soon after, Tyson Jost had his best shift so far in a Wild jersey, showing some great offensive flashes. In pattern with the rest of the night, no goal resulted from the many chances generated in the shift.
Unlike the second, the third had plenty of chances for both teams. With just over 10 minutes left, Minnesota had to pay for not putting the game away earlier. After a rare defensive lapse by the GREEF line, Seth Jones was left too open at the point. With plenty of time and space, he walked down and put the puck past Talbot’s glove.
Immediately after, Fiala had a chance to return the lead to Minnesota but was denied by a glove. Minnesota seemed to have a little more fire after the Chicago goal. Zuccarello looked especially engaged, flying past deHaan to draw a holding penalty. Minnesota’s powerplay, 0/2 on its first two attempts, had a huge opportunity to make a difference. Despite not scoring, Minnesota responded shortly after their powerplay expired. After a hustle play by Kaprizov to retrieve a puck, Zuccarello found Hartman on the back door to return the lead to Minnesota.
Chicago pulled the goaltender for the extra man with two and a half minutes left. Dean responded by sending the fourth line out, a move that few coaches in the league would make. They did not disappoint, limiting Chicago to minimal offense. In the final minute, Chicago established the puck in the zone and began to make Wild fans sweat. With just under 10 seconds left, Greenway threw the puck into the empty net from very far in the defensive zone. The victory was sealed.
Aside from not being able to put Chicago away in the second period, Minnesota played a solid and structured game. After a very rough stretch, this team looks to have remembered what it needs to do every night to win.
How about that Dolla Bill Kirill?
Kaprizov was a force every time he stepped onto the ice. Tonight, aside from setting up the second goal with a great effort, Kaprizov’s biggest contribution was the fatigue he causes the entire team. Whether it is his great puck possession skills, his shiftiness in the neutral zone, or the fact that he is far from afraid to use his body, Kaprizov is a nightmare to have to play three periods against. While Chicago hung around on the scoreboard, they looked to have less gas than the Wild did all night.
Will Talbot force Guerin’s hand one way or another?
Today was clearly a statement performance for Cam Talbot. The Wild outshot Chicago, but Chicago didn’t have a shortage of chances that made Cam work. With the rumors of a trade deadline goalie being explored, Talbot knew that this one needed to be a top notch performance... and that he delivered.