Last night, the Minnesota Wild saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights. While there was significant focus on the officiating, the sluggish performance for a majority of the game did them no favors. Heading to Sin City, Minnesota looked to win big and return to their winning ways.
Both teams came out of the gates clearly ready to play. To Minnesota’s dismay, a stray Spurgeon skate tripped up a Golden Knight and the Wild found themselves down a man just over a minute into the contest. The kill continued its recent success on the road and the teams returned to even strength. The tables quickly turned as Mats Zuccarello upset Jonathan Marchessault and saw a punch come his way. Just like Vegas, the Wild were held scoreless on the advantage.
Shortly after the teams returned to even strength, Matt Dumba and Freddy Gaudreau both made errors that led to a turnover. Gaudreau took a very bad angle at supporting the puck and found himself in no position to read where a defender was going to be. Dumba then fired Gaudreau a pass with Stone closing in. With Gaudreau not anticipating pressure, he didn’t protect the puck. Stone quickly poked the puck away and took it towards the net. After a few crafty passes and a good release by Whitecloud, Vegas took a 1-0 lead.
As they’ve done all year, Minnesota refused to get buried, despite the ice being slanted the other way the whole night. A great hustle play by Brandon Duhaime during a delayed penalty led to a top of the circle snipe by Alex Goligoski.
The action packed period continued its ways. Matt Dumba, attempting to flip a puck to the neutral zone, committed his second delay of game penalty in two nights. On the ensuing man advantage, Dadonov returned Vegas their lead. Even with the high volume of goals, there could have been plenty more. Cam Talbot was forced to make several great saves, including a great breakaway save on Carrier.
Just like they did earlier in the period, the Wild refused to let the game get out of their grasp. After Kevin Fiala received a stick to the face, the Wild returned to the man advantage with less than a minute left in the period. After several seconds of chaos, including great plays from Spurgeon and Hartman, Zuccarello found the back of the net with only 0.6 seconds remaining. Despite getting outplayed, the Wild went into the locker room even after one.
Building off of their momentum, Nick Bjugstad picked a corner on Lehner and gave the Wild their first lead of the night.
Vegas almost returned the goal on the following shift, but a diving poke after a great Spurgeon backcheck kept the Wild lead. Before too long, Vegas returned fire. A blatant missed hooking call led to a Spurgeon turnover. For the second time of the night, Zach Whitecloud beat Talbot from the high slot and evened the game at three.
The tying goal seemed to be the shot that started the track meet. For the next several minutes, the teams exchanged quality chances. Minnesota, uncharacteristically, gave up a high volume of odd man rushes. With great saves from Talbot and some solid defensive plays.
Just as before, Vegas made Minnesota pay for irresponsible defense. After a huge hit from Ryan Hartman on the other side of the ice, Vegas advanced the puck and beat the Wild’s third pairing through the middle. The Wild once again found themselves on the wrong side of a lead.
After the goal, Ryan Hartman dropped the gloves and a scrum followed. By the end of it, Minnesota found themselves on man advantage. After a whistle on the power play, Pietrangelo speared Eriksson Ek in a very sensitive area, sending the Wild to a 5 on 3 advantage for significant time. Although they peppered Lehner, they were not able to capitalize. A dejected power play began to change, but Eriksson Ek remained on the ice. As he does better than any player in the NHL (he leads the league in penalties drawn), Eriksson Ek drew his second penalty in less than three minutes and sent Minnesota right back to the advantage. Their attempt at redemption was not successful and the teams returned to even strength. Vegas used the momentum from their kill to return to their surging offense. Zach Whitecloud almost completed his hat trick, but a great save from Talbot kept the Vegas lead to one.
Minnesota responded with some chances of their own but were unable to finish. As a result, the teams went into the locker room with Vegas carrying a one goal lead into the final frame.
Just like the start second, Minnesota pounced right away. A Spurgeon slapshot going very wide was essentially thrown into the net by Lehner, continuing a pretty underwhelming night by him. Marcus Foligno finished the goal.
Vegas did not back down. After Jordie Benn took a holding penalty, Mark Stone retook the lead. The track meet of the game continued.
A terrible night of reffing continued a minute later with a phantom trip being called on Goligoski. Luckily for them, they were able to kill it off and continue their hopes of evening the score. Minnesota got their sixth power play after Kaprizov was interfered with, but it was once again not successful. The Wild moved to 1/6 on the night.
With two and a half minutes left, Dean and his staff pulled Talbot and worked with the extra attacker. The Wild generated a few very good chances, including a Fiala crossbar that was consistent with his finishing woes so far this season. Ultimately, a Vegas empty net ended their chances of extending the game.
The game was a weird one. Minnesota was uncharacteristically risky and handed Vegas several chances on a silver platter. The penalty kill had a rough night against a unit that has struggled (albeit they’ve just gotten most of their talent back from injury). The Wild defensive core is clearly missing the stability, mobility, and defensive awareness Jonas Brodin brings to the table. Finally, Vegas saw contribution from their stars while the Wild top line was held to a weak one point. Fortunately, the depth scoring allowed Minnesota to remain close until the end.
Minnesota will return Tuesday night with the hope of getting back in the win column.
Will the Wild get more than two power play opportunities?
With six power plays and only one goal, the Wild had their chances to work a man up. On the other hand, they also took their fair share of penalties, some more apparent than others.
Can the offense bounce back as well?
With four goals, the offense was clearly there. As I mentioned earlier, most of the offense came from the bottom of the lineup. The top six (counting GREEF line as bottom six) had an inconsistent night. Kaprizov had several shifts where the cycle got established but also had several turnovers that lost momentum for the team.
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