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  • Recap: Wild steal win from Hurricanes in overtime


    On the night that he received special recognition for playing in 1000 games, of course it was Minnesota Wild defenseman Alex Goligoski who stole the extra point from the Carolina Hurricanes. It was like it was written before hand as the other star of the night, young centre Sam Steel who set up the well-travelled Goligoski for the Wild’s second, and final, goal of the game.

    Despite struggling to find his way into the line up, playing in only his sixth game of the season, Goligoski was recognized before the game for his durable tenure in the NHL, splitting time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars and the Arizona Coyotes over the course of 16 years. The 37 year-old has struggled to find the ice with the Wild this season through a combination of factors; health and the Wild being comfortable with their top four group of Jared Spurgeon, Calen Addison, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Throw in some heavy minutes for Jacob Middleton and Goligoski has often found himself on the outside looking in.

    But tonight was his night and he seemed determined to make the most of it, even if the Wild were not.

    It took the Wild over 12 minutes to register their first shot on goal, and while slow starts have been a running problem for them this season —they’ve allowed seven more goals then they’ve scored in the first frame— tonight it’s seemed especially egregious.

    Normally in a narrative like this, we would talk about how the Wild turned it all around, but they did not.

    After 20 minutes, and a goal from Sebastian Aho, all the Wild had was a 1-0 deficit, a solid start to the night from goaltender Filip Gustavsson and six shots on goal. Whatever was ailing them had to be corrected in the second and they had to get more pucks on net.

    It wasn’t.

    Midway through the second and it looked like the Wild may not even manage to get to 10 total shots through two periods.

    While could see the silver lining that the Wild were at least not allowing the Hurricanes to score, perhaps the true value was that newly anointed first line centre, Sam Steel, was beginning to show some chemistry with linemates Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello.

    Once Steel got his feet under him, and the Wild offence came alive in the second half of the game, the chances started coming for the top unit. While Kaprizov was doing double-duty, topping over 23 minutes of total time on ice, his line carried the Wild with a 73 percent expected goals share and out chanced opponents at even strength with a 15-7 shot attempts edge.

    The Wild have been struggling to find some lineup balance. It’s either too too heavy or too soft in the middle or too inconsistent. The lack of health for the alarmingly-consistent GREEF line of Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno has hurt. So has the departure of Kevin Fiala, who essentially put up over a point per game last season while playing on the third line.

    But if the Wild can begin to see one of their gambles on offensively intriguing forwards pay off in Sam Steel —seeing as the Tyson Jost experiment has already failed— it would ease the burden on the top players and potentially let the other lineup chips fall into place.

    This was a largely uneventful game, but with nearly two and a half minutes remaining in the game, Steel tied if for the Wild and breathed new life into the team.

    To cap off a truly wonderful night for Steel, he sets up the games special boy, Alex Goligoski for the game winner in overtime. A storybook ending.

    The Wild have certainly been lacking something this year that was so prevalent for them last season.

    Maybe it is swagger. Maybe it is grit, determination or a “screw you” attitude. Maybe it is magic.

    It felt like it was back for just a moment tonight.

    Burning Answers

    I hate to tell you this, but Nic Petan is not good. Knowing this and that he isn’t some maligned player that can’t get a shot, will he be noticeable in a good way tonight?

    The bar was low for Nic —all he had to be was better than Jost had been this season— and he cleared it.

    His line with Matt Boldy, and Frederick Gaudreau was statistically the Wild’s best tonight, with an 83 percent expected goals share according to Natural Stat Trick. They only managed three shots on net, and they didn’t have any golden chances to score, but neither did most of the team.

    Petan is likely the odd man out when Greenway returns in the next few games, but in the meantime he serves as a great support for Matt Boldy.

    Will that be extra ice time? Does Kirill Kaprizov go nuclear?

    I hate to tell you this, but Nic Petan is not good. Knowing this and that he isn’t some maligned player that can’t get a shot, will he be noticeable in a good way tonight?

    There is plenty of ice time to be had tonight, and Petan will be allowed to play. The Wild essentially cut bait with Tyson Jost, a former tenth-overall pick, just one year after trading for him and brought Petan in as his replacement.

    Do good things, Nic.

    Will that be extra ice time? Does Kirill Kaprizov go nuclear?

    23 minutes of ice time, holy hell.

    While it is actually the fifth time he has eclipsed that mark this season, it doesn’t make it any less impressive, especially because he didn’t look gassed at any point.

    His line with Steel and Zuccarello was the Wild’s most impactful and while all he managed was a measly assist on the game-tying goal, he was as good as ever.

    Just keep him away from Connor Dewar and Mason Shaw as that makeshift line —a result of the Wild running a forward short and seven defensemen— was by far the worst on the team in just over two and a half minutes of ice time. Five shot attempts against and only two for the unit, they also held the worst expected goals for percentage at 22.8 percent according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

    Will Filip Gustavsson keep building a case for more starts?

    20 for 21, perfect on the penalty kill and was a steadying presence for a team struggling to create literally any offense.

    When do we start the Gustavsson for Vezina campaigns.

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