Abstaining from cake, would Kaprizov be able to get his birthday wish of two points?
With Arizona winless in their last 10, plagued with injuries, and eliminated from playoff contention since before we can even remember, Tuesday night’s matchup was a must win for a Wild team (entering Tuesday with a 15-1-3 record since March 21st) looking to clinch home ice in their upcoming matchup against the streaking St. Louis Blues. By adding Greenway and Foligno to the lineup, Minnesota would field a closer version of the lineup they hope to start the postseason with come next week. However, they found themselves still missing critical pieces Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, and Mats Zuccarello. After a few great performances, Connor Dewar found himself in the press box. With Fleury between the pipes for the third straight game, Minnesota embarked on a matchup that seemed too good to be true.
After a dominant shift by the second line, Arizona took a slashing penalty four minutes into the opening frame. Minnesota was kept off the board in their initial attempt on the man advantage. Passed up shots, like the one below, were somewhat to blame.
Over halfway through the period, Minnesota jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Matt Boldy fired a perfect pass up ice to a hidden Ryan Hartman, who was then able to slip past an Arizona defenseman and score on the ensuing breakaway. With the goal, $1.7 million Ryan Hartman had his 34th of the year.
Just under the five minute mark, another dominant shift by a Wild star (this time Kaprizov’s line), resulted in another powerplay after a tired Coyote defender tripped Kaprizov. Just like the first attempt, Minnesota was blanked.
With 32 seconds left in the period, the Wild returned to the man advantage for the third time after Kevin Fiala’s skill simply overwhelmed the Arizona defense, forcing a penalty. The Wild’s skill just seemed to be too much for the Coyotes to handle. Despite almost scoring with a second left on a faceoff play, Minnesota entered the intermission with a minute and a half of powerplay remaining.
With the shots even, despite Minnesota having three powerplays to Arizona’s none, the Wild likely looked to clean it up against a much worse team for the remainder of the game.
After a poor 1:28, Minnesota fell to 0-3 on the powerplay. In the closing seconds, Foligno was almost able to finish a back door tap in from Gaudreau.
After a shift by the top line that almost resulted in Nick Bjugstad’s second goal in two games, Minnesota found themselves with one too many men on the ice and earned their first minor penalty of the night. After some great offensive time on the kill, Kevin Fiala shot the puck over the glass on an attempted clear and put the Wild down two men.
For 23 seconds, the Coyotes would have a 5-on-3. After killing the two man advantage, Minnesota had 97 seconds to kill. Continuing the trend of no powerplay goals, Arizona failed to capitalize.
Just minutes later, a dominant offensive shift resulted in Kevin Fiala’s third drawn penalty of the night. Time and time again, the Coyotes proved they could not defend the Wild’s top end skill. Once again, Minnesota was unable to convert. Too many passed up shots, plus a great effort from Arizona’s Vejmelka between the pipes, had completely neutralized the man advantage. While Arizona was getting some great goaltending, so was Minnesota.
With just under two minutes left, the Wild’s inability to put Arizona away caught up to them. A snapshot from Anton Stralman beat Fleury up high, removing the Wild lead. After a first period that saw Minnesota in the drivers seat, complacency cost the Wild their lead in the second. For a team with nothing to play for besides pride, Arizona outworked a Minnesota team that certainly had more to lose.
After a, bluntly put, boring first two periods, the third period got underway as Minnesota tried to earn two essential points. 20 seconds into the third, former Wild draft pick Jack McBain registered his first NHL goal on a high redirection from a point shot.
The goal seemed to wake a sleepy Wild team up, responding with a few good shifts of their own. However, it was quickly erased when Antione Roussel beat Fleury after getting around Minnesota’s defenders. After getting an early lead, Minnesota had allowed three straight and found themselves down two.
Just as they’ve done time and time again, Minnesota came roaring back. After establishing possession, Marcus Foligno found Eriksson Ek, who tucked the puck around behind the net and beat Vejmelka.
Just moments later, the GREEF line welcomed themselves back with another goal. Marcus Foligno tapped a puck past Vejmelka and returned the game to a tie.
The Wild kept rolling, drawing their fifth powerplay to give themselves a shot at the lead. Once again, the Wild failed to convert and generated very little. After some risks in the offensive zone, Ryan Hartman was forced to take a penalty on an odd man rush. On the ensuing penalty, Fleury was beat by a tipped shot from the point and Arizona reclaimed the lead.
Despite it possibly being offsides, the goal was upheld on review because of a lack of conclusive evidence.
On the powerplay that resulted from the failed challenge, Minnesota was able to reverse course and kill it off. With just under seven minutes left, the Wild would get their sixth attempt on the man advantage. With only five shots on five attempts, they were desperate to change the mojo. Somehow, they came up empty handed again.
With 2:31 left, Minnesota removed Fleury from the pipes for the extra attacker. After passing up some great shots for an extra pass, Phil Kessel found the empty net and sealed the embarrassing loss.
This was, simply put, a really bad loss. With two games left, it’s now less likely that Minnesota will have home ice against St. Louis.
Will the GREEF line pick up where they left off?
The GREEF line completely led Minnesota back into the game after having a mediocre first few periods. Their simplicity was rare from the Wild, who lost the game almost singlehandedly from their over-complication of offensive chances. While they did show signs of rust, they were big when it mattered.
Kevin Fiala, man.
Despite not registering a point, Fiala was a force to be reckoned with. He was an absolute penalty drawing machine, with Arizona being forced to break the rules to contain him multiple times.
At the same time, Fiala, along with the rest of the Wild’s best players, could not capitalize when it mattered on the man advantage, which was the major story of the contest.
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