The Minnesota Wild went from famine to feast. Thursday was a complete reversal after getting shut out earlier in the week, as the Wild pumped in a trio of goals before the halfway mark of the first period.
“I’ve been pretty hard vocally on them every day,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “That we haven’t had success.”
Maybe they got the message.
The offensive effort was part of a 6-4 victory for the Wild (3-3-2) over the New York Islanders (5-4-1) at Xcel Energy Center. These two teams have traditionally played some tight hockey with a lot of one-goal games. But lately, it’s been goal fests. The winning team of each of the last three games between the Islanders and Wild has scored six goals.
The Wild got the job done with six goal scorers –- including a couple first-timers -– 10 players scoring points and lots of energy. It wouldn’t have taken much to beat the effort from last game.
Marcus Foligno got the scoring started for the Wild early in the first period with a diving effort. A little more than a minute later, Jason Zucker got a great feed from Mikael Granlund for a 2-0 lead. The Wild led shots-on-goal 10-0 at one point early.
Not only did the Wild score goals at even strength, they also scored a pair of short-handed goals, their first ones of the season. The Islanders’ abysmal power play didn’t get any better as they’ve now surrendered five short-handed goals to opponents.
Eric Staal scored the first one, on a breakaway after Nick Leddy couldn’t control the puck at the blue line in the first period. Staal scampered down the ice for a pretty goal beating the netminder on the stick side. The Wild took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Luke Kunin scored the other short-handed goal at 7:17 of the second period for a 4-1 lead. He was all smiles, but mostly because it was his first NHL tally. It was a 2-on-1 situation with Staal passing it over.
“It felt awesome,” Kunin said. “I’ve dreamed about scoring in the NHL, and it was great to get the win.”
Earlier in the game, Kunin unselfishly dished the puck to Staal for a scoring chance.
Kunin had to share the spotlight with one of his teammates though. Zack Mitchell also scored his first NHL goal. Unfortunately for Mitchell, it wasn’t quite the highlight-reel variety that players dream about and like the one Kunin had the chance to score. Mitchell took a shot crashing the net and put in the rebound in between the post and the goalie’s legs. He said after the game that he didn’t even see the puck go in.
“It just happened to go in, and I was pretty happy,” Mitchell said.
Daniel Winnik earned his first assist of the season on the play.
Mitchell, 24, was called up again from Iowa for his fourth Wild game this year, coming in with one assist. He scored a goal in his 15th NHL game.
Jonas Brodin also got on the scoreboard for the first time this season with a goal off a faceoff late in the third. His shot from the point deflected off an Islanders defender. That gave the Wild a half-dozen goals, a season-high.
It may get overlooked with the great play of the Wild offensively, but they also gave up at least four goals in a game for the fifth time in eight games this season. A couple came near the end of the period. Leddy scored with 1:29 left in the second period to cut the Wild lead to 4-2. Mathew Barzal crashed the net and scored with less than four ticks left in the game. The game never seemed in jeopardy for the Wild, though Boudreau said postgame he was worried about the Islanders coming back, since they’ve done that before.
Devan Dubnyk (2-3-1) with 29 saves. Thomas Greiss (2-1-1) with 27 saves.
Goaltender interference came up again. The Wild had a goal disallowed with three minutes left in the first period when Chris Stewart appeared to score a wrap-around goal for the Wild’s fourth of the game. But a New York player was pushed into the goaltender earlier in the sequence. The Islanders challenged and the call was overturned. The play seemed like an obvious goaltender interference, but it could be argued that the referee should have called a penalty right away instead of letting play continue.
Boudreau did not seem pleased, in a tongue-in-cheek way.
“I just said something to the effect that ‘it was 6 seconds later,’” Boudreau said. “Any goalie should be able to recoup in 6 seconds.”
Staal and Foligno each tallied a goal and assist. Jared Spurgeon recorded two assists.
Neither team scored on the power play. The Islanders went 0-for-5 (2-for-33 on the season) and the Wild went 0-for-3 (6-for-25 on the season). The Wild’s penalty kill at home is 11-for-11.
The Islanders have a few Minnesota connections. Edina’s Anders Lee scored the third goal for the Islanders in the third period, with the first assist to Leddy, from Eden Prairie. Warroad’s Brock Nelson was minus-1 and didn’t register on the scoresheet.
The loss for the Islanders snapped their three-game winning streak. They’ve won four of their last six games.
The homestand continues as the Wild host the two-time Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday night. Wild forward Matt Cullen was part of both recent Cup teams with the Penguins.
Listen to Heather Every Week on the Cold Omaha Staff Pod!
Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.