For the Minnesota Wild to get a point in a game it looked like they had no business being in through the first 57 minutes, it should be considered quite the consolation. In a perfect world, the Wild go into Brdigestone Arena, a building they haven’t scored in all season, and they put together a good road game with both teams playing an even bout.
That wasn’t the case. Instead, after the Predators took a 1-0 lead just 2:51 into the game on a Roman Josi blast from the left point, they all but shut down the neutral zone and took any and all space away from Minnesota Wild forwards. The Wild only carried 11 shots through 40 minutes of play, and were hemmed into the defensive zone a lot. The power play was of no help is contributed to the offense, not to mention even swinging momentum an the Wild’s direction.
The game featured the debut of 2015 second round pick Jordan Greenway. He looked like a wide-eyed kid just trying to figure out what’s actually happening to him. With his mom, brother, and college coach in attendance, he was...just so-so. His presence on the ice is visible. The large white and green jersey with the red number 18 can’t be missed. He got a chance on the power play, and saw his game get a bit more comfortable as the game went on. But early, it wasn’t anything to write home to mom about. That said, let’s hive him a chance to find his niche and get a practice or two before pulling the plug on that experiment, eh?
The Preds lost three in a row entering the night’s game and Ryan Hartman was the guy looking to set the tone for his team. All night long he goaded the Wild into taking penalties, including usually disciplined Charlie Coyle and Daniel Winnik. The game had a playoff feel and while there certainly could have been more penalties for both teams called, the officials let the teams play, a lot like a playoff game. It was physical. There was emotion. And there was little space on the ice to work for either team.
This was exactly the game for Nick Seeler to show up. While getting a minus-1 ranking for the game, it certainly wasn’t his fault that Joel Eriksson Ek lost a defensive zone faceoff cleanly to Josi for a one-timer. Devan Dubnyk just didn’t make the save on the first shot he saw. However, the Eden Prairie kid was good at clearing the front of the net, and even wrestled Filip Forsberg to the ice as he stuck up for his netminder.
After that, though, Dubnyk was stellar. He stopped the next 28 shots including a gigantic save on Colton Sissons late in the third period to keep the score at 1-0. That first goal against was not one you want to see him give up, especially with Pekka Rinne making things look easy at the other end, but these are NHL players and Dubnyk more than made up for his shaky goal against with his play. The second period alone was more than enough. Minnesota could not mount any sort of real offense and were on the penalty kill four times. He gave his team a chance to win, and that’s really all you want from your goalie.
Dubnyk’s play allowed for late game heroics to happen. Mikael Granlund has been scuffling as of late and he even blew two rushes where the Wild finally had some speed and space into the Preds’ zone. However, with a nice play at the Nashville line to keep everyone on-side, he found Eric Staal sneaking behind everyone with a pass. Staal then squeaked the back-hander just between the toe and right post to score number 40 of the season. Staal has the 2nd best goal scoring season in Wild history, trailing Marian Gaborik’s mark of 42 from 2007-08.
Per Elias Sports Bureau, Staal joins Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey himself, as the only two players to score 40 goals in seasons spaced at least nine years apart. As so eloquently posted on Twitter, “Eric Staal is punching Father Time in the face.”
The Wild would force overtime and secure a point in the standings to stay three points ahead of the Blues, and four ahead of the Avalanche.
Minnesota’s schedule doesn’t get much easier as they’ll face the Stars in a home-and-home series. Wild need to win both games and the Avs to lose Flyers, Blackhawks, and Ducks if they want to clinch a berth by the weekend.
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