There’s nothing pretty about a penalty-marred game. That’s the way most would characterize Game 2 between the Vancouver Canucks and the Minnesota Wild. If the game plan was to avoid putting the Canucks on the power play, the Wild failed to execute that plan. Minnesota gave the Canucks just one power play in Game 1. It was late in the game and the Wild penalty kill rendered it meaningless. In Game 2, the Wild took eight total penalties that yielded seven power plays to the Canucks.
“I think we found ourselves on the wrong side, or got beat to the inside a little bit and as a result, we had to use our stick a little more than we like to,” Zach Parise said following the Wild’s 4-3 loss in Game 2.
Minnesota seemed off from the start. Tanner Pearson scored 24 seconds into the game, ruining any hopes for a shutout streak by Alex Stalock. The puck caromed off the glass toward the slot where Pearson made a great shot over the left shoulder of Stalock. It was the fastest goal the Minnesota Wild have surrendered in the franchise's postseason history. Minnesota responded well to the goal by applying pressure and having decent zone time. Except the two power plays and all the zone time didn't amount to any goals.
Additionally, it was clear Minnesota wasn’t going to get the benefit of the doubt on penalty calls like they did in Game 1. Jordan Greenway got penalized for a controversial roughing on Elias Pettersson in a goal-mouth scrum. It was a shoving match between the two players, but Greenway towers over Pettersson so Greenway was identified as the guilty party, and the Greenway penalty started a parade to the penalty box for the Wild.
When the final buzzer sounded, the teams combined for 13 power plays in the game. The Wild couldn’t get into any sort of groove at 5-on-5 because time at even strength was at a premium. The special teams battle got away from Minnesota.
“We’ve been watching all the games throughout the playoffs and they’re calling those penalties by the book. We allowed it to frustrate our team. We got to be smarter without the puck,” Parise added. “I think they’re calling it by the book. Which is fine, we just have to understand that.”
It played right into the hands of the Canucks. It allowed the big shooters of Vancouver to touch the puck with added space, and they took advantage. Pettersson and Bo Horvat combined for 11 shot attempts and eight shots on goal on the man advantage. Even though the Wild successfully killed off six of the seven penalties, the lone power play goal surrendered eventually became the difference. Horvat’s deflection of a Quinn Hughes shot put the Canucks up 4-1 at the time.
Kevin Fiala did his best to get the Wild all the way back with two goals in the final 2:29 of the game. Unfortunately, time ran out on the Wild’s effort. The Horvat goal was the only goal Minnesota couldn’t answer.
A strength in Game 1 was the Wild converting on the power play. Vancouver gave the Wild plenty of opportunities -- six in total, including a late third period man advantage with 7:34 to go. But it came up as fruitless as the previous five power plays.
“Our power play has got to be better,” Parise stated. “I think they did a good job standing up on us on our entries. When we did get in, we didn’t connect on that first pass to settle things down. I think that made a big difference in the momentum of the game when you’re not capitalizing on those chances. When you get that many opportunities, you got to at least gain some momentum off it.”
Evason will need to adjust for Game 3. The Wild get to dictate the match-ups for Games 3 and 4 as they will be considered the home team and thus get last change before faceoffs. He’ll also have to get his team re-focused on their discipline. Vancouver punched back in a big way in Game 2 to even the series. Minnesota is going to need to come up with a counter-punch.