There were a lot of storylines going into Saturday’s matinee event against the New Jersey Devils. The Wild were still searching for their first win since the bye week, going 0-2-2 during that span. Head coach Bruce Boudreau coached his 900th career game, owning the best win percentage amongst active head coaches in the NHL. Wild forward Mikael Granlund started the game back in his natural position, centering Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. And finally, my personal favorite, Devils goaltender Cory Schneider came into this afternoon’s game not having a win since the year 2017 and none in the the past 22 starts.
So many storylines, but all ending in a good result for the Minnesota Wild. Cory Schneider is still searching for a win as the Wild pushed past the Devils, winning 4-2 at the Prudential Center.
It didn’t start that great for the Minnesota Wild as New Jersey struck first as Brett Seney carried the puck through the neutral zone and into Wild’s defensive zone ripping one over the shoulder of Devan Dubnyk. The lone assist went to defenseman Will Butcher as Seney took advantage of a poor shift defensively by the Wild’s fourth line of Kyle Ran, Victor Rask, and Eric Fehr and without being touched scored his 5th goal of the year.
The third line of Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Luke Kunin followed the goal against up with a tremendous shift, resulting in a mad scrabble in front, leading to the puck being poked out to Wild defender Greg Pateryn at the blue line. Pateryn then fired a shot off the back boards and Marcus Foligno picked it up going around the net, backhanding it past a sliding Schneider to score his fifth of the year. The assists went to Pateryn and Kunin.
After the goal, the Wild followed it up by having a great shift by Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, and Charlie Coyle, creating a good chance for a Granlund slapshot near the left dot. It was from a sharp angle but the Devil’s net minder seemed to struggle making the save. The tides had seemed to be turned, as the Wild started to dominate play.
The first period came to a close as the Wild killed off the majority of a Nick Seeler holding call. The Devils had a great chance to go up a goal late however, as Pavel Zacha received a cross-ice one-timer with seconds remaining, but Dubnyk came up big to keep the Wild tied 1-1 going into intermission.
The Wild outshot the Devils 12-7 in the first period.
The Wild opened the second killing off the remaining seconds of a Nick Seeler holding penalty, then Ryan Suter quickly drew a holding penalty to put the Wild up a man. The ensuing Wild power-play failed to create a single shot on goal. The absence of Matt Dumba is still very noticeable. Which is getting very old in saying, if I might add. It’s been numerous games since Dumba has been out of the lineup and the Wild have yet to figure it out. Somethings got to give, right?!
After a great shift by the Staal line, commending the puck in the offensive zone for most of a shift, Greenway draws a penalty while being parked out front. Devil’s defenseman Ben Lovejoy the guilty party.
It seems to be something in the air in Jersey, because Zach Parise loves scoring goals at the Prudential Center. Keep in mind he is still fourth all time in franchise goals scored with 194. Parise scored on the ensuing power-play after Mikael Granlund won the draw to the sideboards where Jason Zucker edged off a Devils defender to get the puck to an open Ryan Suter at the point. Suter then let a long shot go from the blue line, getting redirected on its way to net by none other than Parise, scoring his team leading 22nd goal. The goal made it 448 career assists for the Suter, good enough for second among active NHL defenseman, trailing only Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith.
Following the goal, Foligno fought Kurtis Gabriel right after. A couple of punches thrown early by both parties, then the fight basically turned into a wrestling match.
Each team traded chances in the middle portion of the second period. Former first overall pick Nico Hischier missed on a breakaway. Anthony Bitetto pinched down at the offensive zone bluline and got burned. Hirschier was sent hail marry touchdown of a pass to send him in all alone on Dubnyk, but the Wild goaltender stood his ground and stopped the chance with a pad save. The Wild had a good chance as well, Zucker and Staal had a two on one that resulted in a failed pass over to Staal. A trailing Bitetto picked up the failed pass to Staal and got a shot away, but Schneider brushed the easy backhand aside.
After trading chances back and forth, the Wild finally broke through again, this time it was Joel Eriksson Ek’s turn to add his name to the goal sheet. Foligno sent a bank pass off the boards to defenseman Greg Pateryn who then fired a shot on goal. With both Eriksson Ek and Kunin parked in front of Schneider, a rebound popped out and Eriksson Ek who made no mistake in burying his second goal in just as many games since being recalled from Iowa following Mikko Koivu’s ACL injury. With an assist on the goal, Foligno achieved the glorious Gordie Howe hat trick. After two frames, the Wild were outshoot the Devils 23-13 and up by two goals for the first time in what feels like forever.
To start the third period, Bitetto drew a Kyle Palmieri holding call. The Wild power-play was already one for two against the Devils. The Wild had a great chance after a Granlund shot popped a rebound out for Staal who tried beating the Devils net minder glove side, but Schneider got just enough of it to keep it out of the net. Ultimately, the Wild failed to capitalize on what would be their final power-play of the afternoon.
Another bad shift by the fourth line and a line change quick line change, Jesper Bratt cut the Wild lead to one goal, starting from a Fehr turnover.
The 3rd line responded to the Bratt goal on their next shift. Foligno forced a turnover and Kunin picked up the puck a little bit outside the blue line, marched it in and let one rip for his second goal of the season and his second point of the afternoon. The Wild regained their two goal lead, now up 4-2. Since, being recalled 3 games prior, Kunin has 5 points.
The two-goal lead was enough to help the Wild earn their first victory since the bye week, beating the New Jersey Devils 4-2.
The Wild don’t get much of a break as they cross the Hudson River to play the New York Islanders tomorrow afternoon. The Islanders will be coming off a 4-3 win this afternoon against the Colorado Avalanche. Ryan Pulock led the way for the Islanders, notching two goals including the OT winner.