With a new voice behind the bench, a new era in Wild hockey has commenced with a road game in Vancouver to start a three-game swing through western Canada. Minnesota was led by Zach Parise and a number of kids that look to have been liberated by the new coach. It was the first time in a LOOONG that the Wild celebrated a win. With a 5-2 score behind goals from Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Fontaine, Charlie Coyle , and Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota beat the Canucks in Vancouver to gain a very much needed couple points in the standings.
Minnesota jumped out of the locker room with the new coach bump. Looking aggressive and throwing anything and everything on net. With a 10-2 shot advantage through the first ten minutes of the game, Jacob Markstrom had to be sharp in net early and often. That was until Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise forced a turnover at the Vancouver blue line and Parise beat the netminder over the shoulder with a slapper from the left circle. Minnesota looked like a completely different team from what we've seen since the calendar flipped to 2016. They were aggressive on the forecheck, limited any real chances for Vancouver, and shot the lights out.
But special teams has yet to be practiced with John Torchetti at the helm.
A Ryan Carter tripping penalty gave the Canucks their first chance with the man-advantage. Christopher Tanev deflected a Henrik Sedin shot up and over the shoulder of Devan Dubnyk, who had not seen much action all period long. The Wild of recent memory would have wilted. It would have ceased all aggressiveness and would have allowed the Canucks to take back the game. But destined to prove something to the new coach, Ryan Suter found Erik Haula breaking out of the defensive zone. Haula then sent a rink-wide pass to Jared Spurgeon, who returned to the line up after missing three game to lower body injury. Spurgeon wound up for a slapper and ripped one over the head of Markstrom, just underneath the crossbar to regain the lead.
Erik Haula wasn't done impressing on the night. Just 2:12 into the second period, he found Justin Fontaine with a beautiful centering pass, and Fontaine extended the lead to two goals. Haula showed off his speed and great vision on his two assists. Centering more skilled guys like Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville will help raise an offensive game too.
It got hairy again, though, when Henrik Sedin scored on the power play. The PK wasn't good and the fact that it was the only offense for the Canucks on Monday night, staying out of the box would be ever more important. Except, with the game now hanging in the balance with just a one goal lead, Jason Zucker took a penalty after getting sprung for his second breakaway chance of the period. Minnesota was able to kill the first 1:14 before Bo Horvat's hooking penalty negated the rest of the Canuck power play. After the Zucker penalty expired, Charlie Coyle got a benevolent bounce off the Canucks' defender for a power play goal.
Minnesota needed to protect the two goal lead into the third period. Daniel Sedin hit the post - the third such post connection in the game for Vancouver. Having just 12 shots on goal through 40 minutes, the Canucks exploded for 14 shots in the period, out-shooting the Wild 14-11 in the stanza. The best defensive forward in the NHL, Nino Niederreiter, was willing to sacrifice the body to protect his team's lead. With a blocked shot that clearly stung him, Niederreiter limped back up the ice to join the rush. Mikael Granlund decided to take the shot, rather than attempt a low percentage pass, and Nino got, not one, but two tries at the puck to give the Wild five goals.
Dubnyk was sharp the final minute and change as the Wild snapped an eight game losing streak and won for the first time since January 20th. Dubynk ends a 0-8-1 stretch, and Head Coach Torchetti earned his first victory as a coach of the Minnesota Wild.