The Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames faced off for the third time in 18 days Thursday night, wrapping up their three-game season series.
How did it go? Well, this sums up how the Wild’s Thursday night went:
Puck luck was not on the Wild’s side Thursday night. The hockey gods shouted down from the heavens, “YOU GET TO HIT A POST! YOU GET TO HIT A POST! EVERYONE GETS TO HIT A POST!”. Minnesota hit iron numerous times, fumbled pucks that typically would be corralled, missed nets and missed opportunities. Pucks seemed to be bouncing in Calgary’s favor all night.
The Wild failed to cash in on their grade-A chances all night and that was the same story that kept repeating each period.
The Flames struck fast and early. As the final seconds were inching down on an early Calgary power play, defenseman Noah Hanifin recognized he had a teammate open in the slot. Hanifin wound up and sent a slap-pass in the direction of an untouched Derek Ryan in the slot, creating a beautiful redirection, leaving Wild netminder Alex Stalock looking behind him.
Minnesota had a couple solid chances in the first, but ultimately didn’t have great puck luck and Cam Talbot continued his great play in net of late, stopping all 14 shots on net in the first period. The Wild hit a number of posts in the first frame — most notably Luke Kunin, who took a wrister after an offensive zone face-off win that beat Talbot, bud not the iron.
Defenseman Matt Dumba started his night strong in the first and it continued all night. He joined multiple rushes throughout the night and had a couple of grade-A chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Dumba is the definition of snake bit. He hasn’t scored a goal since November 12 and has fired two or fewer shots in 14 games since his last goal.
Not even a minute into the second, the Wild were able to turn their luck around in large part to a great play by Stalock. Using the puck skills he has often demonstrated throughout his time in a Wild uniform, Stalock ripped a pass from the goal line all the way down to Mats Zuccarello waiting on the far blue line. Stalock and Zuccarello made the Flames pay for a bad change as the Wild forward once deemed skated down broadway and finished the play off with an absolute rocket over the glove of Talbot.
The WIld’s luck seemed to end there for the middle frame as a ping-ponged puck took a couple of unfortunate bounces to end up on the stick of Johnny Gaudreau in the slot. One of the best in the world with a chance in the slot. Not exactly an ideal situation! Off a broken play and what seemed to be a possession that would turn to be nothing on a 3-on-3, the Flames took a 2-1 lead. Sean Monahan sent a pass toward Gaudreau, looking to thread the needle on what for certain seemed to be a broken up pass, actually ended up in the skates of the driving Flames forward. From there a quick kick to his stick and an even quicker release gave Johnny Hockey his 12th of the season. The goal is only his second in the previous 10 contests.
The third period was much of the same story. Missed chances, missed opportunities and puck luck seemed to be in Calgary’s favor. Grade-A chances were piled up in the third period, but nothing could find it’s way over the goal line.
Eric Staal hit a post after beating Talbot through the five hole. Zuccarello missed a tic-tac-toe wide open net. Kevin Fiala missed a beautiful opportunity in the slot with less than two minutes left in regulation.
The final score ended just as the score read in the second period. Calgary beat Minnesota with a heartbreaking final of 2-1. The Flames won the season series, beating the Wild in the final two games of the series.
This was a frustrating loss for the Wild no doubt. Minnesota finished with 42 shots, but only one wound up getting past Cam Talbot.
Answers To Our Burning Questions
1. Will Marcus Foligno continue to produce offensively?
Sadly, no. Everyone loves to see the glue guys produce offensively. Foligno ended the night with 0 goals, 0 assists, a minus one, one shot and two hits in 15 minutes and 27 seconds of ice time.
But hey, he’s still got three goals in three games, right?
2. Can Minnesota contain Calgary’s blue line?
Yes. The Flames defenseman accounted for a primary assist and a secondary assist on the night. They produced a little bit, but no goals scored for the back end of the Flames lineup, unlike the last outing.
3. Will the league’s 25th-ranked penalty kill finally turn the corner?
No. No. No. What was the league’s 25th-ranked penalty kill has now become the 26th worst. The Calgary Flames were one for two on the man advantage and the lone goal given up by the Wild’s penalty kill ended up being a difference maker in a 2-1 hockey game. The penalty kill took the pedal off the gas in the final 20 seconds of a penalty and it cost the team in the end.
4. How will three days of rest look on the Wild?
The team looked good for the most part. The only problem was they could not find the back of the net. Some players looked ready to go right off the hop. Alex Stalock was tremendous in net for the Wild and you could tell from puck drop, he had some mojo to his game on Thursday night. Jordan Greenway and Matt Dumba also had solid nights respectively. Greenway was using his body and creating chances with his large frame. Dumba was everywhere all night. He jumped up in the rush too many times most lost count. He finished the night with 6 shots, a feat he had not hit this season. On the flip side, some players had rough nights. In particular, Zach Parise. For a guy who hasn’t scored a goal in nine games, you’d think he’d have a little pep in his step. Nope. He came out flat footed, fumbled pucks, missed passes and turned the puck over. A full three days of rest was maybe a little too much for number 11.
Minnesota is back at it on Sunday as they are set to square off against the Vancouver Canucks at the Xcel Energy Center, starting at 3:00 p.m. CT.