For the first time in about two weeks and just the sixth time all season, the Wild played a game in St. Paul! After finishing up a west coast road trip, the Coyotes came to Minnesota five days after the Wild had beaten them in Arizona 4-3. Thursday night was Military Appreciation Night at the Wild game, and everyone here at Hockey Wilderness would like to join the Wild in extending a great thank you to all of the service men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
The Wild needed a good start to this game, and they absolutely had one. The vast majority of the first period was spent with the Wild in the offensive zone. The only time the Wild did not have a prolonged period of attack was during an Arizona power play that was successfully killed off. They had plenty of good scoring opportunities, but were unable to find the back of the net until Kevin Fiala finally buried a goal with about five minutes to go in the opening period.
It was Fiala’s fourth goal on the season — all of those coming in his last six games. After picking up just one point, an assist, in his first eight games, he has six points in his last six games.
After Fiala’s goal, the Wild were outshooting the Coyotes 16-5, and by the end of the period it was 20-8. Those 20 shots were the most the Wild have had in any one period this season. It even represented more shots than they had in the entire game (17) in their October 17 game against the Montreal Canadiens. The Wild needed a strong start to this game, and the only way their start Thursday night could have been better would have been if more of those 20 shots found the back of the net.
The Wild had an early power play in the second period, but they were not able to take advantage. Shortly after the period expired, the Coyotes took advantage of a poor clearing attempt by Devan Dubnyk and tied the game at one goal apiece.
This was simply a bad play by Dubnyk. He essentially passes it right to Nick Schmaltz, who feeds Conor Garland for the easy goal. Might as well give him an assist for it. It has been talked a lot this season, but how the Wild respond to goals this year has been critical. Their response to this goal would be no exception. After dominating the first period (yet only being up 1-0), and then having a bad mistake lead to a tie game, it would be easy to have a complete meltdown. Fortunately for Minnesota, that didn’t happen! The Wild brought offensive pressure and nearly responded with a fast goal.
The remainder of the second period was fairly uneventful. Both teams exchanged scoring chances, shots were fairly even (9-8 Minnesota) and both teams stayed out of the box. The Wild calmed down nicely after a bad play let the Coyotes tie the game, and the score remained tied 1-1 at the end of the second.
The first few minutes of the final third picked up where the second period left off. Both teams had some opportunities, and the Wild killed off a penalty. Just a few minutes into the period, the Coyotes took their third penalty of the game as Oliver Ekman-Larsson went off for interference. The Wild were able to pick up their first power-play goal of the night when Zach Parise found the back of the net just ten seconds into the penalty. It was Parise’s fifth goal of the season.
The lead would not last, however, as just about two minutes later Lawson Crouse was able to squeeze a puck past Dubnyk to make it 2-2. That is where the score would remain for about five more minutes until Jonas Brodin blasted a puck toward the net.
The puck bounced off of a Coyote defender and then off of Jordan Greenway before finding its way to the back of the net. It was Greenway’s goal, his first of the season. Sometimes it is a deflection like that that gets a player going. Hopefully Greenway can be the latest Wild forward to break out of a goal-less streak.
As the game got down to the final minutes, Jason Zucker accidentally put a puck in the seats. The Coyotes went on the power play down a goal with just over five minutes left, but the Wild were able to kill off the advantage. After the penalty expired, Arizona still had about three minutes to try to find one more goal. Most of that time was spent in front of the Wild net, but they were able to keep the puck out. The Coyotes outshot the Wild 13-5 in the final period, but that was not enough for them to tie it up.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can the Wild score first?
Yes! In fact, the first period really could not have been much better. In addition to striking first, they had 20 shots and played the vast majority of the period in front of the Coyotes net. The only time the Coyotes had extended zone time was during their one power play opportunity, but nothing came of that.
2. Will the fire remain from the last Yotes/Wild meeting? And will they use it?
Not really. Maybe it was because old friend Darcy Kuemper was not back in net, but the animosity that was present between these two teams last Saturday was not present tonight. There was occasionally some extra pushing and shoving, but a lot of that came toward the end of the game when the Coyotes were starting to get frustrated as time started to tick down.
3. Will the fans yell “Dooooooob”, or “boooooooo”?
Any booing of Dubnyk after the first goal would have been understandable. That goal, as mentioned above, was entirely on him. Overall, though, he played a fine game. He stopped 27 out of 29 shots, giving him a .931 save percentage. He was good enough for the Wild to win this game. Not much else matters beside that.
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