After being challenged by general manager Bill Guerin to compete for a playoff spot in the regular season’s homestretch, the Minnesota Wild certainly seemed up to the task. The Wild shut out the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, and it appeared the team was gearing up for a furious push.
And then Thursday night happened.
Following an encouraging first period, the Wild led the New York Rangers 2-1 thanks to goals from Ryan Donato and Jonas Brodin. Minnesota later kept the momentum going in the middle period when Jordan Greenway redirected a Brodin point shot past Alexandar Georgiev.
Unfortunately, that was the last goal the Wild scored all night. And it cost them.
The Rangers scored a pair of goals in the third period to tie the game. The first was a fluky goal from Pavel Buchnevich nearly 12 minutes into the period, and star Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad eventually scored the equalizer with Georgiev pulled with 1:06 remaining in regulation.
But those goals aren’t the ones that have people talking. It’s Artemi Panarin’s shootout goal that many will be arguing about — possibly for a while.
In the second round of the shootout, Panarin pulled off some slick moves to outwait Wild goaltender Alex Stalock and give his team the two-goal advantage in the miniature skills competition.
But that goal probably shouldn’t have counted.
As Panarin skated parallel to the goal line, it appeared he handled the puck away from Minnesota’s net, which, according to NHL Rule 24.4, is not allowed.
Following review, however, the officials deemed Panarin’s score legal.
Here’s the NHL’s explanation on the officials’ ruling:
Wild forward Zach Parise needed to score on his attempt to keep the shootout going, but his shot ring off the pipe and crossbar.
There’s no doubt that this loss is frustrating. Many will (understandably!) blame the officiating for Minnesota’s loss, but, frankly, the game probably shouldn’t have even made it beyond regulation in the first place. With a 3-1 lead over halfway through the third period (and a couple late power plays), the Wild allowed a pair of unanswered goals and were unable to finish on any of their quality scoring chances in the five-minute 3-on-3 OT session. It also doesn’t help that after recording 11 shots on net in the first period, the Wild managed only 12 shots in the game’s final 40 minutes.
All in all, the Wild didn’t play like a team hungry for the postseason Thursday night. They did get a point, but they also allowed the Rangers to take the game over in the final frame, and the Blueshirts didn’t hesitate to take advantage.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Will Galchenyuk look more comfortable in his second game with the Wild?
Alex Galchenyuk was once again unnoticeable in 13:44 of ice time. It was only his second game as a member of the Wild, so there’s no reason to panic. Still, it would have been nice to see him generate a little more offense.
2. Can the Wild slow down the Rangers’ power play?
Yes, though the Wild penalty kill wasn’t tested very often — the Rangers saw only one attempt on the power play Thursday night. Still, it was an impressive kill for Minnesota’s PK against one of the better power plays in the NHL.
3. Will Stalock keep the momentum going?
For the most part, yes. Stalock made some big saves to put the Wild in position to win. Two of his goals against were completely unavoidable — one was directed in off the skate of Mikko Koivu and the other was a perfectly executed deflection by Mika Zibanejad. Not much he could have done on either of those goals.