The day after trading Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin made one thing very clear when meeting with the media on Tuesday — if any Wild players begin to quit on the season, more trades will be made.
So, how did the Wild respond Tuesday night against the Vegas Golden Knights? With a dominant 4-0 shutout on home ice in Alex Galchenyuk’s debut.
There’s no quit in this team just yet.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the win over Vegas was Minnesota’s play on the man advantage. The power play has improved drastically recently, but this was one of the best performances we’ve seen from Minnesota’s PP all season long.
Both of Minnesota’s first two goals came on the man advantage. Joel Eriksson Ek broke the ice early in the first period by following up on a blocked shot that caused Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to move out of position. Believe it or not, this was the first power-play goal of Eriksson Ek’s career.
A little later on, it was Jared Spurgeon getting on the board. Kevin Fiala found a loose puck in front of the Vegas net and fired it off of Fleury’s pads. But just in the nick of time, Spurgeon swooped in to clean up the rebound and double the Minnesota lead.
The power play didn’t let up after the first period, though. Zach Parise scored a power-play marker of his own late in the second period. Fiala fed Eric Staal on the goal line, and Staal sent a quick dish to Parise, who was stationed just above the goal crease. Parise didn’t get all of his shot, but it didn’t matter. The puck still found its way past Fleury to give Minnesota a comfortable lead going into the third period.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at this point, but Kevin Fiala had yet another standout performance. On top of his pair of power-play assists, Fiala scored a goal of his own around the midway point of the second period. It wasn’t as flashy as some of the other goals we’ve seen him score this season, but it gave the Wild a 3-0 lead and helped keep the momentum in Minnesota’s favor. Fiala now has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in his last five games, which is, um, quite good.
With this win, the Wild are now four points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Wild also have three games in hand on Arizona, which could be huge down the season’s homestretch.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. How does the team respond to the Zucker trade?
Pretty well! After one of the biggest trades in recent Minnesota Wild history, the team responded by scoring three power-play goals and completely shut down a deep Golden Knights squad. Bill Guerin made the importance of beating Vegas clear, and the team certainly didn’t disappoint.
2. Does Galchenyuk show anything in his debut?
Galchenyuk received just 12:26 of ice time Tuesday night, but that’s not abnormal for a player making their debut with a new team. His advanced statistics at 5-on-5 weren’t pretty (26.32 CF%, 17.76 xGF%), but it was actually Galchenyuk who got the first solid scoring chance of the night after one-timing a Mats Zuccarello feed on net.
Overall, it was an uneventful night for Galchenyuk. But that’s understandable considering he didn’t even land in Minnesota until Tuesday afternoon.
3. Can the Wild continue their success against Vegas?
Yes! The Wild are now 5-1-1 against Vegas in seven meetings since the Golden Knights entered the league. For whatever reason, the Wild just seem to have Vegas’ number. Let’s hope that continues on March 12 in their final tilt of the regular season.