After a long layoff -- seriously enough of these -- the Minnesota Wild were back at it at the United Center on Thursday night against the rival Chicago Blackhawks. It was a game the Wild needed to win, as they did not want to begin their season with three losses. The Wild did manage to squeak out the win, as they limped their way to a 5-2 victory with a real short bench at the end.
For a more typical game recap, check out Heather Rule's piece here.
But here we go. Let's find the 10 most impactful plays of this 5-2 Wild win.
First Period (yawn):
5:58 of the first period - Koivu boxes out Artem Anisimov
This play doesn't seem like much, but in a rather lifeless first period, this one stood out. How many times have we seen a play like this end up in the Wild net? Far too many. If Mikko Koivu doesn't box out Artem Anisimov here, this puck is getting put in the goal. If you watch Devan Dubnyk, he has no clue where the puck is. So if Koivu gets lost in space here, its 1-0 Chicago.
13:07 – Toews stopped by Dubnyk
The Wild had two giveaways in the seconds leading up to this shot. Charlie Coyle gave the puck away as the Wild were going through the neutral zone, then Mike Reilly coughed it up at his own blue line, which allowed this shot by Jonathan Toews. After watching Toews destroy the Wild last season, this seemed like a puck that was destined for the goal. However, Reilly was able to make a diving effort to get a stick on the shot, which disrupted it enough and it went right into the pads of Dubnyk. The Wild caught a huge break here to keep the game scoreless.
8:40 – Hawks somehow don’t score
At this point in the game, the Blackhawks had really picked up the pace. As they get a 3-on-2 break here off a Chris Stewart turnover in the neutral zone, they have Brandon Saad flying in with the puck. He opts to take it behind the net with the Wild defense reeling and gets a pass out front to Duncan Keith where Dubnyk makes the save. Richard Panik, standing on the back door untouched, gets the rebound but it is a bouncing puck. Panik connects with the puck and it goes up in the air, where Jared Spurgeon turns around and swats it out of mid-air behind the goal. This was one of many fine plays from Spurgeon on this night, as he no doubt was the Wild's best defenseman.
5:30 - Big save by Dubnyk
Again, I'm not sure how this stays out. Lance Bouma collects a rebound off a shot from Brent Seabrook and he gets Dubnyk sprawling. He puts a puck into his right pad, then gets his own rebound and fires it wide of the net. At this point in the game, Wild fans are probably thinking, "Just score and get it over with."
1:01 – Wild kill penalty
With the Wild killing off a bench minor for too many men on the ice -- which followed an extended shift where the Wild could not get their guys off the ice -- Chicago nearly scores with seconds remaining on a redirect by Toews. But amazingly, Toews misses again. Dubnyk makes one more save before the penalty expires and the puck gets cleared out of the zone. This was a big kill for the Wild, who needed to get into the dressing room badly.
0:35 – Staal goal
Stewart makes a long breakout pass up to Eric Staal at the Chicago blue line, and then Staal and Coyle have a give and go with each other for a huge Wild goal. If you watch the seconds before Stewart's breakout pass, Ryan Suter absolutely levels Brandon Saad in the defensive zone, which disrupts the play and allows the puck to float onto Stewart's stick. This was a crushing goal in the final minute of the period for Chicago, which had dominated the period.
19:26 – Spurgeon breaks up 2-on-1
Suter gets caught trying to break up the play at his own blue line, and it results in a 2-on-1 for Chicago with Toews and Saad as the pair. Toews saucers a pass in the direction of Saad, who has already scored five goals on this young season. Spurgeon was the lone player back for the Wild, and he is able to disrupt the pass out front and clear it back up the ice. If this pass gets to Saad, there's a fair chance this results in a goal, which would swing the momentum heavily to begin the period. It was a great play from Spurgeon, who again, had a terrific game on the blue line.
11:39 – Hartman scores
Oof. Gustav Olofsson and Kyle Quincey -- the Wild defensemen in this play -- are absolutely lost in space. Neither are where they need to be, and the Blackhawks capitalize as Ryan Hartman buries a rebound as he was standing on Dubnyk's doorstep untouched. This was not a good goal for the Wild to allow, as it evens the score at one.
9:28 – Stewart scores
Just over two minutes after the tying goal, the Wild -- who were now down to eight forwards in this game -- strike back, and the go-ahead goal was quite controversial. A bouncing puck in the Chicago end hops right over the stick of Seabrook, and Jason Zucker is able to get past him but not until the opposite blue line. It was reviewed whether Zucker was onside, but it was ruled that it was sent into the zone as a deflection off Seabrook's skate. Review aside, Zucker was able to fire over a pass to Stewart who buried it for his third goal of the season.
7:31 – Zucker scores
Solid puck movement by the Wild at the end of their power play results with Zucker getting the puck down low, and he banks one in off a sprawled out Crawford. This would go on to be the game-winning goal, and deservedly so for Zucker, who was the Wild's best forward in this game.
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