Following a 7-1 win over the lowly Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night, the Minnesota Wild came into Columbus on Friday looking to keep up their good play of late and hopefully gain some ground in a very tight Western Conference playoff race.
While Minnesota has not had to deal with too many injuries as of late, the same cannot be said for the Blue Jackets, who is still missing several key players like Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Alexandre Texier and Josh Anderson. This has certainly proved difficult to overcome for them, as before Friday night’s game they only had one win in their previous 10 games. With every game extremely important for Minnesota, they had a good chance to take advantage of a shorthanded Blue Jackets team and grab a big two points on Friday night.
The game started out very well for Minnesota, as they were getting good pressure in the offensive zone and were rewarded just past the five-minute mark as Jordan Greenway did a great job to power his way into the offensive zone and feed Joel Erikkson Ek, who ripped a shot by Joonas Korpisalo to make it 1-0.
It didn’t take long for Minnesota to score again. As the Wild came in on an odd-man rush, Kevin Fiala dropped a pass to Jared Spurgeon, who put a wrist shot past Korpisalo and into the back of the net to extend Minnesota’s lead to 2-0.
Following the Spurgeon goal, the Blue Jackets started to show some signs and life and nearly cut the lead in half off of a bad turnover by Matt Dumba, but Zach Parise did a nice job to get in front of the net and the puck bounced wide, preserving Minnesota’s two-goal lead.
Minnesota would then come very close to making it 3-0, as Jonas Brodin made a great pass across to Parise at the side of the net, but he could not fully control the puck and just barely missed extending Minnesota’s lead.
Aside from a good penalty kill by Minnesota, not much else happened in the last six or so minutes of the first period, and the game went into the intermission with the Wild leading 2-0.
The second period started out pretty even, with a couple of good scoring chances for both teams as the pace of play picked up.
The line of Mikko Koivu, Ryan Donato and Ryan Hartman has been very good as of late, and they continued in the second period as Minnesota would expand their lead to 3-0 just past the halfway point of the second period. Koivu set up a perfect pass for Ryan Hartman who tapped it into the net for his ninth goal of the season, making it 3-0 for the Wild.
Just a couple of minutes later, Jordan Greenway made a nice play to find Zach Parise all alone in front of the net, and he scored to break his goal drought and give the Wild a 4-0 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the middle period.
Like the opening stanza, the last few minutes of the second period went by with Minnesota doing a very good job at preventing the Blue Jackets from getting set in the offensive zone, and the teams went into the second intermission with the Wild leading by a score of 4-0.
The Wild were again very good to start the third period. However, there were a couple of defensive breakdowns, including one which resulted in a shorthanded breakaway. Stalock was there to make the saves when needed, though.
Minnesota would get another power play just past the 10-minute mark of the third, and Kevin Fiala continued his great play and put home a rebound for his 19th goal of the season, stretching the Wild’s lead to 5-0 in the third period.
Overall, it was a very good all-around effort on Minnesota’s part. They scored several times, defended well and even got a few good saves from Alex Stalock. With the win, the Wild move to within a point of a playoff spot, and will look to continue their great play against a tough Washington Capitals team in St.Paul on Sunday night.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can Koivu keep the hot streak going?
Mikko Koivu was once again very good. Not only did he have a nice assist on Ryan Hartman’s goal, but he was once again very good in the defensive zone, and was always hard in on the forecheck. A weight seems to have been lifted off of his shoulders with the trade deadline passed, and Koivu seems very motivated to do whatever he can to help his team into the playoffs, which is a fantastic sign for Minnesota.
2. Will Dubnyk give the Wild a chance to win?
He did not, obviously. Although, Alex Stalock had another very solid performance in his third consecutive start for Minnesota, notching his fourth shutout of the season. =
3. Will the Wild show fatigue in the second half of their back-to-back?
The Wild showed no fatigue in this game. In fact, it seemed like the Blue Jackets were the more fatigued team in this game. Minnesota was playing at a fast pace from the start, and they never seemed to slow down at any point in the game, which you can see in the final score. Overall, it was a very impressive performance by the Wild in the second half of a back-to-back on the road.
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