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  • Wild 5, Blue Jackets 4: Mikko Koivu scores twice to lift Minnesota over Columbus


    Just a couple days ago, long-time Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu had to decide whether or not to waive his no-movement clause. On Saturday, the franchise’s longest tenured captain decided to not waive his clause and finish out the remaining 23 games in the uniform he has worn throughout his entire professional career.

    On Tuesday night, a day after the NHL trade deadline, Wild fans were treated to an outstanding performance from the CapFinn. I know, that nickname is cheesy as hell, but it had to be said at least one more time down the stretch. The CapFinn scored two goals on Tuesday night, earning his first two-goal game since January 5, 2017 and first one at home since December 28, 2015.

    Thanks largely in part to Koivu’s two goals in the second period, the Wild defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets by a final of 5-4. Minnesota dominated Columbus most of the night in just about every facet of the game. The Wild started the game with little extra “pep in their step” and found a way to take advantage of a team that played not even 24 hours earlier in Columbus.

    The scoring started early as Eric Staal had a little help from a Columbus defenseman to earn the goal of the hockey game. After not scoring in his previous 11 games, Staal grabbed a cycle off the wall from Kevin Fiala and proceeded to wrap the puck around the net on his forehand. On the wraparound, the Wild forward benefitted from a Columbus defenseman planted out front, redirecting his wrap around off Columbus’ Scott Harrington’s skate and in.

    A little later in the game, Marcus Foligno’s older brother, Nick, tied things up at one a piece for the Blue Jackets following a funky bounce.

    Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist flipped the puck into the zone towards goaltender Alex Stalock, and the puck skipped up, taking a bad bounce. Stalock reacted with a quick blocker, but unfortunately it went right on the stick of Columbus captain Nick Foligno who scooted down the middle between the defensive pairing of Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon picking up the puck and roofing it top shelf t beat the Wild net minder’s blocker.

    Minnesota was able to recapture the lead and never looked back for the rest of the game.

    After a solid five minutes of crazy good pressure, Ryan Suter put a shot on net and then Ryan Donato picked up the garbage and buried it on the backhand with less than a minute remaining in the first period. With the goal, Donato picked up his 12th of the season, ranking him sixth on the team in goals scored. It is kinda crazy how the Massachusetts native is still producing in a limited role.

    Greg Pateryn got the secondary assist on the Donato goal, picking up his first point of the season. Tuesday night was Pateryn’s 13th game back from injury.

    The fourth line continued to score into the second period, collecting the period’s first two goals as a unit.

    The fourth line of Donato, Koivu and Ryan Hartman connected again as Koivu scored his first goal since injury, November 9th. Yet again, a goal produced from a great forecheck for the Wild. Getting help from another Columbus defenseman parked in the slot, a pass from Hartman in the corner bounced off a skate and directly to Koivu, who made no mistake in slapping the puck past net minder Matiss Kivlenieks.

    Later in the period wouldn’t ya know, MIKKO FREAKING KOIVU scored another goal. The fourth line kept the pedal to metal forechecking like bats out of hell against Columbus, pushing their lead to three goals. The second of the night for the captain came a little after Donato had a fantastic chance in the slot and after the ensuing forecheck. In a very similar fashion to Donato’s goal, Koivu picked up a rebound in the slot and backhanded one past the glove of Kivlenieks.

    Things got shaky for the Minnesota Wild in the third with a couple of bad bounces going in the favor of the Columbus Blue Jackets. A comfortable 4-1 lead was squandered quickly to 4-3, making things interesting in the final frame.

    To open the third, Stalock misplayed a puck, and it cost the team a goal. It was an all around bad play with a couple of bad bounces going the other way. Emil Bemstrom scored his eighth of the year after Greg Pateryn fumbled the puck and Stalock missed the puck multiple times before the puck found its way in the back of the net.

    Just over a minute following the Bemstrom goal, Pierre-Luc Dubois notched his 18th of the year to put some heat on Minnesota early into the third. Just as the Columbus defense helped the Wild score some goals, Matt Dumba helped his opponent. The Wild defenseman blocked a shot and then fanned on clearing the puck, ending up backhanding the puck to Dubois for an open net accidentally.

    With things growing concerning in one end, Staal fed Fiala to give Minnesota a little insurance down the stretch. The Minnesota center made a nice saucer feed over to Fiala for a quick catch and release wrister, beating Kivlenieks to give the Wild a 5-3 lead with half a period remaining.

    Minnesota needed the insurance too. With a little over four minutes remaining, the NHL’s leader in goals scored by a defenseman took matters into his own hands, literally, and added to his scoring lead. With a nifty move going under the stick of Ryan Suter and quickly shooting, a move former Wild player Charlie Coyle attempted many times, Werenski scored a pretty goal for his 19th of the year and adding to the gap between him and the second highest goal-scoring defenseman at 15.

    Luckily, the insurance given by Fiala and Staal was just enough to squeak out of the third period with two points and a 5-4 win. For once, the Wild did not act as the Wild of late, allowing a lead to slip away late in the third. This time, Minnesota was able to hold on and win.

    Burning Questions

    1. Will Parise play with a chip on his shoulder after nearly being traded?

    Although Parise did not find his way on the scoresheet Tuesday night, he played very well. On a line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway, Parise helped by driving play and coming up with many chances during 5-on-5 play. The best chances coming late in the second period as Parise fired a one-timer on net that had a chance and then Eriksson Ek picking up the rebound and hitting the post. In one play, Parise had a chance for a goal or an assist. Unfortunately, he came up short and was denied. His goal drought continued and has now gone scoreless in the past six games.

    2. How will Mayhew perform in his first game with actual NHL linemates?

    Pretty dang good to say the least. Mayhew first shift resulted in the first goal of the game. The AHL’s leading scorer looked a lot more comfortable than in his recent stints with the big club. He got a lot more ice time playing on the first line of Staal, Fiala, and himself, playing 14 minutes and 24 seconds.

    Mayhew looked particularly good on the the Wild’s second power-play unit. He was placed in the slot on the power-play, in a similar role as Mark Scheifele has in Winnipeg, and actully opened up room for Dumba at the point. It was quite nice to see Dumba have quality chances because of a quality right-handed shot in the middle, making the penalty-killers decide between taking Dumba or Mayhew parked in the slot. This lead to Dumba ringing one off the post and Mayhew having a one-timer chance in the slot.

    3. Will Galchenyuk look comfortable at center?

    Pretty non-existent. The third line, centered by Galchenyuk played the game for the most part, unnoticeably. For what was noticeable was Galchenyuk seemed to be out of position in the defensive zone and neutral zones for much of the first two periods. His board play was awful and he did not not support his defenseman very well. In the face-off dot, Galchenyuk finished the game winning only 33% of his face-offs.

    After showing promising flashes in the previous couple of games in a Wild uniform as a winger, Galchenyuk returned to his ghost-like form centering the third line of Foligno, Mats Zuccarello and himself..

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