Heading into the first night of a back-to-back and wanting to forget what happened in Vegas, the Minnesota Wild came out strong in their first meeting of the year with the Arizona Coyotes, scoring early and pulling away late in a 5-1 victory at the Gila River Arena in Phoenix. Marcus Foligno extended his scoring streak with a pair of assists, while Kirill Kaprizov added another pair of apples and Brad Hunt scored his first goal of the season with the eventual game-winner. Goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen earned his sixth win in a row, stopping all but one of the Coyotes 25 shots.
Having their recent prolific scoring shut down by the Golden Knights on Wednesday, the Wild took to the ice looking for a quick goal to set the tone, and last week’s NHL Third Star Mats Zuccarello was happy to oblige. Lizard got the scoring early on a feed from Kirill Kaprizov for a goal that looked way too easy, beating Annti Raanta to put the Wild up 1-0 just 4:27 in.
While Wild coach Dean Evason’s decision to move the red-hot Marcus Foligno up to the first line may have been the lineup change that got the most attention in the pregame, his choice to start Brad Hunt over Carson Soucy also paid immiediate dividends. The Wild defenseman scored his first goal in over a year on a glorified dump in from the far point that somehow found it’s way through Raanta. And like that, the Wild were up 2-0.
Kirill Kaprizov kept the good times rolling with an incredible shift, eventually finding Nick Bjugstad with an blind backhand pass from behind the net, where the Gopher alum just had to slide it into the yawning net for a 3-0 Wild lead.
Like, for real. Just give Kaprizov the Calder now.
In the second, Arizona came out strong, taking advantage of some long Wild shifts to earn some extended zone time. Kahkonen, however, was up to the task.
But the Wild could do no wrong. You’ve heard of puck luck, well Jordan Greenway had some stick luck as he lost his twig as the play left the Arizona zone. Behind the action grabbing a new one from the bench, he was in a perfect position for Foligno to find him on the breakway. Greenway did the rest, beating Raanta five-hole and extending the Wild lead to four.
Minnesota’s power play had a pair of back-to-back chances to finally get something going with the man advantage. And boy did it look like they’d finally cash in, spending nearly all of the first power play in the Coyotes’ zone. But the Wild power play continued its snakebit ways, going 0-for-4 for the game.
About five minutes into the third, Arizona spoiled Kahkonen’s shutout bid as Clayton Keller took a pass from Jordan Oesterle for a short-angle shot, sniping the corner above Kahkonen’s shoulder to cut the Wild lead to 4-1.
From there, the Wild went into run-out-the-clock mode, focusing on minimizing mistakes and shutting down the Arizona offense. With just over a minute left, a mistake by Oesterle gave Kevin Fiala the gift he’d been looking for and he took full advantage of it, fighting off two defenders and getting Raanta to commit so he could beat his blocker.
A 5-1 win was just what the Wild needed to get their offense rolling again as they showed that they belong in the playoff hunt against another team in the West who is vying for the fourth and final position. But Arizona won’t have to wait long for a chance at revenge, as the two teams will meet up in less than 24 hours for the second of their back-to-back series at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening.
Can Parise come out swinging?
Making his return after his one-game night off in the press box, Parise had a couple decent looks but wasn’t quite able to make the best of them. Though it looked for all the world that Fiala was on a mission to make it happen, as he tried to feed Parise multiple times.
Possession-wise, Parise had a decent game with the third highest CF% for Minnesota with 61.06% at five-on-five, but ranked in the bottom third on the team in expected goals. A decent effort, but not the one he or the team was hoping for if he was going to show a certain amount of rejuvination or motivation from his benching.
Will Marcus Foligno keep up his torrid pace?
Oh. Hells. Ya.
Moose extended his scoring streak to three games with a pair of assists. All told, he’s got five goals and ten points in his last seven games, including four multi-point efforts.
Don’t let the rest of the NHL know, but the Moose is loose.
Can they limit Connor Garland’s impact on the scoresheet?
Boy did they ever. Garland was pretty much invisible, finishing with zero shots, a minus-3 and a Corsi For percentage of 29.92, third-worst on the team. Garland also got baited into a retaliatory slashing penalty by Greenway, though the Wild were (of course) unable to convert.
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