The Minnesota Wild turned on the jets and were able to quickly get the better over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Going in, the outcome did not—and still doesn’t—hold much ground in the playoff race, as the Wild are sitting snug in the third spot in the West Division.
As of Sunday morning, they’re five points below the second-place Vegas Golden Knights and 12 points above the Arizona Coyotes who are battling it out with the St. Louis Blues to see who gets the honor of being shitkicked by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round.
Early in this one, the Sharks were able to get on the board by none other than Brent Burns. Of course it was the former Minnesota defenseman that gets it past Kahkonen and gives us the sinking feeling that we will see another loss at the hands of this weird San Jose team.
But shortly after, the Wild were able to go on a familiar scoring spree, scoring three goals in just 72 seconds.
Mats Zuccarello, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Zach Parise led the charge as the Wild just piled on every single scoring chance. Taking advantage of weak defense and mindless goaltending, Minnesota kept the pressure on and were able to overpower San Jose.
It’s been a trend this season; just keep the pressure on the opponent, and hopefully they will eventually break and let in multiple goals.
With a two-goal lead after 20 minutes, Kirill Kaprizov decided to get in on the Martin Jones action and scored just another beautiful goal just over a minute into the second frame.
I know we can get on and on about how good Kaprizov is. It’s everywhere. But this is just a whole other thing.
The play completely starts and ends with him. Keeping the puck in the zone, beating out the Sharks defender, and then four opponents start circling him, well, like, sharks—and he still has the awareness to quickly get a clean pass across the ice to Zuccarello. And of course Mats is going to slide such an easy pass to Fiala and Kaprizov, but luckily for us, the rookie was able to one-time it into the back of the net for his 17th goal of the season.
For the fifth and final goal for the Wild, newly acquainted fourth-line center Nico Sturm made it look so easy.
I am honestly in awe at the German forward. The calm glide around the netting and awareness to see how much Jones is cheating to his blocker side as Erik Karlsson tries to get his stick in the way. It was an impossible shot on that side of the ice, but, ope, lemme just score this goal past ya here.
Maybe head coach Dean Evason will see this—and the recent surge of the fourth line with Parise and Nick Bonino—as a signifier that Sturm is ready for a bigger role. For a team that doesn’t have a lot of centers, boosting him up to the third line wouldn’t be a big reach.
After this good, solid victory, the Wild are heading on a four-game road trip that sees them facing the Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, and the Sharks, again. Maybe we’ll see them clinch the playoffs soon. With such a large gap between them and the team below them, and only 13 games remaining, that time should be coming in the next week or so.
Can Kaapo Kahkonen get back to his streaky self?
With 26 saves and nudging his season save percentage up one point to .910, Kahkonen didn’t completely shut the door or stand on his head or any other cliche synonym for playing well in between the pipes. But at least he earned another win and let the losing streak wash away.
There will be another opportunity shortly as the Wild have a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Kings and the Sharks.
Will Joel Eriksson Ek get back on the score sheet?
In typical Joel fashion, he scored one goal and didn’t earn an assist. While it can be worrisome seeing him rack up so many goals without getting the helpers on the way, it’s just nice to see him keep on getting points.
Even if he’s bouncing them off of his chest.
Can the Wild take advantage of the Sharks’ unknown goaltender?
Turns out, Martin Jones played a back-to-back and got booted out after two periods. Who woulda thunk?
The Wild kind of shut it down with a four-goal lead in the third period, getting only four shots on goal which Josef Korenar all stopped. So, no, they didn’t take advantage but they still won.