The Wild returned home after a successful California trip to face a Winnipeg Jets team that had gotten off to a disappointing 0-2 start. After playing in the North Division last year, this was the Wild’s first matchup with the Jets in over a year. The night also featured a tribute to former Assistant GM Tom Kurvers, who tragically passed away from cancer over the summer.
Three minutes into the first, Cam Talbot was caught off guard by a quick Kyle Connor snipe. This tally set the tone for the remainder of the game. Less than a minute later, Zuccarello responded on a rebound from a Dumba cannon. Right away, the tone was set and the Wild proved to themselves that the could get knocked down but not knocked out.
The Jets jumped ahead to a 2-1 lead off a fluke bounce to a rolling puck Connor snipe. Once again, the Wild answered. On the face off after the goal, Marcus Foligno did his best superman impression and charged an already electric Xcel Energy Center.
The second period saw the Jets fly ahead to another one goal lead, just for it to be wiped by another clutch Zuccarello goal. In typical second period fashion, the pace of play began to slow down and it seemed the teams were tightening up their defensive zones.
Then came the third and with it came chaos. The Wild came out of the period flat and quickly found themselves on the wrong end of two goals. In a night that had seen the Wild overcome three deficits already, it seemed their luck had run out. For nine minutes, they tried and failed to chip away at the worst lead in hockey.
Finally, proving that he is the spark plug of the team, Marcus Foligno scored a greasy rebound to cut the lead to one. The game tying goal proved to be as elusive as the first. With two minutes left, the Wild pulled Talbot and used their timeout. After a horrible pass from Goligoski, a streaking Jet shot down the ice on a 2-1 and ended the chances of a Wild comeback.
Or did they?
Dean Evanson, and eventually Toronto, noticed Kyle Connor entered the zone prematurely. Just when it seemed to be over for the Wild, hope was restored. With the goalie quickly pulled again, Eriksson Ek found the back of the net to tie it.
Three and a half minutes into overtime, Eriksson Ek, Kaprizov, and Fiala sent the State of Hockey home happy (although with dangerously high heart rates).
This was an obvious momentum game for the Wild. Despite being 3-0, the Wild have not scored first yet this year. Similar to last year, they are quickly establishing themselves as a team that cannot be ruled out of a game.
While there were many positives, there were also negatives. To start, the Wild allowed five goals. Cam Talbot did not have his best game, with at least two of the goals allowed being ones that I believe he normally saves. Jordan Greenway had a very underwhelming night that saw him turning the puck over, not moving his feet, and not finishing checks. The Wild’s third defensive pairing also looked shaky at times, despite only finishing -1. Goligoski also showed some signs of growing pains in his pairing with Spurgeon in a few miscommunications and lost assignments in the defensive zone. Nico Sturm found himself reading plays very well and putting himself in the right spots, but not making plays on the puck to capitalize.
On the bright side, many players had great nights. I thought Brodin and Dumba had a relatively slow start to the game but were amazing as the game went on. Dumba took a very bad penalty in his first shift which he made up for as the game went on. Brodin made great plays with the puck and, as always, was stellar in the defensive zone. Dumba brought more spark to the pairing, blocking shots and finishing checks. Mats Zuccarello continued to show that he possesses some of the best vision in the NHL. Joel Eriksson Ek reminded fans why Minnesota gave him a max-term contract, combining shut down defensive play with centering Minnesota’s new and improved top line.
In a game filled with as much energy as this one, every player will likely leave the rink feeling pretty good about what happened. It will be interesting to see the adjustments the team makes, as well as if the clear momentum this team experienced will follow them to their next matchup Saturday.
Can the Wild take advantage with the man advantage?
Unless you were hoping for four goals on the man advantage, the answer has to be a resounding yes. Sure, there were plenty of chances to exploit. Sure, Winnipeg doesn’t have the best defensive core. But, every time the Wild needed a goal, they got it. This wasn’t just limited to the top unit. For the Wild’s fourth goal, the top unit had an underwhelming shift and the second unit stepped on to relieve them. Quickly, Gaudreau set up a Foligno tally. Today was a good sign for an area of the Wild’s game that has typically not been their strongest.
Can Duhaime do the hockey?
Once again, the Florida native proved why he kept top prospects off of the roster. Duhaime brings speed, skill, and most importantly intensity. Every shift, it seems like he makes a play off of his speed, awareness, or simply just outworking the other team. If this trajectory continues, I don’t see how Dean Evanson will be able to resist keeping him from replacing Jordan Greenway on the Wild’s third line.
While he didn’t register a point tonight, he made an impression in his limited ice time. The goals and points will come.
Does Kahkonen get his first start in “Calder Chase, Part II?”
The Calder Chase did not begin tonight. Cam Talbot got his third start in a row and continued his perfect winning record. Dean Evanson has been very clear that Talbot will play unless he isn’t playing well or needs a rest.
Since Talbot didn’t have his best game, Kahkonen could be looking at seeing the crease when the Wild return Saturday evening.
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