This game was a parade of goals, and most of them came in the favor of the Minnesota Wild.
You could see why the Detroit Red Wings had only won 15 games this year through 65 games. The team is on track to be the worst team in the shootout-era and will likely go down as one of the worst teams in NHL history.
Detroit’s starting goalie Jimmy Howard went into the night with a record of 2-22-2 this season and a 4.08 goals against average and a .886 save percentage. Yes, you read all that correctly. Going into Thursday’s matchup, Howard had gone 19 games in a row without a win. He hasn’t won a game since October.
Now that’s a long winter.
To pile onto his horrid season thus far, he got yanked after Minnesota scored five goals in the first half of the game.
Adding all things together, the Wild handily beat the bottom-feeding Red Wings 7-1 on Thursday night, with goals coming from all over their lineup. Ryan Hartman, Ryan Donato, Jordan Greenway, Kevin Fiala and Eric Staal all lit the lamp, and Matt Dumba did it twice on the way to Minnesota’s 31st win. It's crazy how far a little confidence can go.
The fourth line of Donato, Koivu and Hartman picked up right where things left on Tuesday after scoring three times, by pumping in twice more in the first period to open up Thursday’s contest in Detroit.
Ryan Hartman kicked things off for the Wild and the “fourth line” by scoring his eighth of the year on a beautiful play. Ryan Donato skated the puck into the offensive zone and dished the puck to the middle of the ice where Hartman bump passed the puck too Koivu. From there, Koivu quickly made a backhanded pass through Red Wings defenders to a backdoor Hartman, who finished the play off with a backhand shot to beat a diving Jimmy Howard.
On the same shift, the fourth line potted another goal, making it a total of five goals in four periods of hockey. This time, it was Donato’s turn to get himself into the goal column. Greg Pateryn wristed a shot on net from the point that got deflected on its way by Hartman. Howard kicked out a juicy rebound and Donato snatched it up and buried it into a wide open net for his 13th goal of the season — all of which have come at 5-on-5, ranking him second on the Wild, trailing only Staal’s 14.
Next to get on the board was defenseman Matt Dumba. In classic Dumba fashion, the Wild defenseman unleashed an absolute bomb from the point to beat Howard. The play started with Gerald Mayhew winning a 50/50 race to the puck to establish the zone for the Wild, thus leading to Fiala dishing a set-up pass to Dumba for his first goal since February 4.
After surrendering an early goal in the second period, the Wild power play cashed in to regain the three-goal lead. Dumba cashed in for his second of the night on another one-timer, this time in close and coming from Alex Galchenyuk, whom, by the way, had a decent night himself playing his second straight game at center. The goal was very Dumba-esque, ripping it up and over Howard, ringing it off the bar.
The scoring just kept coming in the second period for Minnesota. Following phenomenal board play by Joel Eriksson Ek and Greenway, the big man shoved aside a Red Wings forward, skated the puck towards the net and wristed one over the shoulder of Howard, ending the goaltender’s night early. Greenway’s billet parents from his playing days for the United States National Development Team were in attendance to witness the great individual effort from 23-year-old.
What’s a Minnesota Wild game nowadays without a Kevin Fiala goal? The Wild forward dipsy-doodled around Detroit defenseman Madison Bowey, leaving the defenseman’s jockstrap on the ice before finishing the play off with a backhand snipe just under the bar to beat Jonathan Bernier in relief.
The Wild only scored one goal in the final frame. Eric Staal received a cross-ice feed from his linemate Fiala and one-timed it to just squeak by the pad of the Red Wings netminder. It’s worth noting that Dumba picked up the secondary assist on Staal’s 19th of the year, giving him and Fiala each three-point nights.
The only goal scored by Detroit came in the second period. A miscue in the offensive zone between defensive pair Greg Pateryn and Brad Hunt following a faceoff win led to an Anthony Mantha breakaway goal. The Red Wings forward made the most of his opportunity and sniped his 14th of the season to get the Wings the board.
Stalock didn’t get much love for much of the night due to the lopsided score, but that wasn’t to say he didn’t have a great night. He thwarted all but one of the few grade-A chances the Red Wings had. Stalock earned his 17th win and stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced.
Likely his biggest save was a paddle stop on Detroit forward Tyler Bertuzzi in the middle period.
With the win, the Wild find themselves within sniffing distance from a playoff spot. The team has a quick turnaround playing Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio.
Answers to our Burning Questions
Will the defense continue to be porous?
The Wild had sacrificed four goals in two consecutive games. On Thursday night, they stopped this trend and only allowed a single goal. Keep in mind the only goal allowed by the Wild was due to a fumbling puck in the WIld’s offensive zone that led to the Anthony Mantha breakaway goal.
It is also worth noting that the Wild’s penalty kill has now killed off the last 19 trips to the sin bin. On Thursday, Minnesota killed off all three Detroit power plays.
Will Zach Parise find the back of the net?
Nope. After not scoring against Detroit, Parise has extended his scoreless streak to seven games. The Wild veteran seems to be snakebitten. He had a couple of chances to find the back of the net, but as he has recently, Parise came up short. His best chance came in the second period on a breakaway. The Minnesota native tried to slide slide it through Howard’s five hole, but misjudged how quickly the Wings’ net minder would get across, resulting in a pad stop. Parise was not too happy about it, either, slamming his stick on the bench. Another missed opportunity to cash in on a grade-A chance. Nothing wrong with a little emotion, though!
Can the Wild take care of business against a team they should easily handle?
Yes. They shouldn’t be given a pile of gold stars or anything for beating the Red Wings and limiting their opponent to only one goal, though. The Red Wings came into the night averaging a league-worst 1.98 goals per game. There have only been three teams since 1954 to finish the season with a sub-2.00 goals per game — the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres (1.83), 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres (1.87) and 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning (1.84).
So, we probably shouldn’t put too much stock in how well the team took care of business against one of the worst teams to ever lace ‘em up in the NHL. But hey, at least the Wild didn’t put up stinker, right? Props to the Wild for that!