This matinee post-Thanksgiving matchup between the Minnesota Wild and the Ottawa Senators started out very much like the previous meeting earlier this season between the two teams. Dull, slow and just overall very uneventful hockey. Fortunately, that changed a little over midway through the first period when Minnesota had a few great chances to score, including Ryan Hartman’s early bid.
Minnesota would keep up the pressure, but the Senators got on the board first on a nice redirect by Nick Paul over the shoulder of Alex Stalock, making it 1-0 Ottawa.
Not much happened the rest of the first period and into the second, as Minnesota seemed to be having a very sloppy game. Then, right around the game’s halfway mark, Ryan Donato continued his great play as he skated in and put a backhander in tight up over Anders Nilsson for his third goal of the season, tying the game at one goal apiece.
But just under a minute later, Brady Tkachuk scored on a quick shot through the legs of Stalock out front, giving the Senators the lead at 2-1.
It took even less time for Minnesota to respond, however, as Jared Spurgeon tapped home a nice feed from Mats Zuccarello off an odd-man rush to tie the game up at 2-2.
Minnesota kept pushing, and Kevin Fiala forced a turnover off of Brady Tkachuk right out front to Zach Parise, who jammed it home to give Minnesota the 3-2 lead. It was Parise’s 11th goal of the season, and he has been on fire recently with 7 goals in his last 8 games.
The Senators did not lay back, and for the rest of the second period, a good chunk of the play was in Minnesota’s zone, with Ottawa coming close a few times, including an Anthony Duclair shot from right in the slot that went off the post.
With about a minute left in the second, Jonas Brodin was assessed a tripping penalty that put the Senators on the power play. Although they did not do too much offensively on the man advantage into the third period, it did give them some momentum. Nikita Zaitsev came pretty close to scoring, but Jonas Brodin got in front to block the shot and protect Minnesota’s lead.
Then things really started to go off the rails, and the Senators started to look like, well, the Senators. The Senators could not keep the puck out of their own zone, and the Wild made them pay as Luke Kunin made a nice move to the backhand and beat Nilsson on the breakaway to extend Minnesota’s lead to 4-2.
The Wild kept coming, and Ryan Hartman made up for his missed scoring chance earlier in the game with an absolute snipe to make it 5-2 in favor of the Wild.
Minnesota poured it on after that with two goals in 48 seconds, including Eric Staal getting a goal on the power play and Jason Zucker notching his ninth of the season to make it 7-2, which would end up being the final score.
Stalock was very good throughout the game with 33 saves on 35 shots, Jared Spurgeon got three points, and the GEEK Squad trio of Greenway, Erikkson Ek and Kunin played well once again as Minnesota improved to 11-11-4 on the season. Next up for Minnesota is another matinee game at home against the Dallas Stars, who have been one of the best teams in the league since coming back from a 3-0 deficit against Minnesota about a month ago. The Wild must be ready to go from the start if they want to extend their point streak to nine games.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can Kahkonen make it two-for-two?
As it turned out, Alex Stalock got the start in goal Friday afternoon, so Kahkonen will have to wait and see when he will get his next start. He likely won’t have to wait very long. With Stalock getting today’s game, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Kahkonen got the start on Sunday.
2. Will the “kids” stay hot?
The “kids” once again played very well in this game. With Ryan Donato scoring a nice goal, Kevin Fiala creating a turnover, which led to the Parise goal, and the GEEK Squad continuing to do what they’ve been doing, the youngsters have all been playing very well recently, which is obviously a great sign for the present and future of the team. As everybody said before the season, the Wild would need this group of young players to step up if they wanted a chance at getting in the playoffs, and it is starting to look like those players might be up for the challenge.
3. Can the Wild keep momentum on the penalty kill?
After a few rough games in the penalty killing department, Minnesota did their job on the PK in this game, although they did only have to kill of one Ottawa power play. It would be better if the Wild could just stay out of the box altogether, and today’s game was a nice start.
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