There were plenty of storylines leading up to the Wild’s 3rd and final game on their season opening home stand of 2016. Rookie wunderkind Auston Matthews making his first ever trip to the X. What kind of legs would the Toronto Maple Leafs have after losing in OT last night to the Winnipeg Jets? Can the Wild continue their success on the PK? Could the Wild score first in a game for a change?
Like most games, some early parts of the first period were spent watching the teams sort of feel out each others game. The Wild managed to hold the Leafs without a shot on goal for the opening 6 minutes and change, but would end up losing that shot battle for the period by a wide margin of 11-5. Mikael Granlund looked smooth out there with Mikko Koivu centering his line. They had a few opportunities even. Koivu found the puck on his stick and time on his side in the slot but couldn’t find a hole in Enroth’s armor. Granlund looked like he was swimming around defenders throughout the game as well. Really nice to see him finding his stride, hopefully he starts finding the score sheet more as a reward.
The Wild really struggled to find the loose puck in their defensive zone throughout the opening frame though. Whether it was bouncing around or getting stuck in their skates, the team as a whole seemed to just not have eyes on the puck. This lead to extra shots for the Leafs and the Wild were forced into dumping the puck out of the zone instead of skating the puck out of the zone. The Wild were fortunate to get out of the period without giving up a goal.
The 2nd period was a little better for the Wild as they would even up on shots for the period at 12 for each team. The scoring would get started by the Maple Leafs when Roman Polak would tee one up from the blue line to beat Devan Dubnyk. The Leafs made a nice rush into the zone and Dubnyk was able to get the best of the rush, but the Leafs settled the puck down real quick before Polak ripped one past Dubs.
The Wild would answer however about a minute later. Charlie Coyle fed one to a streaking Eric Staal who was all alone behind the Leafs defense. Staal vs. Enroth and Staal would not be denied on the breakaway, finding a hole in the lower corner. Moments later the Leafs would beat Dubnyk again, but the goal was waived off immediately for goaltender interference and the score remained tied.
Christian Folin would take his 2nd penalty of the game, and this would be the one that ended the Wild’s streak of 12 consecutive kills to start the season. The Wild were doing pretty good during the kill, but towards the end the puck would bounce right to Auston Matthews stick who was between the circles a foot off the top of the crease. Dubnyk was out of position from making a save and looked like he was ready to eat some popcorn and watch Matthews do his thing. Auston had a wide open net to put the puck in, the kids not going to miss from there.
We would enter the 3rd period with the Wild down 2-1 in a game that had become more evenly matched as it progressed. It wouldn’t take long for the Wild to tie it back up once again. Zac Dalpe would streak through the neutral zone and towards the right circle on the rush. He found the top corner and got the puck past Enroth in what was probably the prettiest goal of the game. The Leafs challenged the goal, hoping the linesmen missed an offsides call, Teemu Pulkkinen (Pulkuna Mutata) was close to going over but it was pretty clear (even without the review) he was onsides and the goal would stand.
Have we mentioned yet how good Eric Staal has been for the Minnesota Wild? Well, just in case you haven’t heard it yet, they guy has been playing some great hockey for the Wild so far this season and rewarded the loyal fans with a tie-breaking goal at the 11:53 mark, his 2nd goal of the game. Staal took a shot from the right circle that was more likely a pass to Zach Parise who was camped out in front of Enroth. Parise fanned on the redirect but the puck still slid past Enroth to put the Wild ahead 3-2. That’s the score the game would end with as well.
One sour note on the game, Christian Folin who would end the game with a +2 to his name, was also the only player for the Wild who spent any time in the penalty box. 3 penalties tonight for Thor, which is not the kind of thing that is going to keep you in Boudreau’s good graces.
Your Minnesota Wild finished their 3 game home stand tonight, winning each of the games in a come-from-behind fashion which has fans scratching their heads waiting for the Wild to score first in a game for once. It’s nice to see the team is able to fight their way back game after game, but it would be a lot nicer to play with a lead from the start.
The Wild finished the game short in the shots department, 33 - 27 but were dominant in the dot, winning 62% of the draws. Of course, the PK suffered it’s first goal against tonight. Nothing lasts forever I suppose, but the Wild were still able to win, bringing them to 3-1 on the season while the Leafs record drops to 1-1-2. Next up for your Wild, the first of a 4-game road trip that kicks off this Saturday in New Jersey against the Devils.
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