For fans who like finger-pointing at officials, Thursday’s opening-night Wild game was a perfect example to scratch that itch.
The Minnesota Wild lost 4-2 to the Red Wings as the Detroit club christened its brand-new Little Caesars Arena with a victory. The Red Wings scored two unanswered goals in the third period to hold on for the win. The Wild are now 9-6-2 in season openers but just 1-5-1 as a road team. They’ve opened on the road for a third consecutive season.
Eric Staal thought he gave his team a 1-0 lead just a couple minutes into the game with a power-play goal. His shot on goal came back out as a rebound and Marcus Foligno went to the crease as the puck bounced around. Then the scrum of Staal, Foligno and a trio of Red Wings all in the blue paint, with Foligno ending up on top of the netminder, Jimmy Howard.
The whistle didn’t blow and there was no goal ruled on the ice. The review determined the puck crossed the goal line but did not count because of goaltender interference. Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau then challenged the call unsuccessfully.
“The first one, unfortunately, when they called it no-goal for goalie interference, … there was no highlight,” Boudreau said. “All it showed was the goal going in, and they had their guys surrounding the goalie, so I didn’t see the Foligno portion.”
Ryan Suter put the puck in the net for a could-have-been 2-0 Wild lead within the first 20 minutes of the new season. This was also disallowed upon review for goaltender interference. Mikael Granlund battled near the crease with a Red Wing defender. With Howard near the top of the crease, Granlund appeared to make contact with him, but it was before the puck came into view.
Goaltender interference pic.twitter.com/D7dbPUzMte
— Giles Ferrell (@gilesferrell) October 6, 2017
“The second one, … it was pretty close,” Boudreau said. “Granny hit him (Howard), but his glove was outside the crease and he was inside the crease.”
Boudreau recalled a similar situation happening to his team when he coached Anaheim; he said that time it was counted as a goal.
When all was sorted out Thursday, it was 0-0 at the first intermission rather than 2-0 Wild.
“They were the right calls,” Boudreau said after the game.
Eventually, the goals that counted came in bunches for each team. The Red Wings took a 2-0 lead late second-period goals just 23 seconds apart – both on the power play with 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 situations from Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin. So, the first official goal in the new rink went to a Red Wings player.
Down 2-0 in the third, the Wild responded early with a goal from youngster Joel Eriksson Ek just two minutes in. He skated toward the slot and fired a pass into the net for his first goal of the season. Chris Stewart and Wild-newcomer Foligno assisted on the goal. It was the fourth NHL goal of Eriksson Ek’s career; he scored three in 15 games with the Wild last season.
Just 48 seconds later, Stewart tallied his second point of the game with a goal of his own as he rushed with speed toward the net. Some more Wild newbies – Tyler Ennis and Kyle Quincey – assisted on Stewart’s goal. Stewart had 13 goals and 21 points last season.
That left the score knotted at 2-2 until Henrik Zetterberg scored at 7:07 before Martin Frk added the insurance.
“We didn’t keep our foot on the gas, that’s for sure,” Boudreau said.
Zetterberg’s game-winner was his 17th career goal against the Wild in 43 games. This pair of third-period goals from Detroit didn’t look the best from a goaltender perspective, especially the second one.
Despite how frustrating the first-period wave-off goals were for the Wild, it obviously had to keep at it until the final horn and put more pucks in the net. They didn’t take advantage with the man advantage, going 0-for-4 on the power play while the Red Wings cashed in with two goals in five chances.
The Wild won the faceoff and hits categories with 54 percent in the faceoff circle and 19 hits to Detroit’s 13. Nino Niederreiter and Suter led the team in shots on goal with five each, including one where Niederreiter was absolutely robbed by netminder Howard’s glove in the third period. The stellar save was enough to cause Niederreiter to throw his head back in disbelief, and probably frustration, after the whistle.
Dubynk with 27 saves – with the best one coming in the first period as he tumbled and turned for make the save with his arm as he lay on the ice. Howard with 37 saves.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Suter led the team in ice time at 28:34. Second in line was Jared Spurgeon with 23:52.
The last time the Wild played in the opening game for a new arena was Oct. 11, 2000, their first game at the Xcel Energy Center. Thursday was the first time the Wild were an opponent for an arena’s first game.
The Wild head to Carolina for a game at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday night.
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