The Minnesota Wild opened their season with a loss in St. Louis last Thursday night, but tonight it was St. Paul’s turn to host a hockey game. The Wild’s home opener, full of pomp and circumstance, was a high energy affair prior to puck drop. The Wild has lost just 1 home opener in their history, and it was a shootout loss against the Kings a few seasons ago, but they would carry that success on tonight as they ended up beating the Jets 4-3 in a high energy game that in the end didn’t feel quite as close as the score suggests.
The first period was a good battle for both sides. It seemed after coming out flat, and remaining stagnant in St. Louis the Wild had found their legs. The Jets however were matching the intensity. Not a lot of high percentage chances for either side, but we did see fast, aggressive hockey throughout the frame.
Mikael Granlund seemed to have a lot more energy tonight. Fighting in the corners and along the walls. The Finnish Feeder would try to setup Brodin in the slot early in the period, but the shot from the slot would miss the mark. Later Granlund fed one to the the bottom of the circle where Chris Stewart was waiting, but the puck must have been up on end when Stewart made contact as the shot fluttered high and wide of the target.
The scoring would not get started until very late in the period. At the 18:49 mark Jonas Brodin would send a pass across the ice, but Jets young forward Nikolaj Ehlers read the pass and picked it off. He was left all alone from the top of the circle and let the puck rip. 1-0 Jets. Barely a minute later, and with just a few ticks left in the period, Dustin Byfuglien would flip a harmless wrister on goal after skating around the entire zone with the puck. The puck had eyes as it weaved it’s way through a ton of traffic, bounced off Blake Wheeler and found the twine. The Jets scored 2 goals in the final 1:11 of the first period to take a 2-0 lead to the locker room.
After getting boo’d off the ice at the end of the 1st period, the Wild would come out with some fire in their belly for the 2nd. The Jets would go on the power play early in the 2nd period, and the scoreboard would break as well. It was a little odd hearing the PA guy call out the remaining time in the Jets PP. 5 minutes into the period the Wild would give the Jets another power play after Chris Stewart does Chris Stewart things. Despite all this madness, the Wild would still out-shoot the Jets 8-0 to open the 2nd period.
Stewart would serve his penalty, and after coming out of the box would catch a feed from Jared Spurgeon. It looked pretty confusing, but Stewart would flip a wrister on goal that would bounce of Michael Hutchinson and barely squeak past the goal line. Less than a minute later, the Wild would be on the power play and Matt Dumba would get the puck from Stewart and fire one of his patented Dumbombs from the point that scorched it’s way past Hutch. After taking the dumb penalty, Stewart came out of the box to a goal and an assist in just a few moments. But the Wild were not done on the scoreboard, nor was Stewart done on his quest.
On a just great play from front to back, Eric Staal would get his first official goal in a Wild sweater. The Wild had a picture perfect break out from their defensive zone. Coyle ends up skating the puck up the right wing and tossing a puck across ice where it eventually found Staal streaking in on the back door. Parise was credited with the first assist on the play, but in real time it looked to go through to Staal cleanly.
Of course, this story would not be complete without Stewie finishing off his Gordie Howe Hat Trick by picking a fight with Chris Thorburn of the Jets. It barely qualified as fisticuffs, but both were booked for the infraction, so congratulations Stewie. (I guess)
Parise would earn a tripping call late in the 2nd period, which bled over into the 3rd period. Nothing would come of the Jets power play, for which they would go 0-3 on the day. Not as many goals in the 3rd period, but the Wild were pretty relentless nonetheless. Jonas Brodin would score a goal for the Wild in the 3rd, which would end up being the game winner after Mark Scheifele would score late in the game. Koivu was rock solid in the faceoff dot, winning some 12 draws of 17 attempts. Mikael Granlund was solid all game as well, although he was held off the official score sheet. The Wild would not only win the game, but win the shots game by a 31-17 advantage.
The Wild looked much better tonight after falling on their face right out of the gate in St. Louis on Thursday. It’s just two games into the season, but this team showed up tonight in areas that were lacking against the Blues. Call it home cooking, or just a team looking to prove they’re not as bad as they looked previously. Tonight, your Wild win with a 4-3 score, but apart from the 81 seconds between the Jets 2 goals in the first the Wild pretty much dominated, especially in the second-two periods.