Game 1 was a walk in the park. The Minnesota Wild looked like the veteran team that didn't have a problem handling high stakes hockey. From the get-go Minnesota got the fast start; something that wasn't expected out of a veteran-laden roster. By the end of it all, the Wild won Game 1, 3-0. Powered by two power play goals, and a late empty-netter, Minnesota took a 1-0 lead over the Vancouver Canucks in the five-game series inside the Edmonton hub.
Though the Wild jumped on the Canucks early with a Kevin Fiala power play goal, Vancouver began to grab the momentum back toward the end of the first period. Vancouver continued early in the second period to pressure the Wild. Alex Stalock made some big saves, including a big windmill save on J.T. Miller. Minnesota was clinging on to a 1-0 lead in the middle of the second period.
And by "clinging," I mean that Minnesota was resorting to chips and lobs out of the zone. At one point, it was noted that the Wild looked tired. Heavy legs from a lack of game action and conditioning could be partly to blame. However, the Wild weren't pushing the puck up the ice.
In the first period, Alex Galchenyuk and his linemates Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello saw a healthy rotation. Vancouver tried to get the Elias Pettersson line against them a few times. In the second period, Galchenyuk's line got a more favorable match-up against the Antoine Roussel - Adam Gaudette - Michael Ferland line.
On one such shift, the line got tough, hard-battled offensive zone time. It was the first extended zone time the Wild had in the second period. It came at a time when the Wild needed a strong energy shift. Vancouver was taking it to them to that point. The Wild had only a single measly shot in the first eight minutes of the second period. And the shot itself was forgettable.
The shift by the Galchenyuk line didn't necessarily create a ton of offense. All told, it's something that will barely show up on the score sheet and game Corsi trackers. It amounted to just two shot attempts. However, the shift gave the Wild some presence in the offensive zone.
It allowed the Wild to start the next shift on the attack. Tanner Pearson ended up tripping Carson Soucy and put Minnesota on its third power play of the night. In a game where the two teams essentially played to a draw at 5-on-5, the power play became an effective weapon. That's when Jared Spurgeon scored and gave the Wild a 2-0 lead.
Looking back at the shift that came before the successful power play, and you can point to the Galchenyuk line putting in work to change the momentum.
The 2-0 lead was more than enough for the Wild's strong defensive effort, and the Spurgeon tally proved to be an important insurance marker. It came at a pivotal point in the game. Just as the Canucks tried mounting pressure, the second goal made them fade away even more. A stat by The Athletic's Thomas Drance showed how lifeless the Canucks were in the third period.
Game 1 in any series is important to win. It helps set the tone of the series. But as a road team, it ruins home ice advantage for the home team early in the series. Sixty-nine percent of teams go on to win a best-of-seven series after winning Game 1. Now, shrink the series down to a best-of-five, and getting out to the early series lead has proven over time to be a harbinger of good things for the winning club.
Minnesota's strength comes from its depth. Looking at the match-up going into the series, the Wild were going to have to win battles against the bottom six of the Canucks. The Galchenyuk line turning in a perfectly timed energy shift to change the complexion of the game shouldn't go unnoticed.
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