After last week where the Wild played in two back-to-backs, Head Coach Bruce Boudreau decided to give his club two days off before coming back to the rink to prepare for tonight’s game against Los Angeles. What would you do with two days off from your job? Spend more time with family? Get some errands done around the house? Binge watching your favorite show? Its probably less dramatic than that. Maybe enjoying a rare opportunity to take the kids to school during the season which may not seem like a big deal to many, but for professional athletes who miss those mundane parent moments they cherish the chance to do so.
The Los Angeles Kings have struggled out of the gate, with issues similar to the Wild in regards to team speed. Can Minnesota continue to steadily climb the Central Division ladder with another win on home ice or will the Kings reign supreme?
1st Period Thoughts: The period kind of reminded me of a 3-day old donut. It may look like a donut, but when you take a bite into it only has a fleeting moment where it feels like the sweet treat you were hoping for. Beyond that, it missing the mark. Sort of like the Minnesota Wild early on who were resorting to area passes far too often making for easy turnovers by the Los Angeles Kings. Los Angeles would turn a puck over near the Wild blueline and Tyler Toffoli was stopped at close range by Devan Dubnyk. The Kings kept peppering Dubnyk with shots as the Wild were doing a lot of standing, watching and reaching in their own zone. Minnesota would start attempt to go on the attack, but bad passes and poor decisions often meant they weren’t even able to get a shot off. Tempers also started to flair as Kyle Clifford seemed to be head hunting early as he narrowly missed Marcus Foligno with a big hit. A few shifts later he’d trip up Jordan Greenway which caused Nick Seeler to step in and Clifford would oblige. It wasn’t much of a fight with Clifford throwing a few punches before Seeler wrestled him to the ice. I’ll give Clifford the win simply because he actually threw a punch. Later in the period Zach Parise would get into it with Dion Phaneuf who cross checked and slashed the Wild alternate captain as the two stood and chirped at one another. No fight ensued, but Parise and Phaneuf would both sit in the box for two minutes which was probably Phaneuf’s idea in the first place. Minnesota would score late in the period as Eric Fehr got knocked down while trying to crash the net and the puck would go off the sliding forward and into the goal behind Jack Campbell before they knocked the net off of its moorings. The play would be reviewed, but ultimately ruled a good goal as Jake Muzzin clearly tripped up Fehr on his way to the net. 1-0 Wild on Fehr’s goal from J.T. Brown and Ryan Suter who now has officially played in his 1000th NHL game. It wasn’t a pretty period, but neither club seems to have a lot of speed. The Wild out shot the Kings 7-6. The Wild looked pretty sluggish for having a few days off before this game.
2nd Period Thoughts: It seems like I’ve been saying this a lot this season, but Minnesota showed vast improvement in the 2nd period. Minnesota was moving its feet better, dictating the pace of play and generating more high quality scoring chances than the Kings did. Los Angeles still had some close opportunities as Nate Thompson had a puck bounce over his stick as he was looking at a mostly open Wild goal. Minnesota would draw a power play when Drew Doughty cross checked Parise to the ice. After the call was made, Doughty went crazy as he argued with the official on his way to the penalty box. On the man advantage, the Wild moved the puck well as they set up Jason Zucker for a wicked one-timer from the right faceoff circle that Jack Campbell was able to able to steer to the corner. Minnesota controlled the puck and wore down the Kings penalty killers but not many shots would reach Campbell and they’d escape still down by a goal. The Wild would persist and after a quick counter attack Charlie Coyle would set up Jonas Brodin for a quick shot that beat Campbell. It was a soft-ish goal, but the Wild were happy to take it. 2-0 Wild. Minnesota would continue to attack and they came dangerously close to adding to their lead as Zucker kept poking at a puck from in close until it snuck through Campbell’s pads but Coyle wasn’t able to tap it in. The Wild had to feel better about its effort even though they were being out shot 15-16.
3rd Period Thoughts: When the Wild allowed a goal fairly early in the 3rd period on a bad turnover by Seeler when Kyle Clifford sniped a shot off the rush. 2-1 Wild you had to wonder if the home team was somehow going to find a way to push this game into overtime. Luckily that didn’t happen, but it came damn close. Especially as the Wild more or less took 3 back-to-back dumb penalties in the last 6 minutes to put the Kings on the man advantage. Perhaps Greenway’s initial cross-checking penalty was just the result of a battle on the ice, but after that it was a combination of laziness and lack of awareness of the league’s rules. The latter being an interference penalty taken by Greenway who played the puck before he had completely left the penalty box which a no-no according to league rules. Greenway was clearly caught by surprise by the call, but luckily for him the Wild were able to kill the penalty thanks to some strong plays on the puck by Fehr and Foligno. Soon after they killed Greenway’s 2nd penalty the Wild would go back on the kill as Eric Staal lifted a puck up into the stands. With just over two minutes left in the game the Kings would pull Campbell in order to have a 6-on-4 advantage as they pushed for the equalizer. Minnesota outbattled the Kings for the loose pucks and were able to clear the zone and eventually they’d be rewarded as Mikael Granlund connected on a long range clear that found the empty net. 3-1 Wild. A few moments later the Wild would intercept a pass in the neutral zone and Mikko Koivu would add an exclamation point with another empty net tally to seal a 4-1 victory.
Devan Dubnyk was again terrific, making 23 saves in the victory. He never gave the Kings any hope and he had good help from his defense to clear away dangerous pucks. The penalty kill was outstanding; with Eric Fehr who had a tremendous game clearing the zone. The penalty kill down the stretch effectively sealed the win tonight.
Offensively the Wild didn’t have a ton of shots on goal, but they took their chances to pull the trigger when they had the opportunity and it was enough to prevail this evening. Zucker, Parise continue to be the main offensive workhorses up front with their speed and hustle. Granlund has been heating up as well and even though its an empty netter it helped put the game away and kill any chance for this one to crawl into overtime.
This was an important win for the Wild against a team it should beat. As slow as the Wild are, the Kings may be slower and that probably helped Minnesota this evening. Now the Wild have to regroup and get ready for one of the fastest teams in Colorado on Saturday.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Matt Read, Jordan Greenway, J.T. Brown, Eric Fehr, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Suter, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Greg Pateryn and Nick Seeler. Alex Stalock backed up Devan Dubnyk. Nate Prosser and Joel Eriksson Ek were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Ryan Suter, 2nd Star Marcus Foligno, 3rd Star Jonas Brodin
~ Attendance was 18,778 at Xcel Energy Center.
~ Crease And Assist: A Legally Compliant Hockey Blog would like to congratulate Ryan Suter on playing in his 1000th NHL game this evening.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Damien Giroux (Saginaw, OHL) ~ The Spirit’s captain is heating up offensively as he had a goal and was 8-of-12 on his draws in Saginaw’s 6-0 rout of in-state rival Flint. Giroux has 7 goals, 12 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +9 in 12 games.
C – Alexander Khovanov (Moncton, QMJHL) ~ the skilled Russian had a goal in Moncton’s 7-2 win over Shawinigan on Saturday night. On Sunday he followed that up with a 2-goal effort that earned him 1st star honors as he tallied the game winner in their 5-4 win over Rimouski. Khovanov has 7 goals, 15 points, 20 PIM’s and is a +1 in 12 games.
RW – Shawn Boudrias (Gatineau, QMJHL) ~ the big power forward earned 1st star honors registering a goal and an assist in Gatineau’s 4-3 overtime loss to Val ‘d Or on Sunday. On Wednesday, the Olympiques-star had a goal and and an assist in Gatineau’s 4-1 win over Victoriaville. Boudrias has 8 goals, 17 points, 4 PIM’s and is a +2 in 14 games.
D – Niklas Johansson (Karlskrona, Allsvenskan) ~ The late-bloomer is having a strong start to the season registering a goal, 11 points which is 12th best among all skaters in the Allsvenskan league which is Swedish minor league circuit.
RW – Ivan Lodnia (Niagara, OHL) ~ the Wild’s top draft pick from 2017 had a goal in Niagara’s 3-0 win over Peterborough. Lodnia has 5 goals, 14 points, 8 PIM’s and is a -2 in 13 games.