Can the Wild get back in the win column in Ottawa?
The Minnesota Wild have lost 2 games in a row and face an Ottawa Senators team that has struggled for the majority of the season but they just got their captain D #65 Erik Karlsson back and have won 2 straight. That doesn’t matter. This is the National, the Hockey League with the best players in the world. There are no easy wins. There isn’t a coach in the league that would ever tell their team they can take it easy in a game because the opponent is weak or having a bad season.
Also, every opponent is pumped up to play against the best teams. No team is okay with losing. They want to win just as bad as any other team. It doesn’t matter to them if they might not have the right players or if they haven’t played well so far. They play the game to compete, knowing they have to go earn a win and actually beat the other team, not just show up. The Wild are not even close to being a team that can think any game will be easy, either.
There’s a hockey saying that says:
Hard Work Beats Talent
When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard!
That means just being a player with great talent doesn’t mean you won’t have to put the work in to win a puck battle, a shift, a period or a game. I like to think you can take the “Hard Work” saying a little further and say:
If Hard Work Meets Talent,
Together They Can Be Unbeatable!
This is what happens when a team plays their game without a care of who’s on the other side of the ice. Victories Are Earned! Teams have to go take a victory away from their opponent.
This Minnesota Wild team has the ability and the players to become one of the best teams in the NHL this season. You won’t find a lot of people who think that’s the case. That doesn’t matter. The only people who have to think it’s possible are the players and coaches in the room. In order to become one of the best teams, they have to stop messing around and get to their game as soon as the vulcanized rubber hits the ice.
We may have caught a glimpse that Minnesota Wild team tonight in Ottawa. It, apparently, took getting down 3-1 in the 2nd period for them to figure out if they wanted to get back in the game, they were going to have to play a certain way and it had to happen right then and there. We finally saw a response from this team. They started buzzing. They were forcing turnovers and creating scoring chances off of those turnovers and low and behold, they started putting the puck in the net. We’ve seen them respond before but this lasted pretty much until the end of the game. They were relentless!*
*Is this an after effect of having Zach Parise back with the team? He’s known for not relenting.
In the first minute of the game, Jason Zucker took a shot from the far left point after a pass from Matt Dumba and then Dumba went to the net. Ottawa Senators G Craig Anderson left a small rebound and Dumba was there to take a few whacks at it. That was a good sign that the Wild may have had a shooter’s mentality from the get go.
Stellar Ottawa defenseman #65 Erik Karlsson scored 2:08 into the first period off a wrist shot from the right point. Wild G Alex Stalock was screened on the play by his own player in F Matt Cullen and Ottawa Senators F Ryan Dzingel. The puck appears to go off of Matt Cullen’s stick and he reacts like that’s the case but he’s also being pushed from behind from Dzingel which may have affected the play.
The Wild responded with a few scoring chances and they’d finally get one to go in the net at the 8:49 mark of the 1st period when Eric Staal tipped a Ryan Suter point shot that was he shot in front of Staal to give him (or Charlie Coyle) a chance for a tip since it’s shot at the dot and clearly going wide. The best views of this goal are on the Condensed Version of the game about 2:00 into the video. That is also the video at the top of the article.
The first period would end with the score tied at one and with the Wild ahead in the shot department at 10-9. It was a good period by the Wild as they outchanced the Senators and it felt like they should definitely take some momentum into the 2nd period. One other thing to note about the 1st period for the Wild was they didn’t take any penalties.
14 seconds into the 2nd period behind the Ottawa net, Jason Zucker pushed Erik Karlsson’s leg and knocked him down but the official saw it as a trip. Was it a bad call? Probably but it did look like a trip and it’s doubtful anyone saw it as a bad call until they saw the replay. Well, the officials don’t get the luxury of seeing a replay before deciding if it’s a penalty or not.
Anyways, that would put the Wild Penalty Kill to the test and Erik Karlsson struck again from the point for his 2nd goal of the game. Just like his first goal, this one also goes off a Minnesota Wild player. This time, it’s D Jared Spurgeon and all you need to see to know that’s what happened is to look at his reaction after he realizes the puck went into the net:
Those are the breaks. Let it bother you or move on. There’s nothing you can do about it.
After killing a Spurgeon tripping penalty, the Wild had 3 defensemen out on the ice. This may have caused some confusion about who was defending who but they were also puckwatching and that left J.G. Pageau wide open in front of the net to put the Senators up 3-1 with 14:16 left in the 2nd period. Once again, you could see the players’ frustration on the ice and on the bench afterwards, particularly Ryan Suter.
Those are the types of goals that have killed the Wild this season and they’ve let their frustration from these goals and not scoring many goals of their own get in their heads but, for some reason, on this night, they responded and played some pretty dominant hockey for the rest of the game. Jason Zucker was thwarted by Craig Anderson. With his speed, Zucker created a mini-breakaway for himself. Coming from the right side, he was able to pull the puck to his forehand around Anderson but the goalie was able to make the save with his outstretched right pad. Ottawa D Johnny Oduya was clearly being careful of Zucker’s speed as he made sure he couldn’t cut back behind him as he chased him down. He also appeared to be worried about putting his stick somewhere that might draw a penalty.
It’s amazing how many goals get taken away by goalies stretching out at the last second because the offensive player thinks all they have to do is slide it into the net. If only they’d lift the puck up, it should be a goal every time. They usually think they don’t have enough time to lift the puck or feel they can sneak it past the goalie before they get their pad over there. Work on that, young players. Lifting the puck when you’re close to the net would be a very useful skill.
A few minutes later, promising young Wild F Joel Eriksson-Ek made a great play to get his team within 1 goal when he made a pass to Chris Stewart as he was driving to the net and Stewie didn’t waste any time putting the puck into the back of the net. In the replay, you can see Eriksson-Ek* battle (and get held) for position to get to the puck that Stewie wrapped around the boards then he took a peak right before he made the pass and put it right on the tape. That’s how you make apples, people!!! That was Chris Stewart’s first goal since November 27th.
*Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that he thought “Ek was great…the best player on the ice, tonight.”
Then with just under a minute left in the 2nd period, just as their power play expired, Ryan Suter took a slapshot from the center of the blue line with both Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu set up in front of the net for the tip and the Kaptain got his stick on it and broke an 11-game pointless streak and a 24-game streak without a goal that goes all the way back to October 28th. It’s good to have that monkey off his back but there was still more work to do.
In between periods, Fox Sports North’s Kevin Gorg interviewed Mikko Koivu and, of course, he asks him how it feels to finally score a goal. The Minnesota Wild Captain didn’t miss a beat as he said it feels good and quickly moved on to saying how important it was to keep playing the way they have been so they can get the win. It’s not about him scoring. It’s about winning and finding any way possible to do it.
The Wild now had momentum going into the 3rd period as they rallied from the 3-1 deficit. Would they take that momentum into the 3rd period? You bet they would. This time the goal came from the one & only Nate Prosser. Mike Reilly took a slapshot from about left center and in about 5 feet from the blueline that leaves a rebound and J.G. Pageau tries to clear it out by hitting the puck the middle but he doesn’t get a lot on it. Nate Prosser is able to keep it in the zone and while backpedaling towards the puck and to the left he shoots back against the grain and scores to the middle to upper right corner. That was Nate Prosser’s first goal since last April.
About 3 minutes later after Wild G Alex Stalock absolutely stones Bobby Ryan (6:17 of the highlight video at the top),Jonas Brodin gets on the board with his 3rd of the season off his own rebound that also came off a failed attempt to clear the puck out from in front of the net by Ottawa D Cody Ceci. Alex Stalock made a number of huge saves to give his team a chance to come back and get this victory.
The Wild had the Senators scrambling just trying to throw pucks to get it out of the zone. Those are the moments when the offense can really take advantage of a team because as they are scrambling, the offensive players are calm and looking to get open or trying to find the puck to shoot again. The Wild have “exorcised the demons” with the goals in this game! Who’s next?
With the Wild up 5-3, they didn’t hold back. They kept being aggressive in the offensive zone, trying to expand the lead instead of just protect it. They ended up extending the lead to 6-3 on Eric Staal’s 2nd goal of the night off a rebound. Ottawa would get one back on their own power play with 1:26 left in the 3rd period so the final score was 6-4 but that’s a heckuva response from a Wild team that was down 3-1 in the 2nd period where 2 of the goals against went off of Wild players.
We haven’t really seen that kind of consistent play from the Wild very much this season. Now, hopefully, they keep up that kind of effort and keep shooting the puck, especially since those shots started going in. We’ll find out when they face the Florida Panthers at 6:30pm on Friday night on Fox Sports North!
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