The Minnesota Wild came into tonight's game reeling after dropping 4 straight games where they were outscored 14-3. Nothing like a little home cooking against a bad team to open the flood gates as the Wild would drop 5 on the Buffalo Sabres and win tonight by a score of 6-3. How this game started though, had fans thinking, "Oh, not again!" But it was not to be for Buffalo as the Wild brought out the big guns tonight, and we even got to see some hats on the ice!
The scoring opened up early, just 1:03 into the game Buffalo would slip one past Darcy Kuemper, whom if you joined the game late did actually start tonight. Rasmus Ristolainen would find himself in the right place at the right time as he deflected a Matt Moulson shot past Kuemper. Buffalo would not hold the lead for long though as the Wild got back on the attack right away.
If you're a huge fan of goals, and who isn't, the 6th minute of the 1st period was for you. At the 6:07 mark Ryan Carter would cross-check a puck past Jhonas Enroth, proving cross-checking is not just a penalty. The goal was initially waved off, the refs thinking Carter gloved it in, but after a short review the goal was allowed and the Wild were on the board. Just 7 seconds after that Nino Niederreiter would score his first goal of the game, and 10 seconds after that the Sabres would tie the game back up when Zemgus Girgensons beat Kuemper. That is 3 goals in just 17 seconds on the ice, wow!
Darcy looked shaky early, and clearly wasn't seeing the puck well tonight. A shot that went wide had Kuemps wondering what was going on, and after getting beat twice on two shots coach Yeo had seen enough and replace Kuemper with Niklas Backstrom who looked pretty good for much of the night.
The Wild would give fans would have more to cheer about at 9:21 in the first when Kyle Brodziak flipped a wrister past Enroth and put the Wild back on top 3-2. Nino Niederreiter would close out the scoring in the first period at the 17:52 mark, scoring his 2nd goal of the night, and on the power play nonetheless! Shots favored the Wild after the 1st period 20-5, and a 2 goal lead to show for it.
The second period opened up and the Wild kicked it off just as they had left the 1st. The Wild were putting on some good pressure against the Sabres but would not be rewarded on the scoreboard as the Sabres were able to ice the puck a few times and weather the early storm. The 2nd period would not be without it's fireworks however as at the 13:50 mark of the period Jared Spurgeon, back in his first game after some injury time off would get yet another power play goal for the Wild. 2 power play goals in 1 game, who knew such things were possible!
Things would slow down a bit for the 3rd period and both teams would only allow 8 shots on goal for the closing stanza, and both team would score as well. Former Wild speedy forward Torrey Mitchell would get the Sabres on the board in the 3rd and cut the lead to 2 at the 12:56 mark when he was able to find a hole in Backstroms armor and snap one under his waffle pad. But the fireworks would come at the 17:32 mark when we the hats would rain down on Xcel Energy Center ice. Nino Niederreiter would complete the hat-trick, albeit with an empty net, and put the Wild back up by 3, closing out the scoring for tonight's game in fashion.
The Wild did exactly what you are supposed to do against a bad team, and it couldn't have come at a better time as they snapped a 4-game losing streak and beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-3 on home ice. Yeo shifted around the lines tonight and the team seemed to respond. The Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivue, Jason Pominville line looked fantastic most of the night. The defense wasn't as horrible as it looked on paper, Ryan Suter didn't even log 30 minutes in the game.
Bottom line is, no matter the team, the Wild were finally able to get it done tonight. They needed this game, and it doesn't matter if it was Buffalo or Chicago. Next up for the Wild, they will defend the Conference III belt as they travel to the lone-star state to take on the Dallas Stars on Saturday. They Wild have historically struggled in Dallas, defending the belt will be no easy task!