The Wild are finally getting healthy again, and they're poised to kiss .500 goodbye.
Missing Zach Parise for the previous 5 games (concussion), and Marco Scandella for the last two (mumps), the Wild must have been very happy to get those two back into the lineup, and while the entire game wasn't pretty, those two players ended up being the difference between 2 points and 0.
The Minnesota Wild had a very good first period against the Winnipeg Jets, and that was pretty much all they needed. The Wild opened the scoring about two minutes into the game, where Nino Niederreiter got behind Ondrej Pavelec's net and managed to control his stick enough to put the puck in the net. Then Zach Parise showed that he had no rust from his concussion, scoring two goals over the course of the first period to put the Wild up 3-0.
From then on, the game was notable for two things. The first was the passivity the Wild played with, content to play it safe with a 3-goal lead against a team that was considered to be a strong contender for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. The second was the game's chippiness. Jason Zucker and Erik Haula were both on the receiving end of hits that saw their heads hit glass. The teams accumulated a combined 47 penalty minutes, including a second period that saw 34 of those minutes dished out.
That passivity almost cost the Wild a point tonight. The Jets got back in the game with a Michael "You Can" Frolik "My Balls" goal, followed up 3 minutes later with a weird goal from Evander Kane. After that, Andrew Ladd, redeeming a really bad night for himself, scored the game-tying goal leading Mike Yeo to pull Niklas Backstrom.
The Wild held on to go to overtime, and Marco Scandella ended it with a big shot from the point, his third goal of the year.
It's hard to say enough good things about Scandella this season, who has 3 goals and 2 assists while munching minutes in a defensive role for the Wild this season. He's playing the exact same game that we saw from him last season in terms of defense, and flashing that big shot more and more is helping to provide the offense from the blueline the Wild need to take the next step. Long live Pizza.
As for the Wild, this win puts them at 10-7, giving them 20 points on the season. Despite being 4th in the Central Division, the Wild still aren't in the playoff picture thanks to San Jose holding down that second Wild Card slot. There's little to worry about, though. For one, the Wild are playing really great hockey on the season, and they should expect to continue to do well. In addition, Winnipeg and Calgary are still solid bets to drop from the playoff picture, and the Wild have games in hand on 6 of the 8 teams ahead of them in the standings. If they keep playing as well as they have been, playoffs shouldn't be an issue.
Ice Time Notes:
*For Forwards, Mikko Koivu led the Wild with 22:19, the second most TOI he's had this season (vs PIT, 22:23). This included an astonishing 5:19 amount of Penalty Killing. BTW, Koivu and the Wild held the Jets to 0-8 on the Power Play, ineptitude not seen since... well, the Wild's Power Play.
*A rare sighting- Ryan Suter did not lead the Wild in TOI tonight, as Jared Spurgeon edged him out by 34 seconds (Spurgeon got 28:58). This was likely due to Ryan Suter being in the penalty box 4 times today.
*Short-handed time threw a lot of player's TOI out-of-whack, so I wouldn't quite rally the "#FreeTheDangerZoneLine" tweets just yet.
*After playing 39:27 in the last two games, Keith Ballard played just 8:48 tonight, where Dumba played 8:35. Both looked solid.
*The lowest TOI for forwards belonged to Justin Fontaine (8:01), and Ryan Carter (8:15).
The Wild's next game will be at Philadelphia on Thursday night. With the exception of Mac, Philly fans are the worst, so let's hope they get a W then.