You can look at last night's game against the New York Islanders through the lenses of two different narratives. First is the fact that the Wild gave up a 3-0 lead in the first period for the second home game in a row. Elite teams do not do that, and this is a sign that the Wild clearly are not consistent enough to play with the league's best. Second is the narrative of a team shaking off its struggles and rallying together to pull off an amazing comeback. Which to choose?
On a personal level, I gravitate towards the more optimistic route. I was at the X last night and it was quite the emotional experience. Yes, the first period was terrible and the team really needs to figure out how to start a hockey game, but I'm hoping that message got through after last night.
For the last forty minutes, the Wild were aggressively dominant. They went hard to net instead of flirting around the perimeter and were rewarded with some gritty goals. Let's take a look at the stats:
As you can see from the shot attempt chart from War-on-ice.com, the Wild really turned it on in the third period. Certainly score effects were an important factor in this game, but the Wild were really able to exploit the Islander defense as they sat back to protect their lead.
Thomas Vanek asked Mike Yeo for a shot at the top line and the early results are positive. Vanek had one of his best nights in a Wild sweater, scoring a goal on three shots and making some nice plays in the offensive zone including a few near misses on tipped shots. We'll have to keep an eye on this line going forward to see if it can help spark Vanek once and for all.
Mikko Koivu's line with Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker also had a strong night, combining for eight shots on goal. Koivu now has six points in the last five games, including three goals.
The third and fourth lines each put up decent production in limited minutes. Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle put up positive Corsi numbers despite getting zero offensive zone starts. Coyle was also limited to only 11:49 minutes of ice time. The fourth line of Ryan Carter and Kyle Brodziak seemed to get a boost in the third period when they were joined with Erik Haula.
Defensively wasn't always as pretty. Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin finished the game very strong, but a few mental errors gave the Islanders a few too many chances. Marco Scandella had a costly turnover trying to clear the zone late in the third that led to a John Tavares chance. Scandella also two third penalties that could have cost the Wild the game. His illegal check to the head could result in a suspension. Nate Prosser actually had a solid game after losing his defensive partner in the second period.
Wild Three Stars of the Game
1. Thomas Vanek- He played inspired hockey against his former team and was rewarded with a goal and an assist.
2. Mikko Koivu- Won 22 of 30 faceoffs and scored a key goal that ignited the third period comeback.
3. Nino Niederreiter- Shook off a couple of poor performances in the last few games and made his presence known all over the ice, eventually netting the winner.
Next up: Thursday vs. San Jose Sharks, 9:30 PM
Stats collected from www.war-on-ice.com