The Wild came back home tonight for just their 2nd game at the Xcel Energy Center on this season. After their break even stretch out west where the Wild gained 3 points out of a possible 6 and losing 2 consecutive games (one in overtime) they were looking to get back to their winning ways with a strong start against a Columbus Blue Jackets team that had dropped 7 consecutive games to start the season. Just 2 days ago, Columbus fired their head coach Todd Richards, who was the bench boss for the Wild prior to Mike Yeo taking the reigns, and hired the hot-headed John Tortorella. You could be assured the Blue Jackets would be looking to get a giant monkey off their backs in St. Paul.
The Minnesota Wild stumbled out of the gate against a team playing for a new coach. Passing throughout the first period was pretty shoddy at best, defensive zone clears were troubling all period and there was absolutely no extended pressure in the offensive zone. The first goal was easily the lone bright spot of the period, and it came on a rush. Ryan Suter stole the puck and shifted into the Jackets zone down the wall. As he got to the goal line he threw the puck into the crease looking for a good bounce and found Zach Parise who was rushing in through the slot to pocket his 6th goal of the season. A nice bang-bang play that had their shady play up to that point looking like it was in the rear-view mirror. It was not however, and it was all downhill from there.
Alexander Wennberg was sliding through the circle to the right of Devan Dubnyk, who couldn't slide across his crease to match him when his left skate got tangled up with Jared Spurgeon. Wennberg fired a wrister that slipped in under Dubnyk and the score was tied. Late in the period, an errant pass from Justin Fontaine would lead to a Thomas Vanek slashing penalty. It would be the Wild's 2nd PK of the period and when Marco Scandella failed to clear a puck he had on his stick, with plenty of time, the Blue Jackets capitalized. Brandon Dubinsky flipped a wrister past Dubnyk to put the Blue Jackets up 2-1 going into the first intermission.
It was troubling to see the team really struggle to put together even a decent period after the kind of game they showed they could play in Anaheim 4 days ago. Nothing seemed to be working for the Wild from misfired passes to getting hemmed in their own defensive zone. There wasn't a lot of quality chances for the Blue Jackets, but they still found a way to capitalize on their opportunities.
The 2nd period came around and the Wild looked like, well, not a different team, because that would assume they looked like a team at all in the 1st period. At any rate, the Wild seemed to find their legs in the 2nd. The passing was still a bit of a struggle right off puck drop but they got things turned around in a hurry. Much of the pressure in the 2nd was in the Blue Jackets defensive zone as the Jackets were limited to just 9 shots on goal in the 2nd.
Nino Niederreiter would open the scoring for the Wild in the 2nd period when he buried a rebound off a Jared Spurgeon shot. This puck had eyes as Nino was able to flip around in the slot and slam one under Sergei Bobrovsky's left pad. This came after the Wild mounted what was to that time their best offensive pressure of the game.
At just after the 8 minute mark of the 2nd period, Cody Goloubef would earn 2-simultaneous minor penalties for holding and hooking, putting the Wild on a 4 minute power play. They were not able to convert on the first PP, but the second one garnered a pretty, pretty deflection goal from Thomas Vanek. Spurgeon would feed the puck over to Jason Zucker who fired a pass towards the net. Vanek was waiting, virtually on the goal line and managed to show off some stellar hand-eye coordination and deflect the puck in from a near impossible angle.
The period was full of some good pressure from the Wild, while really limiting the the chances coming from the Blue Jackets. When the horn sounded to close the 2nd, the Wild would lead by a score of 3-2.
The 3rd period we played to a stalemate. Neither team ended up scoring and that fact earned the Wild a win and handed the Columbus Blue Jackets yet another loss to start their season. It was not without its moments however. Scott Hartnell was left alone in front of Duby late in the period but couldn't handle the puck right and failed to get off a decent shot. He ended up pushing the puck across an empty crease but no Jacket was around to bury it.
Columbus would also get a breakaway midway through the final frame as Nick Foligno would find himself behind all the Wild's defense through the neutral zone. Ryan Suter however showed some good speed to catch up to Foligno and break up the play with a tremendous back check. How often do we talk about Suter's speed? Not often, but it seems this season with his minutes coming back to Earth he has found an extra gear.
The Wild started off slow, but finished strong to get themselves back in the win column at home after a 1-1-1 road trip out West. As nice as it is to get the win, it has to be equally heartbreaking for fans of the Blue Jackets who have had to endure 8 consecutive losses now to start their season. Honestly though, I'm glad they didn't get that first one against the Wild. Apparently giving teams their first wins on the season was just a California thing. Your Wild win the day, with a final score of 3-2, ruining Tortorella's coaching debut for the Blue Jackets.
You don't have to wait so long for the next game. The Wild welcome the Anaheim Ducks into the X this Saturday.