It was a standard Central Division collision between the Blues and the Wild on Halloween night. It took until the 4:27 mark of overtime to settle an evenly matched game between the two rivals. Jason Zucker and Erik Haula scored to tie the game in the first period to help secure the single point in the standings as David Backes's second goal of the night ended the game.
Fourth Line Developing Identity
The Wild's speedy fourth line is working to develop its identity, which may be turning into something a bit unexpected.
Many are want to talk about the goaltending of one Devan Dubnyk and some of the softer goals he's let in this season. You couldn't get much softer when Backes scored on a shot from the right side just inside the blue line. The play was a bit broken as the puck looked to have hit the top of the glass for the penalty bench and the players on the ice were looking for the whistle to stop play. The Blues played on and Backes got the benefit of the Wild on its heels for the goal. Shortly after Alexander Steen scored on the short side over the right shoulder of Dubnyk, who had been down in his butterfly position a tad bit early.
Dubnyk eventually settled in and make some really good saves for the Wild to help send the game to overtime.
If the first goal on Dubnyk was soft, Jason Zucker's goal at 15:14 of the first stanza was equally soft for Blues goalie Jake Allen. Jason Zucker was getting pestered by Carl Gunnarsson all shift long, but a turnover by the Blues at the Wild blue line forced by Ryan Suter allowed Zucker, who was still trying to get back into the defensive end, some room up the left side. Zucker let go of a wrist shot that found the upper left corner over Allen's glove to cut the deficit in half.
Erik Haula put together likely his best game this season, and his second really solid game in as many nights. The Wild was entering the zone as Thomas Vanek carried the puck down through the left circle. His centering attempt hit a falling official, but Chris Porter and Haula combined on the right wall to force a turnover and keep the puck in the zone. The puck found Vanek, who then made a no-look backhand pass to Haula whose shot found the upper right corner of the net as he shot against the grain for his first goal of the season.
The second and third periods didn't feature any scoring, but it provided some great goaltending on both sides, physical play, and plenty of scoring chances. The Wild had really good puck movement on its first power play after Troy Brouwer was called for interference on Marco Scandella.
The Blues are a team that refs seem to just turn a blind eye towards. It's almost like the officials just say, "Hey, you're play the Blues, what do you expect?" Which, if you watch, means a ton of the after the whistle garbage and clear obstruction just doesn't get called. Like for instance, in the third period wile the Wild were on the power play, Mikael Granlund lost the puck and ended up tripping Alex Pietrangelo. Parise, who'd been fighting Steve Ott off all game long, recognized that the puck was likely headed out of the offensive and started to vacate the Blues' end. Steve Ott decided to get in his way and cross-checks were exchanged. Ott then dropped his gloves and him and Parise danced to the ice surface. Parise and Ott were both handed matching cross checking penalties, but for some reason, the fact that Ott dropped his gloves and tackled Parise was able to slide. Zach should know better than to engage Ott and instead should've just laughed at him. Essentially for Ott to finally get under the skin of Parise and goad him into taking a dumb penalty, Ott did his job.
Jason Pominville and Zucker came close to getting the go-ahead goal in the third. Pominville's defelcted and caromed off the right post. Zucker had a chance broken up just at the last second.
In overtime, the Wild had a number of of chances as Dubnyk looked like he was willing to smother any puck that had come his way. Granlund had a chance with Parise on a 2-on-1, but Granlund's shot was stopped by the left arm of Allen. Nino Niederreiter had made a move that caught Scott Gomez chasing, and a quick stop and turn had Nino in clear against Allen, but Allen was able to make the stop.
Then with 33 seconds and a 2-on-2 break for the Blues, Parise went for a line change. Thomas Vanek took Parise's spot as Granlund and Jonas Brodin had taken the first two Blues players in the zone. Vanek, having just gotten on the to ice couldn't pick up Backes as the late trailer and Backes ripped a shot of the post and in just over the blocker of Dubnyk. The Blues won a really even game as 5v5 shot attempts were 38-35 in favor of the Blues. Shots on goal were 31-26 for Minnesota and faceoffs were 36-34 to the Wild. In fact, perhaps the Wild can look at the goose egg on the power play, going 0-for-5, with the man-advantage that included a 5-on-3 two man advantage for a little over 30 seconds. Otherwise, it was just missed chances that did the Wild in as they had plenty in the final period to get the win on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Wild next play Thursday at home versus the Predators. The Central Division isn't getting easier and it's already an absolute gauntlet night in and night out. Five out of six points this past week with two of the three games being a back-to-back with the Blackhawks and the Blues.