The Wild played host to the Anaheim Ducks Friday evening in a preview of a potential playoff match-up. You could expect a hard hitting style game from the Ducks as they continue to push for the Pacific Division crown. The Wild hope to continue its current run as it hopes to see the post-season for the third time in three years.
Minnesota got out to a 16-7 lead in shots after one period, but Francois Beauchemin would open the scoring for the Ducks with a late-period goal after serving a penalty. Devan Dubnyk was partially screened on the shot by Jonas Brodin, who did attempt to get out the way for his goalie to get a clear view of the puck, but was too late. The period felt like the first periods in December games when the Wild would generally dominate the period with shots on goal and then give up a goal to break the back of the team.
However, this team is back-stopped by Dubnyk, and the team would not be beaten that easy. The Wild pressed in the second period and were able to cash in. The Wild desperately need to get the power play to get back on track. Thomas Vanek, who passed up a great shooting opportunity to find someone on the backdoor, got the puck back and got off a terrible, shallow angle shot John Gibson couldn't handle cleanly. The puck dropped in the crease and Zach Parise was there to pick up the scraps. The Wild tied the game at one and some life was injected back into the Xcel Energy Center crowd, which was raucous for the first 19:13 of the first period.
Gibson proved to be a tough test to beat Friday. The Wild got plenty of great chances, but couldn't get them past the Ducks' goaltender. He stopped all 32 shots he faced 5-on-5, as the lone Wild goal was scored on the power play. As time started to wind down, Wild players were shooting just wide on purpose in hopes to get a flukey bounce or a deflection as they tried to go around Gibson because he was that good.
The Ducks scored a little more than two minutes later. Jakob Silfverberg tipped in a Simon Despres shot after Matt Dumba turned over the puck on a muffed pass attempt in front of Dubnyk. Dumba, had some serious gaffs in Friday's game after a series of games where he looked rock-solid defensively.
The Wild, not for the lack of effort, were unable to come up with the game-tying goal in the third period and the two teams skated to a 2-1 finish. Devan Dubnyk was good, but not great. He stopped 22 of 24 shots on goal. The second goal was a total chuff by Dumba on the failed pass, but Dubnyk is expected to stop the shot. The power play not being able to score more than once was a killer for the Wild. They got good zone time and plenty of chances, but the puck would not cooperate. The power play could have easily scored more goals than the 1-for-5 it finished the game at. The Wild's number one ranked penalty kill was solid through and through.
Minnesota had dominated the Corsi charts all game long. This is a different type of game the Wild had than the two previous games they played the Ducks. In the previous two games, Even Strength Corsi was skewed to the Ducks.
In Friday's game, the Wild played a pretty complete game. You can see that the goal with 47 seconds left in the first period took some wind out of the Wild's sails. The Ducks were also very good at breaking out of the zone making keeping the Wild to one-and-done chances thus making it difficult to apply any sustained pressure. It also helped the Ducks catch up in shots as they got a few opportunities of their own and Dubnyk had to be strong.
All images courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.com
It wasn't the way the Wild wanted to start the toughest part of its schedule as it tires to prove itself worthy of the playoffs. The L.A. Kings are just two points behind the Wild in the eighth spot in the West. Minnesota will now travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues, where they just never play well, on Saturday.