The Wild looked to find some success on the road against the New York Islanders. Despite goals from Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter, the Wild defense and Darcy Kuemper refused to take the win, and gave up the game in the third period. Charlie Coyle, meanwhile, decided the Wild needed a goon and logged 14 penalty minutes in the Wild’s third road loss of the season.
The Wild got off to a good start, playing by far its best period of hockey in the still-young season. With 11 shots on goal, the Wild were peppering Isles netminder Thomas Greiss. These weren’t weak shots from distance, there were several quality chances, but Greiss was up to the challenge.
The first period ended scoreless, despite a good period from the Wild.
The second period started off where the first ended; the Wild were shooting and were finally rewarded when Zach Parise jammed in his first of the season and 300th goal of his career. The lead didn’t last as a bad play at the blue line sprung the Islanders on a two-on-one that John Tavares finished easily.
Things went from bad to worse for the Wild as Calvin de Haan took a shot from the left point that Darcy Kuemper let in through his five-hole. Discontent with a one-goal lead, Jonny Boychuck decided to get in on the action and scored on another odd-man rush, this time three-on-two. This represented another save-able shot for Kuemper, despite some mediocre back-checking from the Wild forwards.
The Wild tried to make a game of it when Granlund picked up the puck in the corner and flung it towards the net. Parise took three whacks at the puck and got it across the line for his 301st goal and second of the game. This cut the Isles’ lead back to two.
From a puck-possession standpoint the second period was stellar from the Wild; they controlled 64% of the shot attempts at even strength and 67% in all situations. They limited the Islanders to a mere 14 shot attempts compared to the Wild’s 29 in all situations.
Alas, the third period was not much better for the Wild. The Islanders scored twice in just over two minutes (from Alan Quine and Thomas Hickey) to take a commanding 5-3 lead. Nino Niederreiter scored with under three minutes left, but the Islanders answered right back as John Tavares scored his second of the game on an empty net to bring the scoreline to its final 6-3.
The fourth line got burned for three goals, and that’s going to be the big headline, but it would be harsh to blame the forwards for Kuemper letting in two soft goals. More surprising than shaky play from Kuemper was Charlie Coyle; the normally level-headed center-cum-winger dropped the gloves not once but twice, perhaps feeling that negating a power play by injecting some energy would spur his team to victory.
Parise led the team with 10 shots on goal (some will say there were “soft” shots included, but as Darcy showed shots need not be great to be goals). Nino Niederreiter redoubled his efforts to prove his worth, rewarding his promotion to the second line with a goal and five shots on goal.
Seven different players put zero shots on goal, and only three were defensemen. Marco Scandella, Ryan Suter (who played 26:38, his time is creeping up already), and Christian Folin can be forgiven as they are blue liners. At nearly 27 minutes on the ice, it would be nice if Suter could shoot a few times and make Greiss work. That said, Suter led the Wild with three takeaways, so at least he did in fact do things.
Of more concern are the forwards. Zac Dalpe, Teemu Pulkkinen, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Chris Stewart all registered zero shots on goal. Dalpe and Stewart were the only players on the team to log less than 10 minutes on the ice (Pulkkinen squeaked over that at 10:36).
If Kuemper was hoping to strengthen his bid to be an NHL goaltender this season, he’ll need to start soon. This game brings his totals to two games played, a GAA of 4 and (more alarmingly) a Sv% of .871. Perhaps the defense can help Kuemper by not allowing odd-man rushes, but that save percentage is unacceptable.
The Wild get a day of rest tomorrow before they take on the Boston Bruins at TD Place. Puck Drop is at 6:00 Central, which really means 6:15.