With the unofficial start of the second half of the Minnesota Wild’s regular season underway, the Wild got off to a great start with a 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Tyler Graovac notched his first career multi-goal and multi-point game in the victory that again saw the Wild’s depth and balanced attack be the factor. Darcy Kuemper stopped 41 out of 43 shots faced, and the Wild look to keep a stranglehold on the Western Conference lead.
Graovac got the goal scoring started when he scored unassisted at 13:09 of the first. The goal capped off a great shift from the fourth line that got in on the forecheck and got the offensive cycle going. The pace early was furious as both teams were coming into the game rested after a four day break for All-Star festivities. The Wild had owned the shot counter and shot attempts for most of the period, while Kuemper was fighting through bodies to track the puck. Jason Zucker would pounce on a puck that was poked loose of the half-wall by Mikko Koivu right out to the slot and fire through Cam Talbot with 3.6 seconds remaining in the period.
Matt Dumba would get called for high sticking early in the second period. While the Wild would kill the penalty off, the Oilers started to get more zone time and really poured on the shots. Zach Parise would score his ninth of the season when Jason Pominville sent a puck to the top of the crease. Parise’s first shot was stopped by Talbot, but Parise didn’t miss on the rebound.
Edmonton was not to be denied. Anton Slepyshev would get a stick on an Adam Larsson shot and deflect it past Kuemper to make Oiler deficit 3-1. Kuemper has been spot multi-goal leads before this season only to have them disappear completely. Minnesota would pick up their netminder when Graovac and Mikael Granlund would execute a beautiful give ‘n’ go that Graovac would finish off for a 4-1 lead.
That would chase Talbot from the net. Laurent Brossoit would enter the game in relief.
Connor McDavid only had three shots on goal in the game and didn’t end up with a single point all season versus the Wild. However, he was sprung on a partial break that forced Koivu to slash him and draw a penalty. The slash itself was fairly light, but how dare you touch McJesus, right? Leon Draisaitl would score on the ensuing power play when Milan Lucic found him in the left circle in the middle of the Wild’s PK box for his 20th of the season.
Minnesota gave up 16 shots to their 6 shots in the second period that saw them score twice, but also saw the Oilers score twice as well.
Just a couple minutes into the final frame, Kuemper wouldn’t do himself any favors when he sailed a puck into the crowd for a two minute Delay of Game minor. Chris Stewart would serve the penalty. Kuemper would continue to battle through bodies to keep the score at 4-2. He’d make a save off the pad that would go right out to Zucker in the slot. Stewart was exiting the box at the same time and Zucker just had to advance the puck to him at the Edmonton line. Zucker would hustle to make it a 2-on-1 rush and Stewart, who stared down Zucker coming down the wing, swept the puck through the five-hole on Brossoit to make the score 5-2. Stewart nets his 11th of the season. Both Zucker and Kuemper get assists on the play. It would be Kuemper’s first career NHL point, and Zucker’s 20th assist of the season, after having only 10 assists last season.
Later in the period, it would appear that Pominville would score, but after a review by the league, it would be waved off as no-goal because Pominville batted the puck into the net with a body part. That body part was his chest, if you want to try and figure out how one goes about batting a puck in with the torso. The 5-2 score would hold and the Wild would come away with two points. They are the first team to cross the 70 point threshold and are currently up six points on the second place Blackhawks, who were in action late Tuesday night.
Wild are back in action Wednesday in Calgary. Come back for more analysis, your game preview and tale of the tape, as well as the gamethreads. See you then!