Last season when the Minnesota Wild welcomed the Columbus Blue Jackets to the X it was a big battle of the winning streaks. Slightly less on the line tonight as both teams are facing off very early in the season, and hardly the time to build such winning streaks. The Wild have had to endure some pretty significant injuries early this season with 5 key-players out of the lineup tonight. Even with the depleted lineup, the Wild was able to secure a 2-goal lead twice in the game, but Columbus just wouldn’t go away and eventually beat the Wild 5-4 in overtime.
The game started out with all the makings of a 1-0 struggle with both teams struggling to put together and kind of meaningful zone time early in the 1st period. Eric Staal was able to break the deadlock with under 5 minutes remaining in the period with a nifty little give-and-go play with Chris Stewart. Staal found some space down low and lifted his shot over Sergei Bobrovsky’s glove hand. Pretty goal.
Under a minute later Zach Werenski would even the score after the Wild defense got caught puck watching while Alexander Wennberg skated towards the goal. Werenski was left all alone on the weak side and with Devan Dubnyk out playing the puck he had nothing but net staring him in the face from 12 feet out. The period would conclude with no further fireworks as both teams seemed content to take a 1-1 tie into the break.
Just a few moments into the 2nd period the Wild would be on the power play and Tyler Ennis would slam home a nice cross ice feed from his long-time buddy Jared Spurgeon because of course these two would hook up for his first goal in a Wild jersey. I even think Spurgeon went back to pick up the puck for him after he realized what had just happened. Watch him in the replay.
Following Ennis putting the Wild up 2-1, an unsung hero would emerge from Iowa. Landon Ferraro saw what everybody else in the stadium saw, a puck loose behind Bobrovsky after a Zack Mitchell shot. Ferraro fought through the Columbus defense to get a poke on the loose puck before anyone could clear the danger. It’s the kind of dirty goal the Wild are going to have to rely on while some of their skill players are stuck in the med-bay.
With the Wild now up 3-1, it would take the Blue Jackets no longer than the ensuing faceoff to bring the lead back down to 1 when they scored off a rush right out of the draw, seemed to catch the Wild napping. Oliver Bjorkstrand chased down a loose puck and skated it into the defensive zone. He fired a shock that hit Jonas Brodin but deflected directly back to David Savard who ripped a shot past Dubnyk from distance.
The 2nd period would come to a close with the Wild leading 3-2 and were starting to take over play. Early in the 3rd period the Wild would find themselves on the power play again, and once again Tyler Ennis would score for the Wild. Mikko Koivu shot a pass towards the net looking for a deflection, and Ennis happened to get his skate in the way to direct the puck past Bobrovsky and give the Wild another 2-goal lead at 4-2.
Once again it wouldn’t take long for the Blue Jackets to answer. Cam Atkinson was battling for position in front of Dubnyk when Jack Johnson ripped a shot from the point. Atkinson found the rebound and was able to get off an off-balance chip shot to get the puck pasts Dubs. Once again the Wild had let a 2-goal lead slip away, and throughout the remainder of the period you could almost sense the inevitable.
With under 5 minutes remaining in regulation Josh Anderson would tip in a shot from Savard to tie the game. Initial complaints from Dubnyk that the deflection was too high were unfounded and the goal would stand after a review. The period would end with both teams deadlocked at 4 and would require overtime to settle up.
Overtime would prove woeful for the Wild who started the extra frame with Ryan Suter, Jason Zucker, and Mikko Koivu and had first possession. The Wild were unable to get anything going however and the Blue Jackets would score just 47 seconds into overtime. Alexander Wennberg would direct a bouncing puck past Dubnyk to spoil the Wild home opener, 5-4 in favor of the Blue Jackets. The goal would obviously be reviewed, but it went off Wennberg’s stick last before crossing the goal line, good hockey goal.
Despite the loss, the Wild did convert on 2 of 3 power plays in the game and dominated the faceoff dot winning 66% of the draws. Staal finished the game winning 75% of his draws, and Luke Kunin made his NHL debut playing 13:53 with 1 hit. You could see the wheels start turning a little quicker for the kid as the game went on. He got a few looks but nothing landing on the official stat sheet.
Ultimately, the Wild were outshot, dramatically. With Dubnyk stopping 30 of 35 shots on goal, the Wild were pretty fortunate to get 4 past Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky out of just 21 shots on goal. With the Jackets trailing for much of the game, the score does hold some measure there, but the Wild still need to play defense, and with the depleted lineup they were just not able to stack up for a full 60.
Next up for the Wild, is nothing. The Wild have 5-consecutive days now without hockey to stew on it before they travel to play the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. Somebody needs to have a discussion with the NHL about backloading their hockey schedules.