It was doom and gloom heading into the game as the Wild were looking for some luck to go their way. With a much better defensive effort, and a much more conceited effort to generate shots every chance they got, the Wild come away with a win with a 4-2 score. Devan Dubnyk was mostly solid with the goal posts acting as his lucky charms, the Wild were able to take a ‘W’ in the Golden Knights’ first ever visit to St. Paul.
Both teams took a bit to get going in this game. Vegas looked to be really fast and Minnesota was forced to play fast just to keep up. Notably, the Wild were taking shots as often as they could, specifically Matt Dumba. Dumba was elevated to pair with Ryan Suter in Jared Spurgeon’s second consecutive absence. He responded in kind by firing 6 shots on goal Thursday evening.
Dubnyk looked to be a bit more in control. With some truly awkward goals coming with players in his crease or just fighting the puck in general, it was good response by him. The Wild netminder made 29 saves en route to the win. Vegas also hit three posts, so luck looked to be on Dubnyk’s side. He also made some really spectacular saves. No save was potentially bigger than a stick save with about 4 minutes remaining in the game.
The Golden Knights were one of the best 2nd period teams in the league. Conversely, the Wild seem to struggle the most in the 2nd period. The Wild killed off all three minor penalties, including a Tyler Ennis high sticking penalty in the second period. The Wild played mostly in a chip ‘n’ chase fashion for the period and the Golden Knights took control of the game. However, after that big PK on the Ennis high sticking, the Wild were better about their zone entries and started taking their ice back.
The Wild defensemen really stepped up Thursday. After getting torched in back-to-back games, the whole group really responded. I already spoke about Dumba playing a much more decisive game, but I’d be remiss to not talk about Gustav Olofsson, Ryan Murphy, and Mike Reilly.
Olofsson took the game’s first penalty and also had a scary turnover in front of Dubnyk. He buckled down, drew a penalty, and really played well. Ryan Murphy launched four shots on goal and made a magnificent poke check on Reilly Smith with Dubnyk diving back to get into position. He was good with moving the puck all game long and was a factor on both end of the ice.
Mike Reilly was solid as well. He was only credited with one shot on goal for the game, but at 17:01 of the second, he used his skating ability to move the puck down the left-side boards. It opened up a passing lane and he sent a pass to Mikael Granlund in the right faceoff circle for a one-timer that opened the scoring in the game. Granlund immediately pointed to Reilly after his 6th goal of the season and said, “Hell of a pass,” to the former Gopher. Jason Zucker would get the second assist on the Granlund goal.
Minnesota finished the period feeling good about their game with a well defended and one goal lead.
It changed in an instant. Charlie Coyle tried one too many passes and turned the puck over in the Vegas zone. As the Knights broke the Wild line, Stefan Matteau made a drop pass right into the wheelhouse of Brayden McNabb. McNabb stepped into his slap shot that beat Dubnyk over the glove. Just a minute and 57 seconds later, the Golden Knights had undone the Wild’s much improved defensive effort. Jonathan Marchessault stepped in across the line in transition and beat Dubnyk over the glove with a hard wrister. The goals both came off the Vegas transition game and their speed had backed the Wild defensemen off from their good gaps. Also makes you wonder if Dubnyk was perhaps dropping into the butterfly a tad early, leaving the top of the net open.
The Wild tried to respond when Nino Niederreiter was straight-up robbed by Vegas goalie Malcolm Subban. Minnesota was eventually tie the game at two goals apiece when Jonas Brodin’s slap shot was deflected up and over Subban by McNabb’s stick just 42 ticks after Marchessault gave the Knights the lead.
Like I explained earlier, Dumba wasn’t wasting time with the puck and just kept a barrage of rubber heading Subban’s way. But in the third with the score tied, he’d fake a shot at the right point and skate around Tomas Nosek. Once in open ice, Dumba’s shot hit Deryk Engelland’s hand and right to Eric Staal camped out at the top of Subban’s goal crease for the lead.
Staal would add and empty-net goal to certify the 4-2 final score. It was really a solid response to the last few games by everyone. It was certainly the best game the Wild have played in a long time.