As time ticked away in the third period, the Minnesota Wild were hoping to get through the game in one piece. After putting six goals on the Detroit Red Wings in a physical affair, the Wild could’ve ended the day much worse.
Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said, “I’ve known Nyquist for six years and I know there wasn’t any intent on that,” during the national network televised game. He, of course, was talking about Gustav Nyquist violently swinging his stick to the face of Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon in retaliation for a cross check.
Here's two best replays of Nyquist high stick on Spurgeon, full speed and slow reverse angle pic.twitter.com/pN3D4BqLhD— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 12, 2017
The referees deemed that retaliatory high stick worthy of just the run-of-the-mill 4 minute double-minor. The fact of the matter, Nyquist should’ve been tossed.
Too bad that was on network TV. For a league that wants to appeal to the masses for viewership, a guy wildly, viciously swinging his stick to the face of an opponent does not up the ratings.
Outside of the play that mired the game, the Wild cashed in on three of their four power plays in the game. The game was slow paced to start. Not much happened in terms of real, actual chances until Jason Zucker drew his team leading 17th penalty. Mikael Granlund would score to give the Wild an early 1-0 lead. Wild call-up Gustav Olofsson would notch his first career NHL point by getting the second assist on the play.
The Wild would cash in on the power play that would follow the Nyquist high stick when Mikko Koivu would thread a pass through sticks and blades to Nino Niederreiter on the weak side for a 2-0 lead. It was Niederreiter’s team leading 19th goal of the season and 7th goal on the power play.
In the second period, Anthony Mantha scores to cut the margin to one. Bruce Boudreau did a little line juggling and moved Charlie Coyle down to center the third line with Jason Pominville and Zach Parise. Pominville would advance the puck into the skates of Red Wings defenseman Nick Jensen. Coyle would poke the puck through Jensen’s feet, chase it down, and go bar down over Red Wings goalie Jared Coreau. Olofsson got the second assist and his second NHL point.
Later in the period, Henrik Zetterberg would bat a puck out of the air and over Dubnyk, who was down in his butterfly to make the score 3-2. Then, as the time was ticking down Jason Zucker would advance the puck through the neutral zone. After he released the puck and attempted to skate through, Mantha looked to step into his lane, stick out his hip and/or right leg and clipped Zucker as he flew by. Zucker went straight to the locker room. He returned for the third period. However, for a team that was close to losing Spurgeon to a vicious high stick, almost losing Zucker on a rather benign interference play, and were already without Jonas Brodin (Broken Finger) and Matt Dumba (lower body) in the game, the Wild can ill-afford to suffer a multitude of injuries.
Zach Parise would get a gift when Coreau got stuck behind the net, and Pominville centered the puck out front for Parise into the open net early in the third. But the Red Wings wouldn’t just go away. Andreas Athanasiou would score on a carom off the end boards on a shot from Nick Jensen to make the score 4-3. Then Detroit’s goaltending would fail them. Charlie Coyle won a face off and Christain Folin skated the puck down the right wing boards and shoot the puck just under the blocker of Coreau for a 5-3 lead. It was a soft goal, and a back breaker for the Red Wings.
Zach Parise would net his second goal on the power play for the 6-3 lead and that score would stand, as the Wild made the chippy, at times, dirty, Red Wings, “pay in their own way,” as Parise would state on KARE-TV after the game.
The Wild now have 80 points on the season and maintain a five point lead over the Blackhawks in the Central Division. Chicago is currently on their bye week and by the time the Blackhawks play next, the Wild will have played the same amount of games as them. It’s important Minnesota wins the games in hand.
Nyquist doesn’t have a history of dirty plays, but this play should warrant a suspension. There are mitigating factors with this as there is a clear intent to injure. If the Department of Player Safety feels that that is worthy of only two games, solely because Spurgeon did return to the ice and finished the game, then they may as well disband the department as a whole.