The Wild were looking to take another step in the right direction after playing a really good game against the Capitals but getting beaten up by Alex Ovechkin on the power play. Tonight they welcomed the Ottawa Senators to St. Paul who are working towards playoff dreams of their own. The Wild would be short one Zach Parise, but had called Joel Eriksson Ek back over from Sweden and called up Alex Stalock from Iowa to make his first NHL start for the Wild. Both players would factor into the outcome.
The Wild continued to play their stingy style of defense which has been getting better as of late, holding the Senators to just 19 shots on goal all game. All they needed now was for the offense to open back up against a good netminder in Craig Anderson for the Senators, who was without his best defensemen in Erik Karlsson who was a late scratch. Unfortunately for Anderson, the Wild seemed to hit their stride against him tonight. At long last, the Wild seem to be trending in the right direction as the playoffs are just around the corner.
A 5-1 victory for the Wild looked just like it sounds. The Wild were dominant in nearly all phases of the game this evening. The Senators lone goal was scored barely off one of their power plays as Mike Hoffman got the scoring started in the game just as the man advantage had expired. To rub salt in the wound a little, he scored from Ovi’s circle nonetheless, well, his opposite circle anyway. That would be the extent of the Senators offense however, Stalock would stop 18 of 19 shots against him and he saw some great defense clearing pucks and bodies out of the slot all night.
Slumps were busted this evening, and not just for the Wild’s psyche. Nino Niederrieter would score twice, Eriksson Ek would pocket a goal, Jason Pominville would also find the twine, and Matt Dumba unleashed a rocket of a shot for a power play goal. The big offensive production we saw tonight was certainly a sight for sore eyes, Wild fans have been wondering where their scoring had gone on holiday, but it looks like it might be back with the team having scored 9 goals in their past 2 games.
Neutral zone play for the Wild tonight was in top form as well. It seemed that almost any time the Senators where trying to break into the Wild’s defensive zone, the guys on the ice were not giving them any space to do so. When they did manage to get past the blue line, Stalock didn’t see a heap of shots fired his way, and a lot of them came from outside of the high danger areas.
On offense, Erik Haula was moved to the wing with Eriksson Ek centering him and Ryan White on the 4th line. They had a fantastic game. Erikssons Ek’s goal came off that line, but they were applying some good pressure all night, Haula was using his speed on the forecheck and Eriksson Ek gained a chance or two on goal because of Haula’s effort. Haula was one of the guys who’s game has been way off of late, but it was great to see him playing his game again.
Nino scoring twice in the game was huge for him as well. He’s been ice cold in the goal scoring department lately, having just 1 goal in his past 20 games before tonight. Jason Pominville has always been a streaky goal scorer, so it was nice to see him getting his name in the goal column tonight. All-in-all, 12 players for the Wild had at least a point. Another big night for offensive production out of the Wild.
Solid defense, solid offense, great play in the neutral zone. This is the kind of hockey the Wild were playing through December and January and if it’s something they can carry into the playoffs they will be a scary team to face. Next up for the Wild, a pair of games over the weekend. Saturday they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators and Sunday they come back home to face the Colorado Avalanche. Just 5 games remain to get tuned up for the playoffs, the season closes Saturday April 8th on the road against the Arizona Coyotes.