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Down 3 centers, Lightning handles Wild 4-1

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NHL: Minnesota Wild at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I wasn’t really feeling this recap. I was about as uninspired to write as the Wild were in the game in which they...um...played? Spectated? Existed? Yeah, it was about as ugly as the Blues game. Minnesota could not get the second chances it needed to beat a very good netminder in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Victor Hedman’s game winner in the first period stood tall as Nikita Kucherov scored his 29th and 30th goals of the season.

The story? Tampa Bay won the game, but lost three key players. Vladislav Namestnikov got twisted up with Zach Parise landing on his legs as they both went into the boards. Then Tyler Johnson tried to avoid a check by Nino Niederreiter, but in his leap, got his left knee pinned up against the boards. Both players went off with assistance and both plays happened to be freak occurrences with no ill-intent involved. Just when it was announced that neither of the Johnson or Namestnikov would be returning, Cedric Paquette tried pulling Nino Niederreiter away from a pile in the Tampa crease and ended up tweaking his left knee and/or ankle as the 6’2” 211-pound Swiss came crashing down on him.

The Wild had four power play opportunities of which they found zero success. Blocked shots and a failure to get set up in the zone plagued Minnesota with the man advantage. It wasn’t pretty. Boudreau even resorted to just throwing the fourth line of Ryan White - Erik Haula - Charlie Coyle out there on a power play in the third period.

Kucherov took only six seconds to score on the Lightning’s first power play chance in the game. It was a snipe too. He took a rising shot from the back rim of the right circle and beat Dubnyk over the left shoulder. It was a pretty shot by a dangerous player, and he made the Wild pay. that goal stopped the penalty kill streak at 11 games, one shy of the franchise-best 12 game streak of not allowing a power play goal.

Victor Hedman scored by walking in from the left point and firing a shot over Dubnyk’s glove. It was another great shot by a good player, but the defense was highly suspect on the play. However, the back breaker came in the second period when a seemingly benign shot, one that Devan Dubnyk stops 99.999 percent of the time, ended up trickling through his pads. It looked as if the Wild had just about given up after the third goal. Not a good sign, especially when the Wild controlled zone time for the final 10 minutes of the first period.

Eric Staal was pissed when a he looked to have scored on a breakaway in the third period. Vasilevskiy made the initial stop, but the rebound caromed off of the knee of Staal and crossed the goal line. The red light came on, but the referee vehemently waved the goal off. They blew the play dead because Staal had made contact with the goaltender. Bruce Boudreau challenged the call, it looked like a legit goal, but the official wouldn’t change his mind.

It wasn’t long after that when Marco Scandella scored. The Jonas Brodin shot pinballed off of Jason Zucker before Scandella was able to tap the puck home. That Staal non-goal loomed large as Minnesota could’ve made it interesting with a one goal deficit, but taht was not the case. Kucherov then iced the game with an empty-net goal and a 4-1 finish.

Minnesota heads across the Florida peninsula to Sunrise to take on the Panthers and former Wild player Thomas Vanek. Minnesota needs to figure they stuff out now and hopefully the quick turn-around can help them forget this clunker of a game. There certainly wasn’t anything inspiring to take from this game.