After a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Friday night the Minnesota Wild returned home to St.Paul for a game against the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning, who had been waiting and resting for the Wild back in Minnesota.
This was a good win for Minnesota in several ways, firstly, Minnesota was on the back end of a back to back against a rested team, which is never an easy thing to do in the NHL. Secondly, the Wild did not start out very well in this game, falling behind 2-0 early. They easily could've gone into a shell, but they kept coming hard in the offensive zone and were eventually rewarded for their hard work in the 2nd and 3rd periods.
The first period started out with a goal by Zach Parise being waved off emphatically by the referee. You could see on the replay the puck was clearly knocked in by Parise with his hand. Then about a minute later, Ryan Callahan made a perfect redirect of an Anton Stralman shot past Stalock to give the Bolts an early 1-0 lead. From there, it did not look good for the Wild in the 1st as it hasn't in every one of the first few games of the season. The Lightning continued to control play when Yanni Gourde got a rebound at the top of the crease and put it past Stalock to extend the lead to 2-0. The Wild would cut the lead in half about 3 minutes later, however as Nino Niederrieter chipped the puck out front to Charlie Coyle who got just enough of the Puck to get it past Vasilevskiy. Unfortunately, the Wild would not tie it nor get out of the 1st only done by 1 goal, as JT Miller would score a Power-Play goal on a beautiful tip-in to make it 3-1.
The Wild seemed to come out in the 2nd a completely different team - hustling after pucks and pressuring Tampa Bay would lead to a goal from the 4th line as Marcus Foligno got a nice pass from Eric Fehr alone on a breakaway and made a move tp the backhand and put in past the Tampa goaltender for his 1st of the year and to get the Wild within one. Minnesota kept coming in waves after that goal by Foligno, with Vasilevskiy having to make several fantastic saves to keep Tampa Bay ahead going into the 3rd. Especially standing out was a save he made on Eric Fehr after Granlund circled the net and fed a pass to Fehr on the other side with half of an empty net, but Vasilevskiy got it with his skate to keep it out of the net. Aside from a Minnesota penalty with about 5 minutes left, the Wild controlled the puck for the majority of the time but could not tie the game and headed into the 3rd trailing 3-2.
After another ten minutes of getting pain-stakingly close to tying the game, the Wild finally broke thought as Zach Parise picked up a rebound off of a Koivu shot to tie the game at 3, in a very Parise-like grind it out type of goal. The energy in the building was palpable, and the momentum on the ice had clearly tuned in the Wild’s favor. Then about 7 minutes later, Matt Dumba took a shot that bounced over to Zucker who slapped it past Vasilevskiy to give the Wild a 4-3 lead. That lead would not last long however, as Anton Stralman was left all alone in front of the net and slid it on the ice past a sliding Stalock to tie it at 4-4. A costly mistake could have cost the Wild this game, but they came right back at it as Charlie Coyle had a great chance on a breakaway but was stopped by another great save by Vasilevskiy. The time on the clock would run out and the Wild would go to 3 on 3 overtime for 4th time in this young season.
Like the 1st period, the Lightning would control the puck for most of the 3 on 3 although they did not get too many great chances to win the game. After gaining possession from Tampa Bay, Stalock would throw a pass up to Charlie Coyle who skated into the offensive zone and drop passed to Granlund, who’s wrist shot squeezed by Vasilevskiy low to give the Wild the win 5-4 in overtime.
Overall, this was probably the Wild’s best game of the season, although they still need to figure out how to get going and improve their 1st periods. It is encouraging to sweep the back to back, even when not playing at their best. The Wild will get a few days off until they take on the struggling Los Angeles Kings on Thursday in St.Paul.