Your Minnesota Wild flew into Calgary after a nice win in Vancouver on Tuesday night looking to continue that new trend, winning. The draw on tonight’s card was no easy task. The Calgary Flames are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, picking up point in 8 of their previous 9 games and carrying a 3-game winning streak coming into tonight’s contest. But the Wild have had success in the Saddledome of late, winning 4 of their last 6 games in Calgary and the Wild have historically had a pretty good showing against Mike Smith, winning 13 of 19 games against the Flames veteran goalie. Of course, none of that really matters on any given night.
The Wild came out having to adjust to the speed of Calgary as the Flames had a knack for finding odd-man rush opportunities, and this game was marked with many of those chances. While Calgary seemed to be getting the better chances, the Wild were still doing well to gain some control and managed to rip 11 shots off in the first period. Some good chances mixed in there, Jordan Greenway even had a nice deflection but Smith’s big body in net is tough to get a puck around.
The Flames would manage to score in the first period off the stick of Elias Lindholm, but after a coaches challenge the play was ruled offsides and the goal was disallowed. Credit to Eric Staal who was able to apply enough defensive pressure along the blue linewhich caused the puck to slip barely outside of the zone, but the ref missed the call and ruled it onsides in the moment and the Flames eventually went on to score a goal that wouldn’t count. For Bruce Boudreau, it would be his first successful challenge of the season after 2 previous unsuccessful attempts.
The first period would end with a minute of 4 on 4 hockey after Mikael Backlund and Staal would get matching minors for roughing. While the first period would close with the score tied at 0, the Flames would capitalize on the extra open ice just 50 seconds into the second period.
The play developed after Mikael Granlund struggled with possession along the blue line and he had the puck poked off his stick. Ryan Suter was caught pinching in and the Flames were off to the races. Johnny Gaudreau streaked down the wing in a 2-on-1 while Suter struggled to catch up. Gaudreau floated a pass over to Elias Lindholm who fired a wrister against the grain over Alex Stalock’s blocker.
It’s a little frustrating with all game having this notion that Calgary is so good at picking off odd-man rushes, only to have your highest paid defensemen get caught pinching. Suter for the most part played alright, but he seemed to be fighting it a little tonight.
The Wild would land 2 power plays in the final 7 minutes of the second period but Mike Smith was playing really well, and even when one got behind him it planted to the ice between his legs, making no motion towards the goal until after a whistle. Smith’s contemporary on the other end of the ice was having a fine night as well. Stalock, playing in his 100th NHL game, was scrambling at times, but looked solid given all the odd man rushes. The second period would end with a scramble in front of Stalock, but they would manage to hold on, keeping the Flames to a 1-0 advantage heading in the third.
Elias Lindholm would wait an additional 23 seconds in the third period before scoring his second goal of the game. Again, Gaudreau would set it all up in the offensive zone for a very late trailing Lindholm who made easy work of his shot. As soon as you saw all the white sweaters zero in on Gaudreau, you were just waiting for inevitability.
With the Flames up 2-0 early in the final frame, they started to lock it down defensively with blocked shots and active sticks in the lanes. The Wild struggled to get anything on net before being given a power play. Mark Giordano would get the gate for the second time in the game, and this time he tagged Mikko Koivu’s knee in a trip. Koivu would leave the ice and head back to the locker room. He would not return. Giordano should expect to hear from the NHL on this one. He got his knee out pretty far, it was a dirty play and should merit supplemental discipline.
The Wild, who were perfect on the power play Tuesday night in Vancouver, were unable to convert on their fourth power play and would end the game 0 for 5 on the man advantage. The Wild just seemed to be hamstrung. With the Flames back in their shell and playing a chip and chase forecheck, it made for a lot of chasing the puck around for the Wild. It certainly didn’t help that the Wild were missing their captain this point in the game either.
Bruce Boudreau would pull Stalock with north of 3 minutes remaining in the game, and the Flames would have numerous opportunities to really ice the game away but none of them seemed too interested in firing the puck. With under a minute left, Matt Dumba would absolutely freight trained Backlund and was harassed by most of the Flames on the ice before being jumped by Ryan Lomberg who wanted to fight with just 42 seconds left in a 2-0 game. Lomberg came from the bench and skated directly at Dumba. By the book in the last 5 minutes of the game thats 5-minute major plus 2 for instigating, a suspension, and Flames head coach Bill Peters should be assessed a $10,000 fine.
Hope it was worth the 1 punch you got in to the back of a helmet buddy. Enjoy your phone call with the NHL.
The Wild would eventually fall, suffering their first shutout of the season in a game I have to believe took a lot out of the gas tank for them. It will be interesting to see what they got left for tomorrow (Friday) night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. That’s right, we’ll be right back at this tomorrow night. In the meantime, get some rest, keep your stick on the ice, and keep your head up when Dumba is on the ice.