It was a 2-1 Wild lead going into the third period. It finished 3-2 after an 11-round shootout with the Ducks taking the extra point to draw even with the Wild in the Western Conference standings. With so much on the line, where the Wild could have created some separation between them and the teams behind them in standings, this is an unacceptable loss.
The Ducks scored first when Corey Perry took advantage of Mikael Granlund’s turnover deep in the Wild zone. Adam Henrique pushed Granlund off the puck as he was attempting to get an important clear on the penalty kill. The reason for the early penalty kill? Nino Niederreiter was called for holding on his first shift of the game. Perry displayed that he still has soft hands and slowly nudged the puck past Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk after deking him out of the way.
Minnesota did respond. Mikko Koivu got the puck at the Ducks’ line on a errant clearing attempt and fired the puck without hesitation toward the goalmouth. A fortunate bounce upwards off a Ducks skate tied the game in the 1st.
The second period opened with yet another penalty from Nino Niederreiter, prompting Bruce Boudreau to demote the Swiss forward. It’s not likely that Niederreiter is trying to take penalties, but it was his fifth minor in three games. Boudreau had had enough of one of his top players getting the gate and decided to send a message.
Minnesota was the better team in the second period as they pulled away in shots 14-7 in the frame. They had also attacked the net more as the first period was much more of a perimeter game for the Wild. Jason Zucker would get his career-high 23rd goal of the season when he deflected a high shot from Nate Prosser down and through John Gibson. Minnesota finished the period threatening for another goal, but Gibson kept his Ducks in the game.
The Wild also got too cute. There were many times the Wild had the puck on their sticks with good looks and elected to pass instead. The Wild have skill to shoot and score goals, but the over-passing on this team afflicts them like a plague.
You knew the Ducks were going to push in the third period as they knew the very real implications of this game. Minnesota, on the other hand, were content with just trying to defend rather than push the puck and keep up the offense. The Ondrej Kase - Adam Henrique - Nick Ritchie line pinned the Wild in the defensive zone for for a long stretch and Kase scored the tying tally. The shot from Hampus Lindholm came in from the left point. Kase was trying to tip the puck but instead stopped the shot. SO Kase pulled the puck in and scored to even the game.
Minnesota returend to pressuring the Ducks and even had Gibson flopping around in the crease on one shift. Matt Dumba took a shot that rang the post and the carom ended up underneath the Ducks goaltender for a big-time freeze. The Ducks forced overtime.
Overtime was more on the side of the Wild in terms of puck possession and zone time. Cam Fowler had the save of the game as he blocked a shot labeled for the twine by Granlund. Overtime was weird. So much possession and passing, but very few shots for the Minnesota. Even guys like Jason Zucker and Eric Staal had looks entering the zone and they kept passing. Again, this over-passing on this team just seems to effect everyone who thinks they can make the cute play.
The shootout was intense. Ryan Getzlaf put the Ducks up early, but Zach Parise answered in a must-score situation in the 3rd round. Nino NIederreiter, after getting demoted in the second period, scored to put pressure on the Ducks in the 4th round, but Kase tied it again. The shootout would go, and go, and go as each goalie made save after save. Then in the 11th round, Nick Ritchie scored to give the Ducks the important 2nd point in the standings.
Koivu 0 | Getzlaf $— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) February 17, 2018
Stewart 0 | Rakell 0
Parise $ | Perry 0
Nino $ | Kase $
Zucker 0 | Henrique 0
Staal 0 | Fowler 0
Granlund 0 | Silfverberg 0
Coyle 0 | Montour 0
Cullen 0 | Grant 0
Spurgeon 0 | Vermette 0
Dumba 0 | Ritchie $
It ended up being the longest shootout, per Elias Sports, for the Wild in franchise history. It was also a bad loss.
For how much was riding on this game, and having the lead, the way the Wild came out for the third period was disheartening. When you give the other team time and space to make things happen and they create momentum off of it, it’s increasingly more difficult to re-gain any sort of momentum to take the game back. That’s what happened here. They were too passive and content with dumping the puck down 200 feet rather than forcing the issue in the offensive zone and it, almost immediately, bit them in the derriere. The Wild let the Ducks gain an important point by getting to overtime so easily. Even if the Wild had won in OT or the shootout, the Ducks would have still trailed in the standings by one point. That still leaves so much pressure on the team to be mistake-free because any loss could be costly. Minnesota needed to take two points and give none. They had control of the scoreboard, and just gave it away. But not only did they give the Ducks a point, but they couldn’t even get the second one to stay ahead. It was more salt on the wound.
Just an unacceptable finish for a game that was about as much of a must-win at this part of the season as you could get.