After a big-time win over division rival, and division leading, Nashville last night on home ice, the Minnesota Wild needed to dig deep to face another formidable foe. The Wild faceoff against the Boston Bruins in back-to-back fashion. The second half of back-to-backs haven’t been good to the Wild all season long, so the effort needed to be there.
And the Wild faithful in attendance were treated to a... single hard-earned point in the standings.
Zach Parise was good from the get-go. Twelve seconds in, he tallied the Wild’s only shot on goal for nearly nine minutes of the first period. Parise then drew a penalty after taking a high stick in the offensive corner, the first of two penalties drawn by number 11 of the night. The Wild shooters woke up and evened the shot counter with a good couple power plays. Tuukka Rask displayed some fine goaltending of the acrobatic variety when he dove and gloved down a Matt Dumba backhander. He followed it up with an impressive save by recovering from behind the net and stone-walling Ryan Murphy at the doorstep.
Matt Cullen was also denied by the edge of Rask’s skate blade. Rask was really the difference in the game from start to finish.
Minnesota would control the shots and most of the play as Alex Stalock had to fight off a Bruins furry near the end of the period to keep the first 20 minutes in a scoreless tie.
The second period was a different story. The Bruins were especially deft at taking away the neutral zone from the Wild. The legs stopped moving, there were more attempts at stretch passes, and the number and frequency of failed defensive zone clears rose sharply. One particular failed attempt at clearing the zone ended up with the puck in the Wild net. However, the Wild caught a huge break when the call was reversed due to goaltender interference by Riley Nash. And Bruce Boudreau didn’t even have to use his one challenge to get the reversal.
Though, it wouldn’t matter. A faceoff loss, a missed chance at getting the puck out, and the puck getting on David Pastrnak’s stick in the slot for a one-timer ended in a 1-0 deficit for the Wild. It was Pastrnak’s 30th goal of the season. The shot was low and just inside the left post.
Minnesota would eventually show up for the second period, now down by one, only to be haunted by the “Intent to Blow” rule, which is just legalese jargon for officials blowing a call on the ice. During a Wild flurry in the Boston end, Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal would bang the puck around the crease. On-ice official Dan O’Halloran lost sight of the puck. That’s because the puck was underneath the right pad of Rask, and across the goal line. But as play continued (because players are taught to play through the whistle) the puck was kicked out to Jason Zucker on the other side for what should have been a goal.
That all said, the play was ruled dead because O’Halloran lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle. Michael Russo of The Athletic explains what transpired:
Further clarification on the no-goal, O'Halloran told to Toronto he blew play dead because it was under Rask's pad, thus it didn't matter that puck crossed the line on both Granlund and Zucker shots— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 26, 2018
Essentially, #mnwild scored twice there and neither was reviewable
If we’re going to have to hire an entire legal team to decipher the rule of goaltender interference, can we have another look at the “intent to blow” rule while we’re at it?
Outside of that, Rask was nearly impenetrable. He was smooth, and square to puck nearly every chance the Wild got.
The third period needed to be a good one by the home team. They finally broke through when a shot by Dumba caromed back out front off the end-boards and Mikko Koivu pushed it the rest of the way. It was Koivu’s 14th of the season. Minnesota was close a few more times, as were the Bruins. Pastrnak was oh-so-close to re-taking the lead for Boston but looked to get tripped up by Ryan Suter to break up the chance. How Suter avoided a penalty on the play is lost on me.
With time ticking down to overtime, the Wild had a late push, but thrice failed to get a shot off, or all the way in to Rask.
It was Star Sunday on NBC Sports Network, which means they track the time of every shift for a player they deem as a “star” from each team. It’s an incredibly meaningless practice as I doubt anyone really cares about the elapsed time of the shift that any single player is taking. With all the scoreboard real estate the NBC graphics package has to offer, a shot counter would be a way better use of time and space for fans of all levels.
Brad Marchand was the Bruins’ “star” for Star Sunday, and he was awfully quiet throughout the first 60 minutes of the game. But you give him one chance, just 28 seconds into overtime, and he’s going to take advantage of it. He got a little room to the outside of Dumba in the 3-on-3 overtime. He then shot the puck high in the corner over Stalock’s glove to win the game.
Minnesota secured a gigantic point in the standings with the Winnipeg Jets clinching a playoff berth by beating the Nashville Predators 5-4 in a shootout. The Dallas Stars lost at home to the Canucks as that team continues to implode. Minnesota now sits at 93 points, three ahead of the Avalanche, and four over the Blues. Minnesota will head to Nashville to take on the Predators on Tuesday. With every point increasingly important, the Wild need to have a good showing at Bridgestone Arena.
Seven games remain in this sprint to the finish. It’s insanity.