The Minnesota Wild find their way back into the Win column after scoring four unanswered goals against the Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center. Justin Abdelkader of the Red Wings opened the scoring in a slow start for the Wild. A strong 2nd period, including a power play goal by Eric Staal helped turn the tide in the Wild’s favor.
Bruce Boudreau’s team was reeling after a couple embarrassing losses out west to the Coyotes and Avalanche in back-to-back fashion. It’s a trip they’d like to forget as quickly as possible. Luckily Minnesota has the best points percentage on home ice this season.
The problem for the Wild was that they were doing the same things in the first period that saw them get shellacked in Denver 7-1. The difference is that it’s the 5th place (Atalantic Division) Red Wings shooting the puck. Justin Abdelkader happened to be the benefactor of a long rebound off Devan Dubnyk in the slot. Zach Parise tried skating the puck out of the zone, but left the puck behind. This turnover near the Wild blue line stayed in the Wild zone and initial shot came from the left point by Jonathan Ericsson.
Dubnyk made 10 saves in the first period to the Wild’s 5 shots on Jimmy Howard. Howard robbed Eric Staal early after Mikael Granlund sprung him for a breakaway. The Wild did have some possession in the zone after the Abdelkader goal, but they repeatedly missed the net.
The second period can be described as an infinitely better period of play for the Green & Wheats. Hurling 14 shots on goal, Minnesota finally got to Jimmy Howard. David Booth was called for hooking Zach Parise. Nick Seeler didn’t take to kindly to the hit that Luke Witkowski put on Parise during play. Seeler and Witkowski threw down in an old fashioned rumpus.
Dude - this is an old-school, raining blows on the opponent, knock down drag out, slobberknocker from Seeler & Witkowski pic.twitter.com/A8aDunPwjU— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) March 5, 2018
The only thing missing from that bout was Teddy Atlas’ analysis.
Eric Staal would get the Wild on the board on the ensuing power play when he’d use his skate to deflect a Jared Spurgeon shot past Howard. Two minutes and 53 seconds later, Parise would get the go-ahead goal and the Wild’s first lead. Nino Niederreiter and Parise broke the Detroit line together. Niederreiter passed it back to the late trailer that was Mikko Koivu. Koivu then forwarded the puck back up to Parise in the left offensive circle, and in one motion, directed the puck over the blocker of the Red Wings netminder.
The third period saw the physicality upped by both teams. Seeler took a spear to the grapes and a high stick to the mug from Darren Helm and it drew a penalty. It helped the Wild kill off two minutes away from their goaltender, because it wasn’t effective otherwise. Jason Zucker made a hard cross-ice dump-in from the neutral zone. Granlund won a battle to re-gain possession of the puck and sent a shot toward the Red Wings net. Zucker skated across and just did get the softest of touches on the puck to direct it through the five hole to make it 3-1. The goal was originally credited to Granlund, but more angles showed that Zucker got a touch on the puck.
Jeff Blashill then pulled Howard for the extra attacker with nearly four minutes left in the game. Matt Dumba made the pass to Zucker as Granlund stretched to stay on-side. He found Zucker open on the wing for 16’s 28th goal of the season. He’s two shy from being the Wild’s second 30-goal scorer this season.
Minnesota would control the rest of the way as the 19,037 in attendance roared in approval for the win. The win puts the Wild two points ahead of the Dallas Stars and in 3rd place in the Central division. The chance to create separation that was lost in Arizona and Colorado over the weekend looms large at this point.
- Eric Staal continues to be so good for this team. He helped get the Wild going by scoring a humongous goal to finally break through Howard, who was playing well to that point.
- A lot of the NBC media is going to point at Seeler’s fight in the second period as the “spark.” Not sure if it was the spark, per se, because the Wild were pressuring up to that point, but he did well to stick up for Parise.
- Seeler has been solid for this Wild club. His Corsi For percentage is better than Jonas Brodin’s, Nate Prosser’s, and Gustav Olofsson’s, albeit a much smaller sample size. His expected goals percentage is a high 65 percent. That means he’s doing the necessary things to engate scoring, as well and keep the puck moving up to scoring areas, even if he isn’t the once scoring himself. Lastly, he’s only a -2 on penalty differential. He’s just not a big penalty liability on the ice.
- Jason Zucker is likely going to score over 30 goals this year. I constantly said that Zucker is a guy that just does things on this team that others simply can’t do, and that’s create his own shot. Having the best puck distributor on his line certainly helps. Last season was a career high in goals (22) and points (47), and he’s about to blow those numbers out of the water with 28 goals and 53 points.
- Devan Dubnyk needed to bounce back after getting thrashed by the Avalanche on Saturday. It was embarrassing and he knows it. The whole team was better at blocking shots as a whole, including a left pad save by Jared Spurgeon.